Challenges and Surprises of Communication and Leadership in Chile

Alzar School | 05.11.13
Estée talking with a shopkeeper about the Alzar School

I entered Chile excited to learn a new language, but apprehensive about speaking to locals who I thought wouldn’t want to interact with me. As soon as I began conversing with the Chileans, my entire perspective changed. Even if I don’t use the correct grammar to ask for something, they help me say the right thing and then politely answer my question. If I don’t understand and ask them to say something again, they gladly repeat their answer much more slowly. Not only do the Chileans answer my questions, many also continue the conversation to get to know me better. I have asked many Chileans if I could practice my Spanish with them, and so far not one has objected.  From my experiences speaking with the locals my confidence is growing in my Spanish speaking. I’ve started bringing up more meaningful topics in conversations and asking more complex questions.

Despite my growing confidence in Spanish speaking, I also have had many awkward experiences not understanding someone or consistently using the wrong word. The Chileans speak very quickly and sometimes leave off the ends of their words, so occasionally I have no idea what someone is saying. However, I have gotten much better at asking clarifying questions like, “could you repeat that please?”  Or, “could you please speak a little slower?”. This has been a very effective technique to communicating through Chile.

Communication is just one of the leadership qualities I have been working to improve since being in Chile. I also have been striving to better my resiliency and resourcefulness. When living from tents and being in a foreign country, there are many systems we can’t use that are always available at Alzar. For example, there’s no washing machine, not always warm or functioning showers, or heating inside the tents.  This requires some resiliency from everyone. It was more difficult at the beginning of the trip to deal with these things, but now it’s just part of the daily routine. None of these things cause problems anymore because of the increasing acceptance of our situation. Overall, the chile trip so far has been even more thrilling and fun than I had expected it to be, and I can’t wait for the remaining four weeks!