Hola mis amigos! I'm writing to y'all from Santiago, Chile, and I'm ashamed to admit that that is basically the extent of my Spanish. I'm in Chile as part of Duke Immerse, otherwise known as my third trip abroad that's been heavily subsidized by good ol’ Daddy Duke. While my past two Indian summers and current South American adventure don't exactly make up for the absurd tuition (or my frighteningly expensive eating habits during my Parisian semester), Duke-sponsored travel has certainly been enlightening. In reflecting upon my newly-declared identity as an engaged, immersed, global citizen, I've compiled a list of the most valuable travel tips I've picked up along the way.
1. How to dress.
Black is your best friend. My theory is that the French wear tons of black because it makes you look cool and you can spill pretty much anything on it without anyone noticing. For me, international travel cultivates an intense urge to eat sloppy foods (hello, Nutella crepes and suspicious meats on a stick) and drink staining beverages (ahem, red wine). After an unfortunate incident involving my favorite white dress and some heavenly coq au vin, I vowed to never again pack anything I couldn't wear two days in a row without looking like a Tide commercial.
2. How to eat.
"I'll have the cheeseburger, only without the meat and the cheese and the taste. And could you do a side of organic quinoa instead of the bun?" Be this person only if you want to stick out as the sucky nerd with a death wish! The best way to eat delicious food that won't kill you (because the waiter hasn't spit in it) is to eat what the locals eat. I once got food poisoning from pepperoni pizza in Paris but was somehow unaffected by three months of gorging myself on Indian street food. Lesson learned.
3. How to go out.
What's the easiest way to spot a Dukie abroad? Look for a pack of six or more obnoxious 20 year olds roaming any touristy nightlife district. You'll likely hear comments such as: "OK guys, so which bar should we go to?" "Wait there are only 200 bars on this street and, like, none of them look good." "No, we're not going in there that looks sketchy!" and "Ew, I hate karaoke, no." I understand that adjusting to nightlife in the absence of Shooter's, Devine's and the Alpha Theta Eta Pi Manor Compound can be difficult, but seriously guys, just pick a bar. You can leave if it's bad! You didn't go abroad to spend your nights b*tching and wandering in the cold because you finally realized you look like a doofus in those Ugg boots and foreign bouncers are intimidating. Just chug some cheap wine beforehand because it tastes better than you think and them fancy drinks are pricey.
4. How to be sassy.
Being confident and assertive while traveling is crucial, especially when it comes to confronting the creepers. When the drunk dude peeing on someone's car whistles at you, you can either maturely ignore it or cruelly humiliate him. If you choose the latter, I suggest you be cautious and then, in the appropriate language, do what I've found most affective: Insult his mother. There are several reasons why insulting someone's mother works: It's about as personal as you can get, and it makes a good comeback more difficult. As in, screaming "f*ck you" can elicit responses like, "OK, why don't you!" I suggest phrases like "niques ta mere," "hijo de puta" and "f*ck your mother" to more effectively insult the perpetrator.
5. How to have a cultural experience.
Uh this is why you travel! If you're abroad to learn a language, you should, like, actually speak it. You didn't go to Madrid or Rio or Shanghai or wherever to spend all of your time gossiping with Dukies in English. This can be terrifying, so I suggest baby steps. Order your coffee (it better not be from Starbucks), chat up the taxi driver and bitch out that crazy lady who cut you in line at the train station. There are few things more gratifying then having a successful conversation with a local in their language. This one time in Paris, I gave directions to a French person and spent the rest of my life high-fiving myself.
Second in terms of sense of accomplishment is mastering public transportation. Yes, you will be the least stylish person on any European metro, but if you expect to take taxis everywhere, you will be broke in two weeks. The rickshaws in certain Asian countries may seem horrifying, but they're super fun and cheap and really make you feel alive. I've almost died only like 12 times riding these in India, so statistically speaking that's not so bad, right?
So there you have it, Dukies. I hope y'all get to have some sweet (and free) travel experiences while you're here. Just remember, the best way to embrace any culture is to do as you wouldn't do in Durham. You left for a reason, right?
Chelsea Sawicki is a Trinity senior. Her column is part of the weekly Socialites feature and runs every other Wednesday. Send Chelsea a message on Twitter @ChelsTweetzz.