I arrived in Sucre just a little over a month ago now and it has been an amazing experience. When I first arrived, to be honest, I had nearly forgotten why I even wanted to be an exchange student in the first place. Everything was unfamiliar, I barely understood what anyone was saying to me, and I just wanted to go home.
I went to school on my first full day in Sucre, which was probably for the best, since it forced me to spend time with my new classmates right off the bat. I made a couple of friends from Sucre on my first day. And, even though I tried to focus on meeting people from Sucre, I made friends with some other exchange students too, since we’re all in the same class together at school. My friends and classmates from Sucre are really friendly and everyone has been more than willing to help me out when I need help, especially with Spanish. Most of my classmates speak really good English and if I forget or don’t know a word they can help me out. A lot of them speak English to me just out of habit from previous exchange students, so I try to respond in Spanish which normally makes people switch back to Spanish. It’s difficult to always remember to respond to English with Spanish, but I want to be easier to talk to and improve my Spanish so I can make friends more easily.
And my Spanish has already improved. I can finally understand more than I can’t understand when someone is speaking directly to me, but when people aren’t speaking directly to me I still have a lot of trouble understanding. For example, when my local friends have a conversation between themselves or when my teachers are speaking to the class I can barely understand and I’m lucky to just get the gist of what someone is saying.
Another adjustment I’ve had to make is that in Bolivia people are very social and it’s normal to go out with friends a lot more than I’m used to. When I can, I try to be in the plaza (or the town square) after lunch, or after any classes I have after lunch , so I can find someone to do something with. During the weekends I try to go the same parties as my local friends. Through this I’ve discovered that I’m far more extroverted than I thought I was at first.
I have had a little bit more of a hard time acclimating at home though. My family is wonderful and very inviting, but when I first got here I started finding excuses to be in my room. My family spends a lot of their time in their rooms because it’s winter here and its more comfortable. I felt like I was intruding when I went to their rooms and had trouble getting used to the idea that it was alright to be there. But I’m getting significantly more accustomed to being in their room even if I’m not always able to talk to them. I’m trying to put Rotary’s advice about socializing and not isolating yourself in your bedroom to use, since what we learned in RYE training has worked in every other facet of my life thus far. I told my host mom about this issue I’d been having and she was really helpful and supportive, and my whole host family was really inviting towards me when I finally started getting over this.
Lately, I’ve been feeling much better than I was after first arriving, and I want to thank Rotary for giving me the skills and knowledge to be able to acclimate and make friends here. And even though it’s hard sometimes to be so far from my friends in Georgia and my family, I love it here in Sucre. I am so grateful to Rotary and RYE for this opportunity, and I’m also grateful for my host family and friends here in Bolivia who have shown me nothing but kindness and warmth, which I hope to continue to return.
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