Staying (MUCH) longer than I’d planned!
I’m French but I used to live in Florida. As my working permit was expiring I had the option to go back to France or move to another country. In United States I met a couple people from Chile. We immediately became friends and they would go on and on about how great their country was. I thought that I had to see that for myself and I decided to move there, probably for a year or two at the most. That was the plan…
I have to admit that Santiago was something else! Apart from the fact that the city was much more developed than I thought, I was pleasantly surprised to find cute streets, beautiful buildings, a rich culture, a very positive atmosphere and lots of vegetation.
Sure this was nice, but I still spoke no Spanish and if I were planning on staying, I had to find a Spanish school. The first one I found was expensive and only proposed individual classes: this wasn’t the right way to make friends (after all, I only knew those two Chileans I met in the US!). This first school I visited actually was the one that directed me to the School where I ended up studying. A school vouching for another one? I had to check it out.
It only took about three steps inside to be convinced I was at the right place! I had barely stepped through the entrance that the school secretary greeted me with great sympathy and patience (she had to bare with my bad Spanish!). Five minutes later I met the director who explained to me in English how the entire school worked. Five minutes later I was doing the initial test so they could determine my Spanish level (at the time I didn’t answer many questions!). Five minutes later I was already signed up for a bunch of extra-curriculum activities (rafting in the river, rally in the dunes, tour of Santiago, etc etc.). And another five minutes later I was already meeting friends who, like me, where here to study or improve their Spanish. I couldn’t wait to start my classes.
My teachers were the best! They had answers to everything and we would always learn in a very fun atmosphere. We would even play games sometimes that some of us would mess up just to bother our teacher, but he (or she) wouldn’t mind: we got along so well that we all knew it was for fun. I managed to get a hold of the Spanish grammar very quickly and my vocabulary was sky-rocketing compared to my first day in Chile. In only two months, I felt that I could participate in a conversation without any problems.
And I did! Because eventually all the teachers and the staff from the school became my friends. I even started to travel to meet the staff from other schools in the chain (like Bariloche and Buenos Aires). All those friends lead to other friends and after a year I had such an amazing network of friends that I couldn’t see myself leaving just yet. Chileans are just so nice and so much fun that life in Chile was too good to leave!.
I spent three years and a half in Chile. I never thought I would stay that long! And I would frequently think to myself: “thank god I met those guys at the school, otherwise I really don’t think my experience in Chile would have been that amazing”. The school not only gave me a very solid base to my Spanish, but it also transformed a small trip into a wonderful experience. I already have plans to go back for vacations!