I waited for a few more agonizing weeks after the Camarillo orientation before receiving my first email from my host family. More and more of my friends who are going on exchange next year started being contacted, and the suspense grew. When I finally got an email, I was so excited I could barely breathe.
|Eric, Nancy, Montserrat, Cristobal, Maxi|
I will be staying in Rancagua, Chile with the San Martin family. Eric and Nancy will be my host parents, and Cristobal (16), Maxi (14) and Montserrat (9) will be my host siblings. I immediately started talking on Facebook with Cristobal and was blown away by how nice and forthcoming he was. He would spend hours every night answering all of my questions. Soon, I met my whole family over Skype and realized quickly that I couldn’t have gotten any luckier. Cristobal is the person I am closest to. We Skype almost every night, and we never run out of things to talk about. He is studying abroad next year in Idaho (I am taking his room and his place in school) and so we can trade advice about America and Chile. I speak to Cristobal in English—his English is so good and he refuses to speak Spanish to me—but I speak Spanish with everyone else. Eric is the only person in the family besides Cristobal who speaks decent English, but the other kids are learning in school. Eric seems responsible and hard working (he works two jobs every day and doesn’t get home from work until around 11 at night) and he always asks me if there’s any way he can help with my visa paperwork. Maxi, although I haven’t talked to him much, seems nice and has promised to teach me how to play videogames, which will be a monumental task for him. Montserrat is the cutest thing in the world. Everytime she sees that Cristobal is Skyping with me, she grabs the webcam and starts telling me everything about her day. We once had an hour long conversation about Disney princesses. I can’t wait to have a little sister! Nancy is so caring and sweet. She a posted a picture of her and Monse at the hair salon on Facebook and wrote “Doing girly things with my daughter! All we’re missing now is you Alex!” I had to do a project for Spanish class where I made a cooking video about a traditional Spanish dessert. I asked Nancy if she had any ideas, thinking that she would just give me the name of a popular dessert She did a lot more than that. She got out her cookbooks and found me a recipe for her favorite leche asada (it’s kind of like flan). The problem was that all of the directions were in Spanish (and the measurements used the metric system), so she spent an hour trying to explain everything to me in a way that I would understand while I took copious notes. Then, she Skyped me the next day and cooked the dessert in front of me while I watched over the webcam. Then, when I finally tried to make the dessert myself and ran into a few problems, we Skyped again and she talked me through the whole process.
Talk about going above and beyond for someone you don’t even know. She promised to turn me into a fantastic cook while I’m in Chile, which is quite the undertaking. My Chilean family seems so open and welcoming, and I know that they are going to take great care of me.
I will be attending Instituto Ingles de Rancagua. It is a small Catholic school that has 1,200 students in grades K-12. This is so much smaller than Aliso Niguel High School, with its 3,000 kids in grades 9-12. I am happy that the school is so small because I think it will mean that more people will know that I am new and foreign and will be more inclined to talk to me. I won’t just get swallowed up in a giant campus where no one knows my name. Cristobal has explained to me a lot about the differences between schools here and there, but I still don’t understand everything. The students stay in one class all day, while teachers of different subjects rotate between classrooms. You choose your electives (an extra history class or math class for example) based on the career field you want to go into. There are school sports, but they are only for PE. There is not a whole lot of school spirit—no pep rallies, mascots, or sporting events to go cheer at. I think this will be a big change from American school, where I am used to going to football games with the marching band every Friday night and losing my voice from cheering so loudly. I hope I will be able to join a band there because band here has brought me so many great friends and playing music is one of my passions. I plan to bring my flute just in case (I can always play it in the house, just to relax), but I also realize that joining any type of group will probably have the same effect. I just need to get involved in order to meet people and have fun. I do have one thing to look forward to: uniforms. Okay maybe not exactly look forward to but they aren’t as horrible as they could have been. I’m excited for everything about this trip, no matter how boring it sounds. From uniforms to cooking, I will appreciate every moment and every new experience. Even if things aren’t always good—I’m sure there will be plenty of frustrating and embarrassing moments—they will never stop being interesting!