From bustling San­ti­ago, to Mata­mata

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Local News - REXINE HAWES

A year ago Daniella Navar­rete ar­rived in New Zealand, head­ing for Mata­mata, with no ex­pec­ta­tions and al­most no knowl­edge of the coun­try.

Twelve months later, she leaves with a heart full of won­der­ful mem­o­ries, trea­sured friend­ships and no re­grets.

The 17-year-old Ro­tary ex­change stu­dent from San­ti­ago, Chile, has ful­filled a child­hood dream of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a year-long ex­change.

‘‘When I was eight, a friend of my dad, who was a Ro­tar­ian, told us about the ex­change.

‘‘I was so con­vinced go­ing to do one.’’

When she was old enough to ap­ply, she had her eye on Aus­tralia but with no ex­changes to the Land Down Un­der, she was told about New Zealand.

And the wheels got turn­ing and be­fore Daniella knew it, she was on a plane, headed for parts un­known.

And she says leav­ing her home - a city of seven mil­lion peo­ple - for New Zealand, was a huge change.

‘‘My first im­pres­sion was it was very small and not many peo­ple. On the drive from Auck­land to Mata­mata, all I saw were farms, sheep and cows.’’

Dur­ing Daniella’s stay in New Zealand, she lived with four dif- I was fer­ent host fam­i­lies, start­ing with Henry and Ann Cloth­ier.

And un­der­stand­ing the Kiwi ac­cent was her first big­gest hur­dle.

‘‘So I had to ask over and over, ‘can you say that again’. It prob­a­bly an­noyed Ann and Henry so much,’’ she laughed.

Her stay with the three other host fam­i­lies over the fol­low­ing nine months only en­hanced her ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I got to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies and tra­di­tions - and you have to adapt. They all have dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing stuff.

‘‘Christ­mas was dif­fer­ent - it’s real fam­ily time. I had a re­ally good time with my host fam­ily, but still, after 16 Christ­mases with my own fam­ily, one with­out them was hard.’’

Her tour of the South Is­land with other Ro­tary ex­change stu­dents and a bun­jee jump in Queen­stown was her high­light of the year.

‘‘Eigh­teen days of cool stuff and just a bunch of kids hav­ing a good time.’’

It was after this trip just over a month ago, that she started pre­par­ing for the in­evitabil­ity of re­turn­ing home.

By the time this edition goes to print, she will be back home in San­ti­ago.

‘‘I am so grate­ful to Ro­tary for giv­ing me this op­por­tu­nity and for my host fam­i­lies. It was cool to be part of their whanau.

‘‘Chile is home, but so is New Zealand now.’’

SUPPLIED

Daniella Navar­rete, an ex­change stu­dent from Chile, spent a year in Mata­mata from Jan­uary 2017-Jan­uary 2018.

SUPPLIED

A bungee jump in Queen­stown was one of the high­lights of Daniella’s 12-month ex­pe­ri­ence in New Zealand.

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