Update from our group of global leaders – Fall 2013 in Chile

Alzar School | 29.10.13

After weeks of honing their leadership skills in the United States, the Alzar School students are now testing those skills in Chile.  Each semester, we spend approximately 5-6 weeks in Chile, taking advantage of the amazing cultural and experiential opportunities for leadership development.  The Andes provide a spectacular backdrop for learning, and the school is able to improvise classrooms as it travels and explores.

Experienced Alzar School kayakers on 7 Tazas
Experienced Alzar School kayakers explore the Siete Tazas (Seven Teacups), a series of runnable waterfalls in Central Chile.

This trip to Chile marks my 13th trip to Chile since 2001.  Even with a fair number of expeditions to Chile, I get so excited to return each semester.  Seeing the country with a group of enthusiastic, engaged students helps me keep fresh eyes for adventure and learning here.

Students apply their Spanish to purchase snacks in small town markets.
Students apply their Spanish to purchase snacks in small town markets.
Students test out new exercise equipment in San Fabian, Chile
Students test out new exercise equipment in the central plaza of San Fabian, Chile.
Students work together to load the trailer
Students work together to load the trailer.
Students exploring the caves of Iglesia de Piedras
Students exploring the caves of Iglesia de Piedras, a set of rock formations in Buchupureo, Chile, along the Pacific Ocean.

This semester, our students were especially primed to come to Chile because we had two Chilean students studying with us in the United States for two months.  Catalina and Joaquin did an impressive job of sharing their culture from within the United States, teaching the students about empanadas, cueca dancing, and Chilenismos (Chilean slang).  When our US students arrived here in Chile, they entered with great enthusiasm because they already felt a connection to this place, one that will grow in the coming weeks.  They were less bashful about using their Spanish to approach local store owners.  They didn’t bat an eye at trying local cuisine, and they enjoy having meals completely in Spanish.

In the first week of Chile, our school completed a 4-day paddling expedition, exploring the Rio Teno, Rio Claro, and Rio Ñuble, some of the finest rivers in Chile’s Central Valley.  During the expedition, students had academic study sessions to keep their skills sharp, and met with individual teachers to monitor progress.  Each day, a different team of designated student leaders were responsible for setting itineraries that matched the group’s goals.

After four days on the rivers, our designated student leaders navigated us to the small beach town of Buchupureo, which sits at a highly regarded surf break on the Pacific Ocean.  “Normal” classes resumed yesterday, with students demonstrating that the work they put in during the expedition had paid off.  I say the classes are “normal” because they follow the same time schedule as we use in the United States, but now occur without WIFI and on the grassy lawn of our cabanas here.

In leadership class, students are now transitioning into the study of complicated issues.  Here in Chile, we will discuss the Chilean government in the early 1970’s (Allende and Pinochet) and the complicated legacy that influences current Chilean politics.  Appropriately, this is a presidential election year in Chile, and students are noticing the thousands of signs promoting candidates.  Of note, Chile begins with a general election of many candidates (9 this year) and if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will face each other in a run-off.  The top two candidates this year are Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.  Therefore, two women will be facing off, and I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find any precedent (where both candidates were women).  The elections provide a great opportunity for our community to interact with native Chileans, as they are generally very engaged in national politics and will offer their opinion if asked.

As we gain more reliable internet access, look forward to posts from teachers and students.  There are quite the adventures to shared!