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Colombian and Chilean students welcomed in foreign exchange program

As St. Louis U. High gradually approaches pre-pandemic levels of normalcy, the school’s exchange program has returned, allowing students from Colombia and Chile the chance to experience life as Jr. Bills.

The welcome party for this year's exchange students. Photo: Courtesy of Maria-Paz Campos.

With the return of exchange programs comes the return of SLUH’s longtime Jesuit partner school in Bucaramanga, Colombia: Colegio San Pedro Claver. New this year is a partnership with San Ignacio El Bosque, a Jesuit school in the Chilean capital city of Santiago, which gives Chilean students the opportunity to study in the United States, and for SLUH students to visit Chile.

Despite lingering Covid-19 protocols, the process of actually getting the exchange students into the United States was not terribly difficult. SLUH is a Sevis-certified school, meaning that the Department of Homeland Security has certified the school to issue I-20 visas. These visas allow for foreign students to enter the country in order to take part in academic programs.

“The I-20 kind of helps us speed up the process, which definitely worked in our favor this summer. However, since we had people internationally (that were) not vaccinated, we did have them do a two-week quarantine before they came on campus just to be extra safe,” said Russian teacher and Director of Global Education Robert Chura.

Once in St. Louis, the students quickly began to immerse themselves in American culture. So far, the students have already visited several essential St. Louis sites such as the Gateway Arch, Grant’s Farm, Six Flags, and, of course, a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

Three of the foreign exchange students from Chile. Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Fuentes.

For one of the Chilean students, Humberto Espejo, curiosity about participating in a foreign exchange program began in the summer of 2020, during some of the darkest days of the pandemic. Espejo is hoping to use this exchange opportunity to improve his fluency in English, and to be able to experience life in a foreign culture.

“My parents were interested last year in sending me to an exchange program and they asked my school if there was a possibility of doing that. I had luck and they found an option and I had been selected to participate in this program. At first my objective was learning English, and it continues to be an objective for me, and I understand that the best thing that I will learn here is to have the experience of studying and living in a different culture, in a different country. I think that is my most important objective and what I want to achieve here,” said Espejo

Espejo also appreciates that he can now experience somewhat of a normal school year in the United States, as Chile had enforced strict Covid restrictions for most of the duration of the pandemic.

“(Coming back to a normal school year) was easier I think because in Chile I was very restricted,” said Espejo. “When I left the situation was becoming good but it continued being in a restricted situation with many complications to travel and to do programs like what I’m doing now. Here it’s more relaxed, the situation is better, I have more facilities to meet people, to have a social life here.”

The Department of Global Education is also hopeful that French exchange students from SLUH’s partner school, L’Institution Notre Dame in Chartres, France, will be able to visit in April. 

Over the next year, during both spring break and summer break, a litany of options exists for foreign trips, including but not limited to an Ignatian Pilgrimage to Spain, a Cold War-focused trip to Eastern Europe, and an archaeological dig in Ireland. Information about all of the trips available to SLUH students can be found on the Global Education bulletin board on the second floor, or under the Global Education tab on SLUH’s website.






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