YFU Switzerland


Hello everyone?,

I hope you had a nice start to the new year and that everything’s going well.

These past three months I’ve been on summer vacation, which is quite strange, considering for me this normally means dark and cold days❄️. However, here in the South of Chile, we’ve been getting lots of hot and sunny days. It didn’t look like it in the first week of vacation, though. Everything cooled down on the last day of school. It was raining and on one day we even made a fire, it was so cold. But that was only the first week and as time went on it got warmer and warmer until you kind of wished it would cool down again.

So in the beginning I didn’t do much. I was at home relaxing and enjoying sleeping in again. I met up with the two other exchange girls, Rosa and Kristīne quite a few times. After all, these were the last few days of Kristīne’s stay in Chile. She signed up for 5 months.

Then came Christmas and the New Year. I spent it at home with my family. On Christmas Eve we had a delicious meal. Once it got late we all got ready to go to bed, when we heard bells ringing outside our house. Bárbara, my 7 year-old niece got super excited and we all ran out to see who was there ?. We didn’t see anyone, but there were three HUGE bags full of presents. That came as quite a surprise to me. In my family in Switzerland we never have that many

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad

presents and since I got one present for each family member I was worried they’d think it’s too little or something. But my worries were totally unnecessary. We brought the presents inside and opened them all together. It really didn’t matter to anyone how many they got. It was about sharing the joy. So that’s how the night ended and I went to bed feeling very happy.

Over the New Year we got visitors from San Fernando and Santiago. My papá’s sister came with her husband and her daughter and two kids of my oldest brother. Once again, we ate a delicious meal and then waited for the clock to strike midnight. My family started preparing different foods that one should eat at midnight, to bring you luck and money in the new year. These foods included lentils and grapes. There’s also the custom of wearing yellow underwear (for luck ?) and walking around the block with a suitcase (for travels✈️). It’s kind of stressful because as soon as the new year begins you’re supposed to light some firecrackers, hug and kiss everyone, drink your champagne (grownups only of course ?), eat twelve grapes and three spoonfuls of lentils and run around the block with a suitcase. The poor neighbour’s dog was so afraid of the firecrackers, he ran into our house. My aunt and I didn’t run around the block with our suitcases (it’s quite a big block), but we walked down the street and back. I was quite surprised at the amount of people we saw, doing the same with their own suitcases. Then we watched the fireworks on TV and went to bed.

In January I went to La Serena and met with my friends. My oldest brother from Santiago came for a visit with his wife and his youngest daughter. After spending a week here he and his wife left. They were moving from Santiago to Puerto Montt and had to get everything ready and start working there. But the kids stayed with us for the rest of the holidays. They’re all great and I’ve come to be really fond of them. Paula is eight years old and loves sports, Patricio (Pato, as we like to call him) is six years old and loves watching videos of Angry Birds and Mario Bros and Carmen Gloria is three years old, very talkative and could sing „Libre Soy“ (Let It Go) for hours on end. So those kids kept everyone busy and there was always noise in the house, something which is missing now that they’ve gone.

In February my parents from Switzerland came over to visit with my little sister. It was quite an adventure getting to Santiago to pick them up. About 1.5 weeks before their arrival date, I went to buy my bus ticket. It was going to be the same one I took to get to La Serena, which meant I’d arrive at 6:30 or something. However, my parents were going to arrive around 10:30 and since I don’t know Santiago so well, I didn’t think it to be a good idea having to wait for so long. So, the next day I went to change my ticket to a later bus. On this ticket it said that the bus would leave at 23:45, but the lady at the counter told me I should be there half an hour earlier and wrote down 23:15. In my head I was like „yeah right, like the bus will come early“, knowing how things usually are with punctuality in this country. Big. Mistake.

On the night of the journey, -I had everything ready- my brother offered to drive me to the bus stop. Gladly I agreed and we left the house at 23:30 and arrived a minute later (it’s really close). Just before we got there I saw a bus leave, but to this day I don’t know if it was mine.

When we got to the bus stop, everything was dark and there was not a single person there. I thought that was a little strange, but maybe I was the only one leaving from Pitrufquén at that hour (so much wishful thinking ?). We waited at that bus stop for more than an hour until we finally gave in to the possibility that maybe I might have missed my bus. So we went to the house of the lady who sells the tickets and she said that the bus passed long ago, at 23:20. I don’t remember what I thought in hat moment but I doubt it was a happy thought. While waiting for the bus which never came, my brother and I discussed what I’d do if the bus didn’t come. The only option that I had, if I wanted to arrive in Santiago on time, was to catch the first flight out of Freire the next morning.

Rodrigo (my borther) and I drove home and immediately checked online for the earliest and cheapest flight out of Freire to Santiago. Luckily there were still seats left (they cost an arm and a leg for my exchange student budget). At around three in the morning we were done with everything, I went and repacked my suitcase (I had to take out all liquids from my backpack), set my alarm clock for 6AM and went to sleep.

When my alarm sounded, I promise, I only slept five minutes longer. However my five minutes lasted longer than an hour in real time and I got woken up by my papá asking me when I should be at the airport. In a panic I looked at my phone and saw that it was already 7:15! I jumped out of bed, dressed, woke up my brother pretending everything was under control and that I didn’t oversleep, brushed my teeth and we rushed to the airport. We arrived at 8 on the dot which was quite satisfying. I gave up my luggage and then, after waiting for about an hour (the rush was totally unnecessary), they opened security, I got through without a problem and got on the plane.

The plane ride from Freire to Santiago is an hour and some minutes short. The view is quite nice (I scored the window seat) and time passed really fast (just like when I only slept „five more minutes“ that morning). Once I arrived in Santiago I was anxious to get my luggage quickly and get out, so that I could meet my family. I was hoping they’d be held up and arrive later than me. No such luck. Before getting on the plane I sent them a very short, very vague message saying that they shouldn’t worry if I arrive a bit later, that I’m okay but that they won’t be able to reach me. I told them to wait for me in the restaurant at the airport.

It might have been better to tell them everything, because apparently my text just led to confusion. I just didn’t want them to worry. Luckily I also gave them my brother’s number (he speaks English), so my dad could call him.

Once I finally got my suitcase, I rushed outside and there was my family waiting for me. It was so strange seeing them in person again after so many months. My sister came rushing to me and I hugged everyone about three hundred times. It was also really strange talking to them again and my brain had a hard time switching from Spanish to English and German.

After hugging everyone to death and shedding a few tears of joy ?, we drove to our hotel. We freshened up and then immediately went on a little tour with our tour guide. We visited a museum of Chilean culture and walked around Santiago. It was extremely hot but there were people selling cups with fresh cold fruit, which was a nice refreshment. Later in the afternoon we went to the Cierro de San Cristóbal, the same place I went to with YFU. My parents and my sister ate their first empanadas there and they loved them ?.

In the evening my sister and I went exploring Santiago on our own after dinner. We found the mall (!) and looked around. Contrary to what I thought, based on what people have told me about the city, I felt quite safe. There were a lot of people out and we returned to the hotel before it got too dark.

The next day we had an absolutely delicious breakfast (fruits and other heavenly foods) and then went on to drive to Valparaíso. The ride there was longer than I expected and after the crazy adventure of getting to Santiago and all the excitement of  seeing my family again, I was so exhausted I mainly slept.

Once we arrived there we went to look at the house of Pablo Neruda. Sadly there was a very long queue so we never entered. Valparaíso is an absolutely beautiful city and I won’t let anyone or anything get in the way of me going back there ?. There’s a very artsy vibe to it, every street is very beautiful and colourful and they sell amazing food. We saw some beautiful graffiti and there’s something awesome to explore in every street, be it a little shop selling homemade sweets, a bakery with the most amazing cake pops or a shop full of arts and crafts. There are a lot of old houses, restaurants and churches. Since Valpo (short for Valparaíso) was constructed on a hill, there are cable cars that bring people from the bottom of the hill, up to their houses. Going on one of those of course was a must for tourists like us. It’s a very steep but fun ride.

The beach may not be so nice because there’s a huge harbour but that doesn’t really matter. Viña del Mar is right next to Valparaíso and is full of beaches where you can lie down and enjoy the sun or go for a swim. That was our next stop. Turns out our tour guide had a surprise for us. I thought it was a ride on one of the many horse carriages which are a trademark for the city, but it was actually a Moai, a statue from the Easter Island ?. It was huge and awesome to see in real life.  

After that little surprise we made our way back to the capital. There we went to the mall (again) and bought some new clothes for me and then we drove to the bus terminal to catch our bus to Temuco.

We went to the bus terminal that receives all buses, since my parents weren’t able to buy tickets in TurBus from Switzerland. That terminal is exactly the opposite of the TurBus terminal which is the only one I knew up to that moment. So I was quite shocked when we got there. There were so many people and such little space that you really had to hold on to your suitcase and bags if you didn’t want to be a very easy target for thieves. It was very unorganised and we kept on worrying we’d miss our bus, since we didn’t know at what „gate“ it would arrive. With the help of our very devoted tourguide everything turned out fine though and the next morning we arrived in the little city called Temuco.

Once we arrived there it was really cold and dark. We took a taxi to our hotel and ate breakfast there. Since we arrived so early our rooms were still occupied. Sadly we didn’t book an early check in so we had to wait until the afternoon until we could finally settle down and refresh ourselves before going to visit my familia in Pitrufquén.

While we were waiting for our rooms, mom and dad went to pick up the car we rented. I also ran into a girl that I met in La Serena which was really funny. Once we were finally ready we drove to my familia (I’m going to use the Spanish terms for my Chilean family and English terms for my Swiss family). On the way we bought a cake to have for dessert. We got there and my mamá came to receive us. Slowly everyone else trickled in and my nieces and nephew even introduced themselves in English.

We ate lunch together and talked. I showed my family the house, my room, the huge garden and we went to my school. We spent the whole evening there and even ate dinner with my familia. Just as we were leaving, Fabiola my sister came home from work which was a shame. But we were to return soon enough again. I was very pleased with how the meeting had gone. To be honest I was a little nervous at first. Next to our hotel there was a kind of fair with a bunch of rides and my sister and I ended the night with a lot of screaming and giggling?.

Trying to look really smart while visiting my school ?

Trying to look really smart while visiting my school ?

The next morning we left for Conguillío, which is a beautiful National Park. There we had the pleasure of staying in an awesome laid-back hotel with no internet connection and very friendly staff. It was absolutely perfect to just zone out and be with my family again. We stayed there two days in which we explored a little, slept a lot and admired the beauty of Chilean nature.

On Valentine’s day we left for Pucón, to the hotel of German immigrants. It was so European, if the people hadn’t been speaking Spanish, I would’ve thought I was back in Switzerland. The next morning we went to one of the many lakes in the zone and spent the whole day there. The water was beautifully clear and since it was a very hot day, it was an awesome refreshment. They also had a really fun kind of bouncy castle on water on which my sister and I jumped, slipped and fell around on. It was really funny to watch each other and the other people struggle to stay on their feet ?.

In the evening we drove to a beautiful waterfall. Sadly you weren’t allowed to swim in it, but once I touched the water and felt how cold it was, I didn’t really feel like it anymore. I don’t know what it is with Chilean water bodies, but also this waterfall and the river that it forms are extremely clear. You could literally see to the bottom of the waterfall and the river. It looked exactly like in some tourism booklet selling trips to deserted islands or something.

That evening the hotel owner gave us a tour of the huge property that’s part of the hotel. They grow a lot of their vegetables and have an awesome view on three volcanoes! He also booked a horse ride for us, so the next morning, after packing and checking out, my dad, my sister and I went on a nice little ride. Sadly there was a lot of fog so we couldn’t see what must’ve been an awesome view on the valley.

We bid the horses who so graciously let us ride them goodbye and made our way to Huilo-Huilo. I fulfilled my dream of seeing Panguipulli and Licán Ray. It was quite a long ride and I slept a big part of it. Once we got there I was really impressed by the hotel we stayed in. My dad and I went jogging in the woods that evening and from outside the hotel looked like an alien mothership that landed on earth. Too bad we only stayed there one night. The next morning we packed our stuff again, checked out and then went to the hotel’s spa. After some nice and relaxing hours there we made our way back to Temuco.

We arrived in Temuco in the evening and following my wishes, went to eat sushi. The next afternoon we spent with my familia again in Pitrufquén

unspecified-4and exchanged our feelings and gratitude. We also took some pictures this time, because my sister Fabiola was there too. Then we went home and Serena and I went to the little amusement park next to our hotel one more time.

The next morning we woke up before the sun rose and drove to the airport. First we drove to the military airport which was a fail. But eventually we found the correct airport and met my papá there who was dropping off a cousin who was also flying to Santiago as well. We said goodbye and it was bitter-sweet. But I knew that I’d see them in four short months again. I went to meet my papá and together we waited for my cousin’s plane to take off (this was necessary because she was underage and with a special accompaniment).

The day my family returned to Switzerland turned out to be the day my papá turned 60! So the next day we had A LOT of visitors and a lot to do. This was awesome since it made me think in other things and not in my family. Some of the visitors stayed overnight, including an aunt of mine. She invited me to go to Chiloé with her and her family to which I gladly agreed.

On the way to Chiloé

On the way to Chiloé

To get to Chiloé, which contrary to my beliefs is a HUGE island, you had to take a boat. On the boat my cousin and I got out and took pictures. The wind was quite strong and cold. But it was so beautiful I stayed out until we got to the island. We saw some sea lions and jellyfish. The water there also was very clear which once again really surprised me.

The boat ride is only about 20 minutes long. Since I believed Chiloé to be a tiny little island, I thought we’d be on that boat for an hour or two, since I couldn’t see any small island form the mainland. Well shock on me when we steered directly towards the huge landmass only a few kilometres away ?! Once we docked, we drove for a good hour and a half until we arrived in Castro, the island’s capitol and the place we’d be staying in for the next week.

Chiloé is an absolutely beautiful island. It’s very natural and no matter where you are you most probably will see a sliver of the sea. We stayed at the house of my uncle’s sister. In Chiloé a lot of houses have one big room with the kitchen and the table and a fireplace. Around the fireplace a lot of times there’s benches and it’s the perfect spot to curl up and read a book. That’s what I mostly did that week when we weren’t outside visiting different places. I read „The 5th Wave“ and if anyone is looking for a good read, I highly suggest that one (if you’re into that dystopian fiction kinda thing?).

During our week there we ate a lot of delicious seafood and apple empanadas. We also drove to a lot of different places, churches and markets. I was quite sad when we had to leave. Chiloé has a very special vibe, I feel like it’s very relaxed and easygoing. There were a LOT of hitchhikers which might have contributed to the special vibes. The many different churches made mainly of wood, the colorful houses, the sea, even the clouds are something special.

On Sunday morning we made our way back to Pitrufquén. We stopped by Puerto Montt to pick up my sister and my niece. After eating lunch there we drove the last bit home.

The next three days were mainly preparation for school. I went to buy some things for my uniform and met up with my area rep from YFU.

On Wednesday, we brought Bárbara to her first day of second grade. After that my aunt and her family left for their home, I moved back into my room and the last preparations were made.

Thursday, 3rd of March, was my first day of school. I met my friends again and it was awesome.

Now I’m about to start my fourth week and I’m as happy as ever. Time is passing very fast, which everyone who’s been on exchange will most probably tell you. The second half is alway better and passes a lot faster. So I’m very enthusiastic about the rest of my stay here and full of energy?.