So after 2 long weeks of trying out classes, moving around things in my schedule, and convincing the admissions lady at my university to let me into various courses, I finally have my official class schedule for the semester! Until you have been a foreign student in a new university, you really have no idea how difficult and stressful this process is. I chose to attend the most ‘foreigner-friendly’ university in Santiago, and thank goodness I did. Even though there are a ton of international students a la Católica, the process of enrolling in courses still is not easy by any means.
The first two weeks of classes here are almost like a trial run for foreigners, where we can go to as many classes as we want, try them out, enroll if we like them, and drop any classes that we don’t feel comfortable with. I picked out at least 10 classes that I wanted to try, so I was literally at the university from 9 in the morning to 6 at night most days for the last couple of weeks, trying class after class, with varying success. A few professors spoke so rapidly, I gave up trying to listen after 10 minutes and crossed their class off my list of potential classes. Other classes have professors that are a little more accommodating, and try to make the international students feel more comfortable. In one class, the professor told a joke, and I must have looked really confused, because he then went on to explain it specifically for me. Here it is:
Un huérfano entró un pizzeria (An orphan entered a pizzeria)
El dueño le preguntó ‘¿Que quieres?’ (The owner asked him, ‘What do you want?’
El huérfano respondió: Una familiar (The orphan replied: A family)
The last line of the joke is what confused me—apparently the word ‘familiar’ not only means family, it also means a family-sized pizza. How on earth would I have known that? Still, the next time the professor told a joke, I just laughed along with everyone else, having no idea what was actually so funny. This is pretty much my game plan for speaking Spanish now: go with the flow until I wake up one day and can miraculously understand everything all the Chileans are saying to me!
The thing that really confused me about the Chilean system is that international students were not allowed to start at my university until Wednesday of the first week, when everyone else started on Monday. As if we are not at enough of a disadvantage already, we now missed the introduction to the course and information about exams, class structure, schedules, etc. Despite this, I managed to find 4 classes that I am excited about: a Spanish language class (through my American program), a class called Culture, Internet, and Society, a public speaking class, and finally…. Tennis 1!
Yes, that is right. After taking tennis lessons for 6 years, I am officially back in tennis 1. So far this class has been quite the adventure. It started off a little slow when the first day, we did warm-up exercises with the tennis rackets that I do with the little 5-year old kids I teach tennis to in the United States. But things picked up pretty quickly when we actually started playing, and I realized that this class has the biggest variety of tennis players I have ever seen. Some people have literally never picked up a tennis racket in their lives, while others can blow me out of the water. I am the only international student, which makes it a little tricky because the professor doesn’t slow down his speech at all, but I figure I am ok. It is tennis, after all. Even if I can’t understand every word he is saying, I know how to hit a forehand and a backhand, and I have taught the steps to a good serve for 4 years. If I can’t pass this class, I don’t even want to think about my other ones!
Yesterday we had ‘diagnostic fitness tests’ in tennis, as they are called here. The professor told us we were doing some type of run, and he kept saying how we were supposed to get a certain time, but we shouldn’t kill ourselves getting it. If we couldn’t breathe, or felt like we were going to pass out, we should stop and walk. He literally went on about this for so long, I began to wonder how long we had to run: 3 miles, 5 miles? Nope. Turns out it was 1000K, which is only slightly over half a mile. Needless to say, I passed that test just fine!
The next part of the fitness exam was a little bit trickier though. We had to do the sit-and-reach, just like in high school. Aka my worst physical test ever. Pretty much the entire class just stood around and watched as one person at a time sat on the group and reached over their toes while the professor measured. Everyone in the class was doing pretty well, averaging probably around 10 cm. Then it was my turn, and I scored a negative 3 cm! Woohoo! Guess I have some work to do on my flexibility before the real test… Anyways, the best part was that yesterday I was wearing ridiculously awesome bright yellow and orange socks with a big smiley face on the toes, but to do the sit-and-reach, we had to take our shoes off. The professor saw my socks and thought they were the funniest things ever and made me show the entire class! So now I am not just the American girl who is good at tennis and running and awful at flexibility, I am the American girl with the smiley face socks. A pretty good reputation, I would say!
On a completely random note, today I went to the post office with my friend Payton to send a few postcards. While we were walking back, we were talking about how awesome it would be to get mail, but how it is basically impossible because it is so hard to get things through customs here and because it is ridiculously expensive to ship anything. Seriously 5 minutes after we had this conversation, we walked into my house and there was a package from my family waiting on the steps for me! Payton can attest to the fact that I was literally jumping up and down with excitement! Thank you thank you thank you to my awesome family for the wonderful surprise- pretzels, warm socks, peanut butter, granola bars, and homemade peanut blossom cookies! Everything a girl in Chile could possibly want!