Sitting in a plane that’s traveling about 700 km an hour, where your body can barely comfortably fit in a seat, becomes normality in our TGS life.
The feeling of take-off, the wheels leaving the ground, and a split second when your brain realizes what is happening becomes comfortable instead of frightening. We are unbelievably lucky and special for having such opportunities, and making those feelings and airplane ‘routines’ or airport visits feel like home. Yet I think most will agree that no feeling compares to the one you get as the altitude from the plane decreases, and you get to see from high up what ‘home’ is for the next seven weeks. One of the 8 or 12 of the places that you’ll get to call home. All the thoughts are rushing through our minds wondering. Miles of travel makes us ache to get off, grabbing our bags and begin a new adventure.
The same way, the ‘res’ or hotel becomes our house, and we might refer to it as ‘home.’ Our small community of students and staff becomes family. The more time that goes by, the more excited we get about arriving into term, and the less we realize how close we’ve grown and how much we’ve changed since the first day our planes landed, and we were all strangers.
I’ve been fortunate enough never to have had to miss a full term or arrive any later than a week than expected to a country. This hasn’t been the case for everyone, and each time our headcount of on-sight community members goes down, we all notice. The community changes, we adapt and do as much as we can to make everyone feel connected and keep them in the loop of what is happening. Those who are on-sight we tend to take for granted the fact that we are together, at least until graduation. Our extraordinary everyday life becomes ordinary to our brains. We know how many weeks we have until some change is expected and trust that our connection will be enough to keep memories alive and have the strength and courage to move on to the next adventure. Now, what would happen if none of us where on-sight? If the number of days we had together drastically changed?
Due to the political and social situation in Chile, specifically in Santiago, it is what will happen for CM1 in our next term.
For everyone outside our immediate bubble and community, 3 weeks doesn’t sound like much, especially when most of us will still be able to meet in Chile and have online tasks to do. I can only speak for myself when I say that it’s a more significant change than it seems. Our lives at home are quite different, and having to be apart from our close community and eventful life at TGS is scary. It is also something I haven’t done for more than 6 weeks for the past two and a half years. Change is part of everyone’s life; at TGS, the change is more evident but it isn’t always easy.
However, I’d also like to see it as a challenge that might seem right now more than we prepared for, but it is merely a chance to try and trust that what we’ve built so far. The strength of the community doesn’t only rely on being physically present, but using a variety of tools to stay in touch, support each other, and communicate in new ways that will prepare the community.
It’ll be just like taxi on a plane, looking out the window and seeing a gray sky with some rain. All of our senses signal us to be frightened or concerned, but really all we can do it put our seatbelts on, breath, and trust that the pilots know what to do. Except in this scenario, we are both the passengers and the pilot at different points. We have nothing else to do but focus on what we can control, trust what we’ve done, and keep working and connecting. Then the discomfort of a plane seat and the many many meters of altitude seem less scary.
Paula Marquina Gurrea, 2019