Saturday, June 4, 2011


As a lowly outbound sitting in front of my computer back in Wisconsin reading the AFS blog website, one of the things I really disliked was reading about the orientations in each country with the other exchange students. I always thought, "why is this so exciting?". However, my mindset has completely been changed after my first AFS orientation here in Chile. I can't even begin to describe how incredible it was, but I'll do my best here to try to explain the epic-ness of an AFS orientation.

My orientation was the kids from near Santiago, and we all met up in Santiago in a religious monastery sort of thing. There was 20 of us in total, and one of the funniest things about it was that 11 of the 20 kids spoke German as their native language, and 9 who spoke a language that wasn't German (i.e. English (me and my friend Parker), Swedish, Thai, French, Danish and Icelandic.) So it ended up being a lot of German, which was actually fun. Now I can say the 4 most important things that an exchanger should know before going to their new country in German:
  • Yes
  • No
  • I don't know
  • I don't understand
But actually, everyone should learn those before leaving. When people ask you a question, that should also be the order of responses when you try to answer if you don't understand. Ask any exchange student. It's true.

 I also know "I don't like sushi", but that's not something essential to know when you go on exchange.

The kids at the orientation were a mix of year long students who arrived last August, year long students who arrived last February (with me), and semester students who arrived in February (like me!). The whole point of this camp was just to make sure we're still doing fine--not too many problems with school, host families, life in general. But no one would want to spend a whole weekend in Santiago doing orientation activities, so we also went and saw some of the classic sights in Santiago--Cerros Santa Lucia and San Cristobol, went on a tour of El Mercurio (a national newspaper here), met with the sub-mayor of one of the wealthiest areas in Santiago, and took the metro. A lot. I like the metro. Here are some photos of some of the things we did:

Parker (New Hampshire) and me at Santa Lucia

Me, Laura (the Swiss exchange student in my class) and Parker with part of Santiago in the background

At the top of Santa Lucia (after hundreds of stairs!) with Lucas (Germany)

The pollution in Santiago makes for incredible sunsets
At Cerro San Cristobol

 So that was fun. When we weren't out exploring Santiago, we were doing said orientation activities (which varied in excitingness) and just talked with eachother. And that's why these orientations are so great.

The other exchange students immediately understand you. They speak not-perfect Spanish with you and understand your feelings about leaving Chile and can relate to the problems with your least favorite teacher. They dance bad Cueca and Salsa with you (yes, we had a Cueca (national dance of Chile) lesson at the orientation and it was an epic fail) and you can stay up until 2 or even 4 in the morning (oops!) talking with them. They teach your their original language and you teach them yours. After 3 nights together, it feels like you're a family and have known eachother forever, but you really haven't. It's crazy.

So Sunday afternoon, we all had to say goodbye. We hugged and promised to meet up somewhere in the world, someday. Everyone has invitations to everyone else's host communities. And then we all got on our respective busses and went back to our host families.

It was great seeing my family again, especially because Alex (dad) is back from his job in Antofagasta for a couple weeks so the family is complete again. It was great seeing my classmates and getting back into the swing of things, especially with my Spanish, which seems to have reached a little bit of a breakthrough (knock on wood!). But I'll never forget those other exchange students. They're incredible. They're what makes AFS so great.

1 comment:

  1. Awwww sooo cute! My family has hosted... And whenever we have dropped our exchangers off they are like"Ahhh this sounds boring"! Then when they come back to our house they say it was an awesome weekend. I think its pretty cool that everyone always has an automatic connection with someone just because they are both exchange students, even if they are from totally different parts of the world! Gotta love AFS :)