By William P., a guest blogger studying at AmeriSpan's Santiago Spanish school in Chile
Today was my first day in the City and it has been very interesting. First of all, one difference I was made aware of right away last night was the existence of manual elevators. The place where I am staying has an elevator but you have to manually shut the door before it will work and then manually open it. I have never seen this before and had no idea what it was. I usually take the stairs but when I was carrying my luggage up I used the elevator and the fact that it was manual was very strange to me.
Along the same line things are generally not as modern as what I am used to in the United States. Doors do not close very well and get stuck easily. They also don’t lock or open the same way as what I am used to and therefore this takes some adjustment. Also, while I am used to traffic and lots of cars in Los Angeles and California, it still is different here. Cars do not seem to be as alert for pedestrians as they are even in the busiest of cities in the United States. It could be that I am just not used to the city but it appears as though one has to watch more for cars here than in the States.
My experience at the school was very good. The staff was very welcoming and after taking the written exam I realized I remembered quite a few more words and verbs than I thought. However, that excitement unfortunately did not last long. It was one thing to remember some words and verbs but quite another to try and speak. I got really frustrated at times because I could not understand the teacher or other staff and have been giving myself the excuse that it is only my first day and therefore I can just fall back into English all the time with those that speak English
This is the best advice I can give to those considering a program: Do your best not to fall back into speaking English even if you don’t know a lot of Spanish. The mother in the family I am staying with at the homestay does not know English and I am learning the most from this experience. I am forced to try and speak it and learn more words to use.I am confident that after a month’s time here I will know quite a bit as long as I keep trying. It is very difficult now and very frustrating when I can’t understand people, but so far I am really enjoying it. In addition one reason I know I will improve and learn Spanish as I am already thinking the Spanish equivalent for several of the words that I am typing and have to remember that I am writing in English. Words such as talk, of, learn, and etc. I think this is what will definitely lead to lots of Spanguish in the future for conversations and I can understand why it is done often with people that are bilingual.
In regards to the city of Santiago, it is really nice and the Andes mountains in the background are gorgeous. I am really excited to ski in them this Wednesday. Furthermore, the school took us on a tour today, which was really nice. Unfortunately I did not understand the guide which really frustrated me but hopefully I will take another tour in a couple weeks and will understand it at that point. Overall, I am really glad I chose this program and I one last thing to mention about why Santiago is a good place to study Spanish is the lack of English speaking tourists. No one knows much English here and the tourists are not generally English speakers. It is great. My only fallback is to the numerous students that speak English with me of course I am at fault in this regard as well. I will try to work on this in the future.
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