Finding Home Abroad

By: Nicole Winjum,  Foster Undergraduate

My time in Santiago has been great. I have been meeting people from around the globe, trying new food, seeing new sights, and hearing Spanish 24/7. Though I have never been the type of person to get homesick, I sometimes find myself longing for something a little less exotic and a little more familiar. Santiago really isn’t that different from any major city in the US, but it’s the small differences that really stand out. They have the same kinds of cell phones, but the carriers are different. They have department stores and malls, but most of the stores are different. People chat as they walk down the street, but the language is different. These slight deviations underline that I am in a foreign city far from home, and though I love the newness and the excitement this city brings, there are times when I just want the simplicity and familiarity of the US.

This is when I love that there are American stores here. Don’t get me wrong, I love discovering local stores and restaurants, but to me, being a business student and a fan of capitalism, nothing screams USA (and home) louder than an international corporation. I love that I can walk into a mall here and buy an overpriced vegan conditioner from Lush like I would at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. I love that I can walk through an Apple store and play with their iPads like I often do at U Village. I love that there is a Ruby Tuesday’s down the street from my house (even though I have never eaten there, here or in the US). But mostly I love that I can walk into a Starbucks here and buy an iced peppermint latte that tastes exactly the same as the latte I would buy on the Ave on my way to class. More than any other American store, Starbucks represents home for me. Probably because I live in Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, and because I have been going to Starbucks for as long as I can remember. Even when I was younger we went, though my parents would make me get hot chocolate or decaf coffee. Yes it’s overpriced, even more so here than in the states, but paying $6 for a latte and a reminder that I am not so far removed from home as I sometimes feel, is totally worth it.