My experience as a virtual exchange student at the San Silvestre School in Lima, Peru is one I will not soon forget. Despite the obvious differences between an in-person exchange and a virtual one, it was still an incredible opportunity.
The best part of going on exchange is making friends with people who live in a completely different place. While it was harder for me to immerse myself in Peruvian culture because everything was over Zoom, there were a few experiences that gave me the opportunity to get beyond the screen and learn more about Peru and my host family.
My exchange buddy was so kind and welcoming. We instantly connected over Netflix, especially because that was one thing that had become a staple of life over quarantine. It was also interesting to see the effects of COVID in Peru, and I was surprised that we were actually having similar quarantine experiences. I also had the opportunity to get to know another girl at the school. We had a bunch of classes together, and we were in the same group for many projects. She also taught Victoria, another exchange student from Athenian, and I how to cook a meal that her family usually makes on Christmas. It was so fun to share traditional family recipes and spend some time getting to know each other.
One of the challenges I faced while going to school in Peru was the language barrier. Usually, the students who to go to Peru for exchange are taking Spanish in school, or at least, can understand the language. However, because it was a virtual exchange, I was able to go to school in Peru despite not knowing Spanish at all. This proved to be a challenge because while the main classes I attended were taught in English, the extracurricular classes were taught in Spanish. Although it was sometimes difficult to figure out what was happening in the classes, I got better at following what the other students in the class were doing. I also got much better at using google translate throughout the whole experience.
In conclusion, going on exchange, even over Zoom, is an incredible opportunity. You are able to form connections with people you would otherwise never meet, and you will learn so much about another culture.