My name is Bianca Alarcon and I attend San Silvestre School in Lima, Peru. My eight-week virtual exchange at The Athenian School has been wonderful; there is no other way to describe how nice and welcoming the students and teachers are. I feel so happy and thankful about pushing myself to participate in this opportunity that has been fulfilled more than a hundred percent.
I chose to take two courses: Speech & Debate and ESL World History. I especially enjoyed my speech and debate class because I got to learn new useful strategies and ways of debating. It was a very memorable experience because I had the opportunity to help Athenian students prepare for a debate at Harvard. Furthermore, my world history class turned out to be American history, which I liked very much. It was super fun and interesting because I didn’t know much about it. I always think that it’s good to learn new things. Taking these two classes I am amazed by how much I could learn in this short amount of time. I am really thankful because my teachers and classmates were very supportive and were always willing to help me.
Also, I had the opportunity to join some meetings of “The Bring Change to Mind” Club, which is a club where students and teachers can talk freely about mental health issues. I found it interesting because it was something relatively new for me and was impressed by all the awareness about it. Moreover, I attended several discussions and assemblies related to black history month and the Black Lives Matter movement. I am impressed by how involved the Athenian School is. I had the chance to participate in many activities related to this and learned so much. Additionally I attended two Spanish language classes and I am so impressed by the Spanish level everyone had. I wasn’t expecting such a great level. I really enjoyed the Athenian students’ interest in learning about Peruvian culture. We exchanged questions about school life, politics, food, friends, and family in order to help them on the cultural part of their AP tests.
My biggest challenge throughout the exchange was the time difference; Lima is three hours ahead than California. This was hard for me because most of my classes were around 10 or 11 in the morning meaning that in Lima these were at 1 or 2 PM–our usual lunch time. Another challenge was getting used to calling teachers by their first names instead of Mr. or Miss. To be able to overcome these challenges, I started to organize myself better, eat my lunch earlier, and tried my best to call teachers by their first names.
Finally, the best part of my exchange has been meeting Chloe, my exchange buddy. We made zoom calls every week and the fun never ended. She is a super outgoing person and host. She made me feel welcome from the very start. Although everything was virtual, I believe we both had an incredible time getting to know each other. I am going to miss her very much yet and we are going to keep in contact.
I just want to say how thankful I am for this opportunity. I am so happy how everything turned out. This experience has truly been one of my most memorable summers in my life, all thanks to the Athenian school, their teachers and their students.