Today was our last day with students of the school year. They frantically scribbled their answers on their last final exam of the year (Lenguaje, or Spanish Language, in the case of the 8th graders whose test I was proctoring). One by one, the students in my classroom finished their tests, turned them in, and left the room. Several students left with a sigh of relief, some with shouts of “Terminé!” and one boy even walked out singing his own personal theme song. By finishing that exam, the 8th graders had closed a chapter of their lives. Done with 8th grade, done with middle school, now they were looking forward to the future.
As a ChACEr who is not staying another year in Chile, I too am closing a chapter in my life and coming to a big moment of transition. How will I approach it? With exhaustion, after a long year of teaching? With a shout of joy, as I run into my parents’ arms at Dulles Airport? Or with a song in my heart, like my student with the theme song? In all honesty, I will probably approach my upcoming departure with a bit of each of my students’ attitudes, as well as with sadness.
Endings are bittersweet, and while I feel confident that I am making the right decision in coming back to the United States at this time, it doesn’t make it any easier to leave the community and people I have fallen in love with here. But even with sadness, I go forward trusting in God. I trust that He will lead me and each of my fellow ChACErs down the path He has planned for us. God will be with us every step of the way, just as He was here in Chile.
And it is beautiful to reflect back on what God has done in our lives while we’ve been here. ChACE 16 has officially been living in South America for 16 months. We have lived in two different countries, and have collectively visited four more. Altogether, we have taught about 750 students. We have gone on mission trip and service trips, helped with confirmation, and coached sports. We have danced in front of all 2,000 students at the school for Semana Georgiana, and we have been referees and grillers for Dia de la Chilenidad. We have been brothers and sisters, sons and daughters to our host families. We have been friends, and to each other we have been a community. We have fully invested into all of these roles, and we have learned and grown from each and every one. God has been with us every step of the way, in the memories I mentioned above, and in the small things: in friendly greetings from our students and coworkers, in a thoughtful candy bar from a roommate after a tough day, in the asados and the sushi nights, and most of all in all the people we have met.
I think there is a temptation to view programs like ChACE as putting your “real life” on hold for a year while you go off on an adventure. However, I can assure you that this is not the case. These 16 months in South America have been 16 months well lived, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have lived them.
One of my favorite Mumford & Sons songs, “Awake my Soul,” has a beautiful quote that I think is fitting here: “where you invest your love, you invest your life.”I think that each and every member of ChACE 16 can say we have truly invested our love here in Chile, and in doing so, we have invested our lives.
And personally, now that it is time for me to leave, I know that I need to continue investing my love and my life into each place God brings me in the future.
Gracias por todo, Chile. Regresaré.
Interested in living and teaching in Chile through the ChACE Program? Visit ace.nd.edu/chace and apply today!