On Monday, September 19, students in Ms. Osenga’s Spanish class watched with curiosity and delight as a group of exchange students performed the Chilean-based La Cueca dance. For one week, every other year, San Lorenzo Valley High School has the privilege of hosting around ten Chilean exchange students in the tenth grade.
Isidora Cerda, a fifteen-year-old girl, followed her school to the San Lorenzo Valley, where eleven high school students welcomed a Chilean to stay with them for a week. “Only four people from our entire grade stayed behind,” she said. There is barely a flaw in her English- the language she and her peers began learning in the first grade. Isidora, or rather, “Isi”, attends the Thomas Jefferson School in Concepción, Chile, founded by an American 24 years ago. “It is a very small school. From kindergarten to twelfth grade, there are only 800 students attending.”
Mrs. Osenga, a Spanish teacher at SLVHS, explains, “The Thomas Jefferson school is a private school that SLVHS has worked with for years. In the past, Donna Cavaille, former Spanish teacher, has been the lead teacher for the exchange program.” After Ms. Cavaille left the high school, Ms. Osenga acquired the duty of organizing the exchange.
This year, the Chileans made various stops in the U.S. For a week, they stayed in Washington D.C., for another, in San Francisco, and finally, the students would stay in the Santa Cruz County for their last week in the states. On Wednesday, September 20th, the students returned to Concepción, a city rich with art which also serves as one of Chile’s main academic centers. Concepción lies in the Southwest of Chile, a climatic treasure- where snow and sandy shores are not far from each other.
And, Isi adds, “The school system is better in Chile.” This is not a baffling statement, after she explains school back in Concepción. “As a student in the tenth grade, you must take all eleven classes offered for the grade level. This way, no one misses out on any knowledge you could possibly gain from the material processed in tenth grade.” More differences between the American school system and Chilean system are revealed as Isi continues to talk: “We rotate schedules, but the same group of students is with me for all of the year,” she goes on to add, “and the grading system is very different. In Chile, we are graded on a scale from one to seven, one being the worst grade and seven being the best grade.” While Isi and many of her classmates seem to be decided on the matter of which country has a better school system, they surely do not deny their newfound desire for the United States of America. “Our experience in the U.S. was very memorable and amazing,” a friend agrees with Isi. Spanish students were given constant opportunities to interact with the exchange students. Ms. Osenga certainly enjoyed the presence of the Chileans in her classes, while Mr. Darr and Ms. McCabe, also spanish teachers, found the exchange to be a great chance for their A.P. Spanish classes to practice realistic conversations with the Chileans. As for the SLV students who provided housing for the Chileans, many unique, close friendships were formed; it was an unforgettable experience. Back in Concepción, Isidora Cerda takes up her daily routines once more and continues to expand on her interests and hobbies. “I am a roller skater, a volleyball player, and I play the ukulele.” Isi does not hesitate to enjoy herself, to laugh, and always smile. The Chilean exchange students displayed no less than an incredibly positive mindset to everything while at SLVHS, and surely, we all are eager to await them again in two years.
By Tasina Westberg