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A chaotic start to year-long life in Chile

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Oh boy. Where to start?

Do I start with the whole not knowing anybody here in Chile? Or do I start with the fact that I am horrible at Spanish. Most of the time I have no clue what anyone is saying, but we get our points across with broken Spanish and hand motions.

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I left last Friday from Fargo and made my way to the Chicago airport. It was the first time that I had been on a commercial airplane, so I had some expectations. My biggest one was being able to climb the stairs to the airplane and to climb down from the airplane.

My dream was to walk out of the airplane and act like the president. That dream came true. I walked out of the plane and silently I said to myself, "I is Mr. President." (Yes, I know the "is" is supposed to be an "am.")

So far my journey was going great. What made it even better was that on my way to Chicago, I sat with a girl who graduated with my brother. I thought that was pretty darn cool!

After pretending to be the president at the O'Hare airport, I realized that it was so much bigger than the Fargo airport. (Go figure.) When I stepped into the airport, a swarm of people I didn't know greeted me with various shoves and exclamations for me to get out the way.

I'm pretty sure I looked like a lost puppy wandering around looking for gate M7. Little did I know that gate M7 was in a completely different terminal. This meant I had to find the train to terminal five in about 20 minutes.

I finally found my way over to security and was allowed to get on my plane to Panama.

If you asked me why I was flying through Panama, I couldn't tell you. All I know is that there were plenty of other flights from the U.S. to Santiago that didn't involve me going to Panama all by myself. My family and I were not at all in charge of the travel arrangements.

As it turns out, I was sitting next to a girl I knew from cross country. It was the weirdest thing. We had a lovely conversation as we made our five-hour journey to Panama.

When I arrived in Panama, I met up with three other exchange students. I was slightly relieved that I wouldn't have to wait seven hours by myself. The four of us then proceeded to paint with watercolors, get lost, play cards, get lost again and then finally get on our plane to Santiago.

Here in Santiago is where we split up. Some got picked up by their host families, while I still had another flight to Conception. So I waited for another seven hours in the Santiago airport -- unfortunately there were no watercolors this time, so I slept on a bench next to my gate. Before I arrived at my gate, I had quite the adventure.

It started with going through Chilean customs. It took the group of us two attempts to get through. The first time we went through we didn't have the right papers so we had to go fill them out. Next, one of the girls I was with lost her luggage. So we had to go on a wild goose chase for that.

Then I had to go get my boarding pass -- scariest thing ever. It was a different airline so I had to get my luggage checked again. In order to do that I needed a boarding pass, which I didn't have.

I had to go to a machine that was all in Spanish. I had some trouble with this task, seeing as I don't speak Spanish that well. I tried everything I could, but it still would not give me my boarding pass.

I tried to ask a lady who worked there, but she just walked away. I was about to cry when I decided to try one more time. Thankfully, it finally worked. With my boarding pass, I was ready to get my bags checked.

After that slight panic attack was over with, I decided to wander around for a little bit. I was completely shocked when Patricio, the boy my family hosted from Chile over 10 years ago, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hola!" I automatically gave him one of the biggest hugs ever. I was in utter surprise.

He showed me around the Santiago airport for while, but then he had to go. He assured me that he would be here if I needed him and I could call him whenever I needed. The best part was when he told me that I was on the special guest list to his wedding in November. This made me pretty darn happy.

In Conception, I met up with the rest of my fellow exchange students and we made our way to our orientation. When we were done getting oriented, we finally met our host families.

There is so much to say about them and everything in Chillan, Chile that I cannot fit it into one article. I hope you will be able to read all about it in my future articles. Until then, I must go out and learn some Spanish.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School and is studying abroad in Chile this year.

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