From bustling Santiago, to Matamata
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.’’
Daniella Navarrete, an exchange student from Chile, spent a year in Matamata from January 2017-January 2018.
A bungee jump in Queenstown was one of the highlights of Daniella’s 12-month experience in New Zealand.