Max Nelson

Chile

Hometown: Saint Johns, Florida
School: Allen D. Nease Senior High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset, Florida
Host District: 4340 

Host Club: The Rotary Club of Talca

 

My Bio


My name is Maxwell Alexander Nelson, but please, just call me Max. I am a 17-year-old senior in the IB program at Nease High School. I am from Saint Johns, where I live with my family: mom, dad, and twin sister, between the cities of Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

Next year is an adventure that I can’t wait to unfold. I have wanted to be an exchange student for as long as I can remember. As someone born and raised in Florida, I have the burning desire to strike a path outside our borders. I can’t wait to experience someplace entirely foreign and I can’t believe this is finally happening.

At school, my favorite subjects are history and Spanish, which I have studied for many years. I participate in many clubs, including drama, photography, and Interact. I am the president of both the Young Republicans and the International Students Club. When I am not at school, I love all things aquatic: boating, sailing, swimming, and more. A favorite for the past few years is the sport of rowing and I've had the chance to compete at the Florida State Rowing Championship three times.

In the future, I plan to attend a university to study global health and international business. One day, I hope to work for an international organization such as the United Nations or the World Health Organization. South America has always intrigued me and I know that my year in Chile will give me so many opportunities, both today and in the future. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible!

 

Santiago and la cordillera

Santiago and la cordillera

My classmates

My classmates

The other exchange students

The other exchange students

With the Chilean RYE Florida inbound from last year, Dani Suzao.

With the Chilean RYE Florida inbound from last year, Dani Suzao.

Ready for the Talca Rangers game.

Ready for the Talca Rangers game.

Easter Island

Easter Island

Dreams do come true.

Dreams do come true.

Patagonia glaciers

Patagonia glaciers

The famous piano stairs

The famous piano stairs

Sporting the Chilean Flag

Sporting the Chilean Flag

With the penguins

With the penguins

Valparaíso

Valparaíso

The Andes mountains

The Andes mountains

Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Journals: Max - Chile 2015-2016

  • Max, outbound to Chile

    If you eat too much avocado does your skin turn green?

    That was a legitimate worry when I first arrived to the Republic of Chile. Now, eating my weight in avocado on a monthly basis is a completely normal part of my Chilean life.

    That's right, life. I no longer feel like I'm the outsider here in Chile. Instead, I feel like Chile is my home. I have friends here, family, I fit in. For the first time, I had a full conversation with a stranger without her realizing that I'm a foreigner, the ultimate compliment for an exchange student.

    As it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, I'm on break from school. Because of that, I've had plenty of opportunities to travel. From Argentina, to Patagonia, to the coastal city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Valparaíso, I have had numerous opportunities to explore this long, skinny country that I call home.

    Before coming to Chile, I was worried that over the summer I would be bored. In fact, its been quite the opposite. Every day it seems there is something new to explore. In my town's quirky-but-quaint downtown, my fellow inbounds and I make it a habit to discover new things. From the coffee shop that most resembles American Starbucks, to the juice bar owned by the friendly Colombian, adventures never cease.

    In just a few short months, my language skills have improved drastically. Today, I proudly consider myself a fluent Spanish speaker, even though not a day goes by when I don't learn something new.

    Chilean Spanish has definitely been a challenge, though. From centuries of virtual isolation from the rest of Latin America, Chilean Spanish has morphed into its own dialect, complete with its own grammar, slang, and accent. While my Spanish still isn't quite Chilean (I've actually been told it sounds more Mexican or Cuban), I am always met with a smile whenever I try my best to use Chilean words. ¿Cachai po weon?

    In short, I can't believe that I'm already at the halfway point of my exchange. I'm so happy here, and I'm thankful to Rotary for the five past months, and grateful for the five left.

    ¡Chao!
    Max

    To see my homepage click HERE


  • Max, outbound to Chile

    Before I sat down to write this, I was brainstorming all the things I could include: how I’m practically fluent in Spanish, how I had the opportunity to travel to Easter Island, how much I love my Chilean family and friends… Really what it all boils down to, though, is what an amazing time I’m having here.

    Though it is sometimes frustrating, I’m glad I chose to come to South America. While I wish that my house could have heat or the road be paved, it along with the tin roofs, numerous horses, and stray dogs, is just part of the bright Chilean character.

    Every day is a new adventure. Of course, it’s not without bumps in the road. In religion class, I mixed up the words for “drunk” and “Hebrew”, for example, but it’s just part of the territory. Chilean Spanish is not what I learned in school. Consonants are optional, and sometimes they seem to make up the grammar as they go along. They still tell me I have a weird accent, like a Mexican or Cuban, but I guess that’s better than sounding like a gringo!

    While I have yet to really be homesick, there are definitely moments that I miss home. I would give everything just to be able to sit at home on my couch with my parents, sister, and cat, watching the Gators with Publix chicken in hand. However, I just remind myself how fortunate I am to be watching La Roja, the Chilean soccer team, eating empanadas alongside my host family, through the window the snow-capped Andes Mountains in the distance. Of course, my effort to incorporate myself into the culture doesn’t stop there.

    September 18th was the Chilean national holiday, when I danced La Cueca, the Chilean national dance, in front of the whole school, sombrero, poncho, and all. Later, they had me dance the YMCA, and were completely shocked when I already knew the choreography, not understanding that it is common knowledge for every American.

    That same week was a very strong earthquake. While very common in Chile, the most seismically active country in the world, the reactions of my friends and family alerted me that this one was different. All of a sudden, I heard this sound, like a tap-tap-tap. My first thought was that it was the dog coming up the wooden stairs, but then the door began to move in its hinges, and I realized that the sound was coming from the side of the desk hitting the wall.

    Everything began to shake: the bed, the lamp, the chair. The dogs barked. The walls creaked.

    When I stood up, the floor moved below me like the deck of a boat gently rocking from side to side. I had never experienced anything like it, and I hope I never have to again. In a split second I grabbed my coat (winter, remember?) and phone and carefully went down stairs and out into the driveway, Gari the dog still barking at my heels. Fortunately, I was far enough from the epicenter that everything was fine, but I was still pretty shaken up—pun intended.

    Since then, at least 3 earthquakes have passed, so I’m now a seasoned earthquake veteran.

    As the school year draws to a close, I can’t wait for summer vacation. I have trips planned to both Patagonia and Argentina, and I hope to spend my long summer days exploring my city with my friends. I am so thankful for everything Rotary has done, and I can’t wait to share more.

    Que estén bien,
    Maswal
    (That’s how they spelled Maxwell on my wristband at the doctor’s office)

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • Max, outbound to Chile

    Fiesta. Siesta. Repeat.
    Sounds pretty great, right? I think so. I’ve only been in Chile for a bit more than two weeks, and I’m already having the time of my life, but let’s start at the beginning.

    I arrived in Santiago, Chile bright and early after a long night of travelling. Seeing the rising sun reflect of the Andes Mountains from the plane window is definitely a sight I will never forget, and it made the perfect welcome to my Chilean adventure.

    When I got off the plane and cleared customs, I was greeted by my host family waving a big sign with my name on it, the Chilean and American flags, and a big fat cartoon alligator. I love them. Of course, I was expecting my host parents and sister to greet me at the airport; that was no surprise. What I didn’t expect was to see all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my 86-year-old abuela there as well! Latin families are so big and so close, and they were so fast to adopt me as their own. A group of Rotarians even performed La Cueca, the Chilean national dance for us at the airport to welcome all the new exchange students.

    Upon leaving the airport, two things became immediately apparent: the weather and the mountains. Reading through the blogs of my fellow outbounds, I’ve noticed that many of them have mentioned the heat in their host countries. However, I’m having the opposite problem. It’s winter in South America, and I’m the only South American outbound far enough south to truly experience winter. Yes, it’s chilly in Chile. And yes, I’ve been waiting to make that pun for about 8 months now. Also, Santiago has some of the tallest buildings in South America, but you would never realize it because they are dwarfed by the mountains that surround the city. Seeing the beautiful mountains every day is definitely one of my greatest experiences so far. It’s as if they peak from behind the clouds to say “Oye, Max, you aren’t in Florida anymore.”

    Chilean food is not what most people would expect. None of it is spicy. The chili pepper has an entirely different linguistic origin, and thus the only spicy food I’ve eaten is that seasoned with the sauce I brought from home. Every day we eat an obscene amount of bread and drink an absurd amount of coffee, even before bed. Chileans eat about 3.5 meals a day, give or take. The only constants are breakfast and lunch—the main meal, eaten at home. (Actually, I eat lunch at my abuela’s house because she lives closer to school). In the evening there is once, which is most like tea time, accompanied with bread, cheese, butter, and frequently avocado. La cena, or dinner, is only eaten sometimes. In my family, we usually merge it with once on the weekdays. When we do have dinner, it is usually the leftovers from lunch.

    I was surprised to learn that Chileans don’t eat a lot meat, but when they do, shellfish is a very common choice. I have eaten shellfish of all shapes and sizes, including mussels, clams, shrimp, and abalone. My favorite meat, though, is the completo: a really big hot dog with avocado, onions, tomatoes, ample mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.

    In my short time south of the equator, my favorite part has definitely been school. At school, I’m a celebrity. The younger students follow me around, and I shake more hands and pose for more pictures than I can count. Once, I was even late to history class because everyone wanted to talk to the gringo with blonde hair and green eyes. Fortunately, my uniform helps me to blend in—until I open my mouth.

    That’s all for now. I’m off to take a siesta. Chao, hasta luego!
    Max

    To see more click HERE

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