Michael Jordan ‘ 11 – In our orientation the SIT program advised the group that Chile was a country susceptible to earthquakes. With most of us from the Midwest and East coast we paid no attention to that warning, and little did we know that “the big one” was looming. 

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred only after our second day in Santiago (the capital of Chile). After two weeks, the aftershocks are still coming with three today being about the same magnitude as the devastating Haiti earthquake. Luckily, none have occurred less than 90 miles away from Santiago. Don´t get me wrong – waking up to the first earthquake at about 4 in the morning was an experience I will never forget. The ground shook forever it seemed (little more than a minute really) and I jumped up when my host parent yelled for me ‘ven aqui Michael! ven aqui!’ Objects off shelves were flying everywhere, all you can hear is furniture rumbling and glass shattering. It was all very surreal at the time. To finish the night the entire street chatted with each other or slept outside on cushions and blankets.

The earthquake has been a huge part of my program now, whether I like it or not. Dealing with aftershocks is normal and one day we even skipped class to volunteer at the Red Cross center in Santiago. The amount of clothing that was donated was unbelievable, and we spent the entire day sorting clothes into canvas bags to be sent to Concepción.
Despite the earthquake, Santiago was back on its feet the Monday after it happened, almost as if it never happened. Our only reminders have been the cracked and fallen buildings and the constant news coverage near the epicenter. Otherwise I have been in class as normal for intensive language studies, human rights (in relation to the Pinochet era), and the education system here. 
All of my classes are entirely spoken in Spanish as well. Needless to say, the experience in and out of the classroom so far in the past two weeks has been life altering. I can´t wait to see what the next two weeks have in sotre for me (just no more earthquakes please).