I remember very distinctly my first day of school in Chile. The night before I was terrified, ridden with anxiety, trying to think of all the things that could possibly go wrong. What if i don't make any friends? What if no one talks to me? What if I can’t understand anything?
I went to bed that night so stressed that I woke up the next morning with more than an hour and a half to get ready before I had to leave for school. I put on my uniform, already uncomfortable with the need to wear a skirt. I arrived at the school, ready to get the worst over with. But then I had to meet with the principal and sort out all the paperwork!
Finally the dreaded time had come; going to my first class. I walked into the room with the head teacher. A room full of strangers stared back at me and I didn’t have a single familiar face. The teacher said a few things and then asked me where I was from. “Maine,” I replied quickly. Then he said something else and suddenly the entire class was laughing. I didn’t understand. Did i answer the question wrong? Did he ask me my name and I stupidly said Maine? All the possibilities of what could have gone wrong ran through my head. I sat down next to a friendly girl who spoke English and she quickly reassured me that the teacher simply didn’t know how to pronounce my state.
After that I slowly began to settle in. I have now been at school here in Chile for a little more than a month. Here are some things I’ve learned:
Perseverance is Key
Although in the beginning it may be hard to talk to other people, understand what is happening around you, or voice what you want to say it’s important to not give up! This is much easier said than done. After my first day of school I came home and cried, worried about how I would survive for more than four more months. But the next day I went right back and had a day that was infinitely better. I have had some rough patches trying to navigate a completely different world but with these hard times it is important to learn and keep an open mind. Although not everything will be easy, it is crucial to acknowledge the difficulties and then grow from these experiences.
Chileans are Very Friendly
Even on the first day of school, many people wanted to talk to me. They were curious about who I was and why I came and were all super welcoming. I was worried about not making friends however this piece has come relatively easy. I hang out with my friends on the weekend and they always want to talk! This aspect has made my trip much easier and I am so thankful for all my new friends here.
Learn to Laugh at Yourself
Learning a new language is super hard! Obviously you’re going to make some errors whether you mix up words, conjugate a verb incorrectly, or pronounce something wrong. But being able to laugh and learn from your mistakes is so important! If you aren’t willing to make mistakes then it will be much harder to learn the language. Although at first it may sting if someone laughs at one of your errors you have to realize that some things aren’t worth getting upset over.