We finished orientations with the incoming exchange students two days ago, and now are in full motion in the orientation for the Chilean exchange students who will be embarking on their exchange program to the US.  Both of the orientations tend to cover similar materials; rules and regulations, cultural differences, cultural emersion, goals for the year, group bonding activities ext.  However, due to cultural differences between the incoming exchange students compared to the outgoing Chilean exchange students they are oriented very differently.

At first, when I was facilitating a discussion on cultural differences I tended to give the same speech to the Chileans and also the incoming exchange students. However, I noticed that I needed to adapt my speech in order to create humor. Since all the exchange students are teenagers, it is important to have activities and also humor involved in your presentation, in order to keep them activated and paying attention. The same jokes that made Chilean exchange students laugh, left the incoming exchange students with no reaction. Having to work in work environment with cultural differences was definitely a challenge. I found what worked best was creating a multilingual dialogue, by directing most of my main presentation in English with the, but then every once in a while focus on a certain group of students and speak in their native language.

It was also interesting observing the group of Chileans in an activity where they had to pick one trait that described them. The idea of this activity was to show that in different cultures traits are interpreted differently. For example wit, which is a positive trait in Chile and seen as being clever, is also interpreted as a negative quality in other cultures, because wit usually does not follow regulations and takes a round about rout to achieve goals.

The difference that each culture has creates misinterpretations when people from other cultures meet. Therefore, it is important to be aware of them in order to be tolerant and respect each culture for what they hold.

My first exposer to cultural differences at my internship was when I conducted an interview with my boss María Eugenia, for the internship program with the career center that Dickinson College offers. One of Marías points was, that one can be immersed in a culture, but in order to be able to obtain tolerance it is important to adapt to the culture that you are in, and not judge it as worse or better than yours; simply accept that they both are different.

Here is a picture of the group of Chilean exchange students, who will be embarking to the U.S!

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The “intercambistas” exchange students have arrived!

I am currently at A.F.S.’s encampment for the arrival orientation for the incoming exchange students. The day before yesterday I went to the airport to welcome three incoming exchange students from Finland and today at 8am I returned with a co-worker and other A.F.S. volunteers to welcome the other 67 students who were arriving to Chile from all around the world.  It was exciting to see them arrive and their first interactions with other exchange students and also Chile.

Furthermore,  we worked great together as the team, enjoying our time at the airport while looking for the arriving exchange students. Instead of the famous “Where is Waldo” cartoon hunt, we adapted the childhood love with a new title; where is the exchange student? With all international flights arriving in the morning, the airport was in full motion.  The idea of the game was to spot the most exchange students arriving. However as a team we managed to successfully locate all incoming exchange students and transport them to the camp on the buses.

Many of the exchange students were tiered from their long flights, yet they all seemed excited to have finally arrived. With lots of questions and with the little Spanish that they could speak, they thanked us for all the help. It was great to see them trying to communicate in Spanish on their first day since this shows that they are already trying to adjust to living in Chile.

After arriving to the orientation site we allowed the students to rest and shower. Since most of them had been traveling for over a day and were tiered, today was pretty relaxed for the students and we kept mandatory activities to a minimum; we had a welcome speech and lunch, and also activities for the students who were not tiered to participate in. Tomorrow however and the following day will be very busy, as we will be leading numerous in depth activities and covering all material that the students need to know before meeting their host families and leaving with them.

After the hectic morning at the airport , and last week as we have been preparing for the two orientations that we will be facilitating,     it was nice being able to relax finally a little this afternoon, With deadlines to meet, most of us worked overtime last week in order to complete our tasks. The hard work paid off though as we saw the content exchange students arrive.

Being here at orientation camp provoked my thoughts to remember when I was at orientation and my first days in Chile four years ago. Furthermore, I related my past experience as an exchange student to the one that I am living as an intern. While the two are distinct, it made me realize how much I enjoy working in this area . I really enjoy working in an international community because it allows for the world to connect.

An example of this can be seen through a friend of mine in A.F.S. The other day as we were discussing med schools in the US I mentioned the University of Washington. Through this small comment she said that her host brother Connor McClinny is studying international relations there.  Long story turned short; last year I met Connor McClinney on a study abroad program in Brazil. With an example like this it shoes that the world while it is big it does interconnect.

When applying for the grant that the career center at Dickinson College offers, I was asked to respond how I believe that this internship would be beneficial to my career path. Therefore, while international relations has always interested me, this internship has been providing me with the skills and also trainings on cross cultural education that I will continue to use in this field in my future career.  I am looking forward to continue enriching in this experience as an intern at A.F.S., this week at orientations. This will be another great experience to interact and give orientations to people from all over the world.

A.F.S.’s Mission

Thursday the 11th of August through Monday the 15th, A.F.S Chile held a training in Santiago at its national headquarters for A.F.S. volunteers throughout all of Chile.  In order to understand the components of the training it is important that one understands how A.F.S works as an organization both internationally and nationally. A.F.S. was founded after world war two by two drivers of the ambulance field services. Having witnessed the crime and horror of war, they came up with the idea of creating an international exchange program. The thought was that if by creating international relations and friendships that these people would not want their country to go to war with another country because they would have friendsthere. Furthermore, the idea of war and how conflicts arise between countries is also due to misunderstandings between cultures. By creating intercultural exchanges, the participants would be able to understand these misunderstandings and help share these with their country.

These principals are still held high in the organization today and are being furthermore analyzed and shared between A.F.S. internationally. The training that was held this past weekend was to share new concepts of cross culture education, and how to facilitate such information to exchange students that arrive. five volunteers from different areas in Chile attended an international training in Buenos Aires and studied material for the past months to take an international exam on intercultural studies. This weekend therefore was an opportunity for these five volunteers to share the information that they had studied with selected volunteers from different areas of Chile.

While I helped prepare materials for the training I was also able to participate. I found the training to help me in numerous ways that helped me understand both the differences in cultures and also the different processes and philosophies of interculturalemersion. The material was extremely dense but the training was facilitated with numerous activities that kept the group active and participating. Also, usually versus teaching us directly the information we were given basic concepts and then directed to analyze themand share our opinions.

I really enjoyed being able to discuss these concepts with others. Sometimes I find it difficult to discuss concepts such as intercultural emersions, and the importance of culture studies with others because they don’t have the same interest, nor do they see the benefits of living abroad and immersing yourself in another culture. This trainingcreated an environment where all the participants shared the same interest

Also it was amazing to meet A.F.S. volunteers from all over Chile. There were volunteers all the way from Arica, (the border of Peru) to Puente Arenas, (the southern tip of Chile). Since part of the training was also becoming a team with the participants, I was able to create friendships form different areas in Chile. All the volunteers offered me to come and visit them and said that I could stay with them if I ever traveled there. This made me realizes how open A.F.S. is as an organization and works as a big family with the same values and morals of creating intercultural exchanges.

The mission of A.F.S. to help create world peace, along with all the other experiences I have been granted through this internship, continue to make me see myself in an atmosphere similar to such in my future career.

 

Our rigerous schedule for the training.

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One of the workshop sessions at the training.

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Me with the national director of the organization Juan Pablo when being handed my certificate for the training.

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The group of A.F.S. volunteers from all over Chile who participated in the training.

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Settling In

July 12th, 2013

After this week I officially feel as if I am a part of the work place. I have been busy nonstop at work, and I am at the point where I am being assigned multiple work projects at a time. When I first started my internship I would finish one task and then ask for more. But this week along with my daily tasks (sending documents and email reminders to students to send in the rest of their information needed from them before they embark on their exchange, and adding this information to our databases), I have been assigned three projects to complete before the farewell orientation for Chileans leaving to go on their exchange, and the welcome orientation for arriving exchange students to Chile.

My first task is translating materials. One of the materials I am in the midst of translating are instructions on how to use Rosetta Stone; for both students, and also for our office use to keep track of students progress as they are learning a new language. This is important, since Rosetta Stone is being used for the first time this year and these documents will be used for the following years as well. I am finding this task to be a great chance to show my proficiency in both English and Spanish. Also while I have been translating these documents, I am now able to understand how to use Rosetta Stone, and I am teaching both my colleagues and answering students questions.

My Second task is helping prepare orientation materials; such as designing booklets, name tags and certificates for students. This gives me a chance to practice designing templates on word, photoshop, and I am also learning how to work with excel. When I showed both the certificates and nametags for this weekends A.F.S. volunteers training, my co-workers gave me recommendations and my supervisor was very pleased with my final project.

Lastly I am working with a co-worker on reviewing prospect host family’s information and candidate’s information to make sure that they are combatable to live together.

All of these tasks along with other quick assignments have increased my workload and are also making me feel like I am part of the work place. While it is a challenge, I am really enjoying this aspect because it is a sign to me that both my co-workers and my boss are pleased with my work. Furthermore, when I complete one task or part of a task I enjoy hearing recommendations from my co-workers and feeling accomplished with the final project.

On thursday, we start our training for A.F.S. volunteers in Chile. I am also excited to help carry out an orientation that I have helped plan and see my materials put to use. Furthermore while I will be helping out, as a new member of the work place in A.F.S. I am sure it will be a great chance for me to learn more about the organization. I am excited, as always, to continue growing in the work place and continue learning during the rest of my time at my internship.

Here are the name tags that I designed for one of our orientations

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This is the A.F.S. Chile National Office and also my workplace :) IMG_1923

My desk at work!

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More pictures to come! I hope you are enjoying my blog :)

 

A Beautiful Sadness

Last week on Wednesday I was able to spend the day at the airport and the bus station in Santiago picking up exchange students and bringing them to a camp located on the outskirts of Santiago. I really enjoyed this opportunity because it taught me how to organize and run a group. I spent the day with two of my colleagues whose names are Domingo and Madara. While one of us would go and get students from their flights, another one of us would be in charge of staying with the luggage and the students who had arrived previously. And another one of us would make sure that the transportations buses to the camp were arriving on time.

We took turns at the different jobs as well.  The most complicated part of the job was locating the students at the bus station. Unlike the airport there is not always an assigned arrival platform for the buses, and also there is a higher crime rate and chance of having luggage being stolen. But we had no problems and were able to locate the students successfully. I can definitely say that preorganization was important; since we had had a reunion beforehand we were able to do the job almost stress free.

Furthermore, the time spent at the airport, and the camp was a great opportunity for me to get to know my colleagues and the exchange students. Both of my colleagues had participated in exchanges beforehand. Madara is also doing an internship at A.F.S. in Chile. She is from Latvia and took a gap year to study abroad in New Zealand for six months with A.F.S. and then decided she wanted to do an internship with A.F.S. in Chile. Domingo also participated in an exchange program while he was in high school, and has been an A.F.S. volunteer for over 10 years. He started working for A.F.S. when he graduated college, in his local committee in southern Chile. During this time he also worked as a psychologist in an abused children center. Then two months ago he was offered a position in the national headquarters for A.F.S. in Santiago, and took the position. His position deals directly with students and host families who are in any sort of difficulty and he helps them resolve the issue that they are facing. He says that this way he is still able to use his psychology studies and also work for an organization that he is truly passionate for.

It was also great talking to exchange students and to hear feed back directly from them that they had had an amazing experience.  At the camp outside of Santiago, my colleagues and I stayed up until 2am talking with students about their time in Chile. It was amazing to see the joy that they expressed when I asked them about their exchange. Not a single one of them wanted to leave Chile; the connection with their host families, schools, activities and life had formed throughout the year in Chile. I remembered myself being in their shoes a few years ago. As a professional at A.F.S. we are supposed to connect with students in this way, but I found it hard to hold back tears when I talked with students. While it was sad to see the students leaving Chile, I found myself looking at it from a different perspective. Instead of being sad, I felt happiness, because their sadness expressed that they had learned to love another country, culture and find them selves to be a part of it.

A.F.S. has an expression that your exchange is only the beginning because A.F.S. is a lifetime experience. The connections that these students made in Chile will always exist, and they will find themselves connecting with other countries and viewing the world differently.  After discussing this with my colleagues and the students, I directly saw the impact that exchanges have, and it made me think how beautiful the connection is that is created between friendships from different countries.

 

Paz Mundial (World Peace)

1 Julio, 2013

This week has taken some exciting turns! On Wednesday I will finally get to work directly with exchange students.  Exchange students who have completed their time abroad in Chile will be returning to their home countries this week. They will be arriving from  different areas of Chile, to Santiago this Wednesday and flying out to their home countries on Friday.

I have found that logistics have been a key factor when planning the departure process of students. Not only is it important to figure out who will be where and when, in order to insure that all students are picked up from the airport or bus terminal and brought to the hotel, but also another key factor of the departure process has been planning the departure orientation for students. After spending a year abroad in a Chile and adapting to its customs, it can be extremely difficult to return back to your home country. Therefore, along with going to get students and bringing them to the hotel, I will be working directly with them, to help them through the process and answer any questions that they have.

I can say that through this past week, one of the aspects that I am growing in, in my internship, is the ability to work in a group. Communication has been the key, in all the work that we have been collaborating in. Every day we tend to have at least one short meeting to touch bases on where we are at in our work, and what tasks we will be covering.  I really enjoy working in a group, and the environment at the office. All of my colleagues have been really friendly, and helpful. In some sense I can say that the office works together like a big family.  We also all eat our lunches together, since the office has its own kitchen and a huge table with enough room for everyone. This is enjoyable, since I feel like I belong where I am working. Also, I feel comfortable to ask questions and state my opinions since everyone is so open.

On another note, as much as I love my internship, I am having to adjust to the long hours and city life.  Coming from a small town, an over packed metro and large crowds are tiring, but I find myself continuing to be motivated due to the commitment and passion that drives my colleagues to love their job. Everyday I continue to feel the same gratification knowing that I am part of the experience to give students the opportunity to study abroad in another country.

On a similar note, on my way home from work the other day, I ran into a group of Harvard students who are spending their time interning for an education program in Santiago. Hearing how much their experience to study and work abroad in Chile is changing them, made me re-embrace the beauty of intercultural exchanges. Also, I have enjoyed being able to share my knowledge on Chilean culture with foreigners that I meet, and introduce them to my friends in Santiago that I met from my exchange in high-school.  The other day I was thinking of how crazy and beautiful it is to know that I have introduced friends from different countries to each other.

In this sense it makes me realize how world-peace could be created if globalization reaches a certain level.  By creating international relations and friendships, you are able to understand their culture and become connected to their countries. Therefore, by having these connections you would never want to hurt them or their country. This concept explains why A.F.S. was founded right after world war 2; this organization had this same idea, that by creating international relations less wars would occur. Being able to realize and experience this first hand this week ,was an eye-opener for me and made me have a new appreciation for the organization.

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Hola Santiango, Chile! The diaries of an internship abroad in American Field Services Intercultural Exchange Programs

June 24th, 2013

It is incredible to finally be starting my internship in Santiago, Chile at American Field Services Intercultural  Programs.  I have been dreaming for the opportunity to have an internship with this organization since I was 18 years old. Through this organization, a few three years ago, I was able to participate in a High School yearlong exchange program in Chile. I cannot tell you how much this marked my life; not only learning a new culture and language, but also more about myself, and my place in the world. My exchange, and this organization, marked my aspirations in life to continue learning about Latin America. These passions that I discovered while living abroad marked me with another dream; to work for an international exchange program and give others the oppertunity to study abroad.

Throughout the next eight weeks I will be working towards this dream in Santiago, rewriting, translating and creating new materials for incoming and outgoing exchange students. Furthermore, I will be able to assist in orientations for incoming exchange students to Chile, and those embarking from Chile to other countries. When I was first assigned the task I was excited since I remembered me receiving the same exact materials when I arrived to Chile and the difficulties that I had understanding the material due to cultural differences. Now, as I am in the process of rewriting the welcome packet for exchange students arriving to Chile, I am able to understand the culture barriers and mistranslations that exist in the text.  Furthermore, by understanding both Chilean and other cultures, I am able to see other important aspects that should be included in the booklet. Being able to express these culture barriers to incoming exchange students, in one way I am benefited because I have lived the experience, but in another way I will be challenged since I must find the precise way to present such material that both can be understood by the Chilean culture, and also the culture of the incoming exchange student.

Throughout my time here in these next few weeks I have many goals. On a work level I hope to further explore the culture barriers that exist in order to create a successful and helpful material for exchange students. On another hand, I strive to further deepen my connections in this global community by taking the opportunity to talk to my co-workers about their experiences working in an international organization, and also understand the work environment in a Latin American metropolis city.

This new city environment will be another adjustment as well. While I have lived in Chile beforehand, I have yet to experience living in the heart of its capital. All sorts of obstacles and interesting things have accompanied me on my way to work and about the city; the bus system that does not operate on its schedule, the dancers on the streets, the empanada señor (vendor) who will have my order by heart by the time I leave, and all the beautiful international culture that is embedded in this lovely city! I am more than ready to explore!

Santiago