Guest blogger William P. details his experiences in the Spanish and Skiing program in Santiago, Chile
As I am on the plane and on my way to Santiago, I begin to think of all the things to come. As a graduate of law school who just took the California Bar, and what seems like an endless wait of four months until the results come out in November, I knew I had to find something productive to do with my time during the waiting period. Living in Southern California, I know that learning Spanish will be a tremendous benefit to me as I enter the job market soon and therefore I thought going to Santiago, Chile would be the perfect learning/vacation opportunity to reward myself for all the hard work in law school and studying for the Bar.
After all the worries of packing and worrying about what bring I am finally on the plane. I just packed my winter clothes and bought a Spanish dictionary and verb book to look over. While I always worry that I forgot something important, I know I have all the essentials and can just buy something in Chile if I forgot anything else. The simplest things were the most stressful including what to get as a welcoming gift, which I did not plan for until the day I left, today. I decided on some candy and thankfully a gift store in the airport was still open so I was able to get some coasters with a picture of Los Angeles on them.
I’m already trying to start getting somewhat involved with the language. Because I took a Central American Airline, Copa, the primary language is Spanish so I can listen and do my best to speak some Spanish with the comfort that people still speak English. Of course once I get to Chile I’m hoping to use English as little as possible. Hopefully everything goes smoothly on the plane and I am able to get to the homestay family at a reasonable time. Overall, I am very excited and looking forward to the experience.
As an update, I made it to the family and they were very welcoming. However, what an experience it sure was. I was surprised that very few people knew English at the airport and even more surprised that the customs agents did not know much English. However, this really forced me to use the broken Spanish that I do know in order to get through smoothly and find the airport pickup.
I had taken some Spanish in high school and more and more words are coming back to me. For example, I did not have a pen so I had to ask a customs agent for one and remembered the word in Spanish. I also realized that I was talking to officials and therefore remembered to use the formal usted form. The most important phrase that I remembered was donde esta for where is as well as some simple directions for right and left. I’m far from being able to speak the language but at least I am thinking in the simple phrases without having to translate in my head such as words like for, but, please, thank you, with, etc.
I look forward to my first day at the school tomorrow and am excited about how much I will learn. Of course I am more excited about the skiing on Wednesday, which appears to be the planned day for the group from what I am told.
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