Hello dear readers!
This is María Paz, the High School Coordinator of Valparaíso - Chile, and I'm writing this blog to shed light on what happens during the first two months of your experience abroad in Chile.
Go to this blog post to better understand what Orientation week look like. Orientation takes place right after you arrive in country, and is meant to give you tools and guidelines to navigate Chilean life.
From day one you will live with your Chilean Host Family. Host Families are largely one of the most important part of your experience abroad! They open their hearts and lives to our international students, and support them in every possible respect. Imagine this: you will spend days and weekends with them, you will share with other extended family members, attend any family trip they organize, and will be treated as one more family member. That's why our staff carefully screens the families and select the fittest one for you, given the information you provide in you MyCiee Account. Also, take notice that cultural differences may not seem very impactful in the beginning; yeah, yeah! Pretty much like a regular family... but it's only after a month or two, that you will start noticing the shades in a homestay experience: schedules are different from the ones you are used to, meals will be different, sharing v/s alone time balance, the way adults regard and interact with teens is different, too.
Only a couple of days after your arrival, you will start attending school as a regular Chilean student --uniform and all! School goes from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (depending on the school), so you will spend most of your day there. School are usually rather small --let's say, around 450 students in total. Your full grade will typically be around 30 students in total, meaning all sophomore or junior promotion is only 30 people!... can you imagine that? This will definitely cause some unexpected differences, for instance, attention! Our high school students usually get a lot of attention from peers, being the "new students" and on top of that "the exchange one"! But don't get anxious! After a month, your classmates will consider you as just one more in the flock. Attention is also good when your expectation is to make new friends. Classmates will naturally approach and speak to you. And what I've heard is that they are usually extra welcoming. After two months our students are definitely an organic member of the school community, being invited to after-class activities, taking exams as any other regular student, and being spoken real Chilean Spanish as if it was their mother tongue...
Finally, after some months in this program, other gainings start to show, for instance, I've noticed how our students gain self-confidence. Some of them arrive here never having lived abroad before... after a couple of months, they are more assertive when it comes to decisions, they learn how to administer their expenses, how to understand and use a highly complex transportation system all by themselves, how to cope with confusing cultural differences, and much more. I am always amazed about how much their Spanish grows in only a couple of months! After all, if you understand Chilean Spanish, you are probably likely to understand any other Spanish dialect...
I cannot express all the gainings of an experience abroad! I truly hope to have you on board next semester!