YFU Switzerland

First Impressions of School and a New Family

At home, after sitting around for a bit, we all went to sleep as it was quite early on a Sunday morning. In the afternoon after eating I gave my family their presents and we just got to know each other a bit.

For the next three days we were busy getting ready for school, getting my papers and finding our rhythm as a family of five. Since my sister just recently got back from half a year in Mexico, she also needed some things for school and she showed me everything. As you might know, most Chilean school require you to wear a uniform. We bought mine in Pitrufquén where I would be going to school. The black shoes, my sister and I bought in Temuco, the closest city, which is about 45 minutes from Freire by bus.

On Thursday was the first day of school for my sister and I. Our parents drove us there and brought us to the Director’s Office. We were then introduced to all the teachers and then it was finally time to go to class. I remember my first class in Chile being Philosophy. The kids around me, especially the friends of my sister, who was in my class, wanted to talk to me. Me being from Switzerland, was used to paying attention in class and I really wanted to keep on doing that, as I do not want my grades to drop too much. But soon I realized that barely anyone was really paying attention, so I just did the same and tried , as best as I could, to socialize in Spanish.

Having only spent a week in Chile, with no previous lessons in it’s national language, my Spanish was nowhere near to being enough to hold a conversation. But the few words that I knew were, to reply to the most frequently asked questions. And it’s not like I was having deep conversations on my first day of school. I was just trying to get to know everybody and people were also trying to get to know me.

School in Chile is very different from what I’m used to in Switzerland. It’s very laid-back and the student-teacher relationship is very close. Also the feeling of community in the class is very nice. We might not all be best friends but we all get along, which, in my view is quite an accomplishment, as we are around 30 people in my class. There also isn’t this huge division between boys and girls.

Since my school is Catholic, we start almost every morning with a prayer where everyone can give thanks and ask and pray for something that is important to them. I feel like those prayers also bring us all closer together. After that we have 2 hours of classes and then we have a 15-20 minute break where we eat breakfast. After breakfast we have another 2 hours, a break and 2 hours more until lunchtime which is around 1:30 PM. After lunch we have 3 more hours of school until 4:30PM and then we’re set free =). On Fridays we only have school until 2:05PM.

At first the late lunches were something to get used to and also not having a short 5-minute break after each lesson, but now it’s normal for me (even though a 5-minute break would come in handy once in a while). My school also offers after-school programs including basketball, volleyball and music.

At first I joined volleyball, which was super fun. But because music is my priority I joined music, which inconveniently is on the same days and at the same time as volleyball. However, whenever I don’t have music I go for volleyball.

Getting involved outside of classes has been really good for me to integrate myself, meet new people and just express myself. It made me feel more like I was part of the school and not a stranger and with my music group we’ve already had quite a few performances.

After about 4 weeks in Chile I changed my family for reasons I will keep private. I moved to Pitrufquén. My new host family immediately took me in and I feel very at home. They’ve previously had two other exchange students in their home, so it’s very easy to be with them because they already have experience. Since my new parents and my brother work in my school they always drove me there. But now, since it’s not so cold in the mornings anymore, I walk. My house is about 20 minutes away from my school and really close to the main street of Pitru, which allows me to move around very independently and also gave me the possibility to start after-school programs.

If you do go on an exchange year, I highly suggest to really get involved. You’ll feel a lot more at home and meet awesome new people with similar interests as you =)