YFU Switzerland

From Switzerland to Chile – My Journey to My New Home

Hello Everyone!

My name is Imani. I am 15 years old and have decided to spend one year in the longest country in the world, Chile. In this blog I’m going to tell you about my journey from my home in Switzerland to my home in Freire, the South of Chile.

On the 21st of July my family and I made our way to the airport in Zurich, where we met my godmother and her husband. After checking in, dropping off my luggage and receiving the good news that I’d be in the window seat, I had my last Swiss lunch and bought some last-minute gifts for my host family (Toblerone chocolates 🙂 ). Then it was time to say goodbye.

Once I got through security I went to my gate and boarded the plane, which was going to take me to Madrid. I kept on getting weird looks because I was dressed very warmly with my winter shoes and long pants, while everyone else was dressed for the heat of Madrid. If they only had known how cold it was going to get for me once I arrived in Santiago :P.

In Madrid I had around three hours of waiting to do. After finding out where my gate was, I ate dinner and made my way over there. The airport in Madrid is very big, so it took me around 20 minutes.

At 11 PM I got in queue to board a plane going to Santiago. Little did I know that I was trying to board the wrong one… So, one friendly flight attendant and half an hour of waiting later, I finally settled into my seat and the most dreaded part of my journey started (on the correct plane this time 😛 ) .

The flight was a lot better than I feared. It was overnight, so I mainly slept, but there was a great selection of movies as well. When we flew into Chile, we flew over the Andes. The view was breathtaking. The sun was just rising and I got the first glimpses of what is going to be my new home, bathed in a beautiful light. Once we landed at the airport, I was very relieved to move around again after about 13 and a half of hours of sitting. I was also very excited because, hey!, I was in Chile and I did it all on my own!

After going through immigration, security and picking up my luggage, I was met by the wonderful volunteers of YFU Chile. They brought me to a restaurant where other exchange students from all around the world were waiting. We had a delicious buffet breakfast, which was a relief, since the breakfast on the plane just wasn’t very tasty 😛 . Once all the exchange students arrived and ate, we divided into two big buses to drive to OlmuĂ© for our Arrival Orientation.


Us exchange students and volunteers in OlmuĂ© (I’m the one holding the Swiss flag)

We stayed in OlmuĂ© for four days. It was really fun and informative. We learned about some of the do’s and don’ts as an exchange student in Chile, adaption and what might be expecting us. We also ate a lot of food, learned a little bit of „Cueca“, which is the national dance here, and hung out to exchange our thoughts.

I shared my room with three other girls. Two of them, Rosa and Kristine were going to go to the same school as me and live in my area. That was really nice, since we now knew that we would always have someone we can relate to and who can relate to us. Also, in that way we wouldn’t be the only newbies at school, which made everything seem a little less scary.

On Saturday we made our way back to Santiago. We drove to the YFU Headquarters where all the kids who were going to live in and near Santiago were picked up by their new families. The rest of us then drove around, went to Cerro San CristĂłbal, which is a park and has an incredible view over Santiago, and to the mall. Sadly we only had a few hours to do all this, so we couldn’t spend a lot of time in any of those places. But it was all very impressive and beautiful.

The remaining exchange students on Cerro San CristĂłbal

We returned to the Headquarters in the evening, ate dinner and slowly made our way to the bus terminal where we would take the bus to our new homes. Two girls stayed in Santiago overnight because they were going to take the plane the next day, since their families lived too far away from Santiago for them to go with the bus.

We got to the bus terminal at around 8 PM and our bus was only leaving at around 12 PM, so, once again, there was a lot of waiting. It was really fun though, since we were all super-excited and pumped up, so it never really got boring. Us three girls going to Pitrufquén were one of the last ones to leave and we were really tired when we finally got on the bus.

Let me just take a minute here and tell you about the bus… We were all AWESTRUCK! It was sooo much more beautiful than we expected. There were fancy lights on the ceiling, our seats could be transformed into beds and it was just SUPER COMFY! After getting over our excitement of traveling in style, we went off to sleep and early in the morning we were (kinda roughly) awoken by the bus driver telling us we’d be arriving in PitrufquĂ©n in 5 minutes.

As you might expect, 5 minutes are not a lot of time to get yourself together and ready to meet the people you’re going to spend the rest of your year with. So in a hurry, we just threw everything in our bags, kinda fixed our hair, and next thing you know, we hustled out of the warm bus into the rainy, cold and dark morning of PitrufquĂ©n. Everything happened so fast I can’t even remember seeing my host family for the first time in person and saying hi to them. All our families and our area representative were there. After we got our luggage and took a few pictures, I got in the car with my new family and we drove the 15 minutes to Freire, which was going to be my home.


Thank you for reading about this first part of my year in Chile. In case you are considering going on an exchange year in Chile and you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

I will keep on writing about my experiences, so stay tuned 🙂

Much love from Chile,