Chilean exchange program

Back to Article
Back to Article

Chilean exchange program

Lauren Wetzel, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

This 2018-19 school year, Sra. Tunis, one of the Spanish teachers at Renton High School, helped organize an exchange program with students from Valdivia, Chile. She worked with Mr. Staley, an English teacher who works at Windsor School in Valdivia, in order to plan the trip. He contacted her to propose the idea, and they worked hard to make it a reality. They found many students from both Renton and Valdivia who were interested in getting to know another culture, another language, and meet new people.

A student from Chile, Alvaro Espinoza, said the reason he went on the trip was to see what his level of English was and try to improve it.

Espinoza said, “Another important fact that made me come here here was to learn and meet American people and their culture.”

There were 12 Chilean students who studied at Renton for 2 weeks from January 11th until the 27th. Each student stayed with a student from Renton and attended classes with them.

On the weekends, there were group excursions to explore Seattle. They have been to Pike Place, the central library, MoPop, the Seattle Space Needle, the Aquarium, and even went on an Argosy Cruise. In addition, each host family took their students to other places around Seattle on their own time.

In Valdivia it is summer, so the students are taking two weeks out of their vacation to come to Renton. Then, students from Renton will have the opportunity during July to go to Valdivia and stay with their exchange student’s family.

The students live in southern Chile, about a 10 hour car ride away from the capital, Santiago. Valdivia has a population of 143, 207 people and is known for its strong business industry, having a prestigious university and popular beer production. It is also full of things to do. They have a market on the riverside, the Valdivian forest, and the Niebla Fort at the coast which is a national monument and was built in 1671 to protect southern Chile.

When planning the exchange, something that nobody accounted for was how much the students would bond.

As Chilean student Ricardo Kunstmann said: “All my expectations on people here were exceeded.”

For many of the students, after two weeks of getting to know each other, saying goodbye was very hard. There was a potluck in the school cafeteria before the last day and students were able to write kind notes to the friends they met. Renton High School student Makeda Belete talks about her biggest takeaway from the trip.

“The world isn’t that large. I made such strong connections with people from halfway around the world that I never would’ve met if it wasn’t for the exchange,” shared Belete.

When reflecting on what went well about the trip, Sra. Tunis said, “Everybody just fit together…Renton people and Valdivia people really wanted to connect with each other.”

Sra. Tunis then went on to explain that it is possible that the exchange might continue in future years depending in student interest and staffing.

“There aren’t very many other things in life that can give you access to a different culture, a different language, a different way of life, like jumping into somebody else’s life the way it is. This is not like a vacation, this is not like studying, it’s like doing life with someone who you enjoy. There is no other way to do that except this,” shared Tunis.