By Allison Womer ‘20 & Grace Miller ‘20
An unfamiliar environment overflowing with a foreign language, five sophomore students arrive for their first day of school at Instituto de Ciencias: Sofia Casillas ’20, Olivia Bachman ’20, Sophia Marcinek ’20, Christina Nelson ’20, and Chris Faber ’20. The Mexican students were eager to greet them with hugs and kisses. These American students are in for a semester of parties, meeting new people, and immersing themselves in a new culture.
Many past and present students have varying reasons as to why they study abroad. Some include becoming fluent in a language, taking hold of the amazing opportunity, and experiencing a whole new culture. Studying abroad is challenging and distant, but an experience that everyone should try explained the students.
“How many fifteen year olds have the advantage of studying abroad, and you rarely have that opportunity in college,” explains Sofia Casillas.
Sofia’s father is from Mexico, and Sofia mentioned, “being able to speak to my family without a translator would make things a lot easier.”
Their day is much different than ours. Beginning at 7:30 and ending at 2:15 with two breaks in between. Not only does their school day have fewer breaks, but they also have eight different classes in a day. Of course, all of the classes (even science and math) are entirely in Spanish which makes them even more difficult for the exchange students.
“Chemistry and math classes are actually my easiest classes, because science and math are universal,” explains Olivia Bachman. “Which gives me an advantage in those classes.”
Additionally, Theresa Nelson ‘18, who was a past exchange student, adds, “The education system in general is different down there. There are only three years of high-school. The way that they did classes was a big change for me, because here you pick and choose your classes. And down there everyone takes the same stuff and everyone does the same thing. We would stay in the same classroom and the teachers would travel to different classes.”
After school, they go back to their host homes and eat their largest meal of the day, lunch. In the USA, however, dinner is the biggest meal . Meals are very important in Spanish-speaking culture, as Christina explains. “The families always eat together.” Furthermore, they have had to adapt to the new eating schedule with a small breakfast, a hefty lunch, and a light dinner.
However, with the different meal schedule comes exquisite food. According to the students, they can still buy food on campus from food markets that change daily with rich, delicious foods.
All of the present and past students have loved this program.
“Everyone is so much more open and everyone is very loving. The dynamic is very different here,” remarked Casillas.
For any students considering studying abroad, overcoming the challenges of the language barrier and a unique circumstance with entirely new people eventually pays off by being able to experience a whole new culture and make lifelong friends that you would never expect. As Sofia Marcinek puts it, “I would [tell kids that are considering studying abroad] say for sure do it. It’s difficult in the beginning and hard but it’s totally worth it.”