by Adam Levine ’20
Starting at a new school can be difficult, especially if the school is in a different country. Junior
Pablo Ortuño, an exchange student from Chile, is spending his junior year here in the United
States. Though he was born in Toledo, Spain, and raised in Barcelona, Ortuño comes to
Sherwood from Chile, where his family moved to five years ago.
Through the American Field Service (AFS), a non-profit organization that believes international education and exchange can lead to a more peaceful world, Ortuño is here on a one-year cultural
Ortuño learned about this program from his father’s boss, whose daughters both took part on
AFS exchanges. Ortuño’s parents encouraged him to give it a try, and as the exchange got closer,
Ortuño’s excitement grew. These feelings of excitement, however, were not met without nerves,
which Ortuño tried to conceal in order to keep the other students calm as well.
“My parents really pushed me forward and gave me a lot of support to go abroad,” said Ortuño.
“As the exchange was coming I felt more and more motivated about going and have an amazing
Along with 40 other Chilean students, Ortuño came to America on the exchange, and the
students were dispersed across the country. While Ortuño ended up here in Olney, other students
are staying in cities and states like Annapolis, Chicago, Kansas, Rhode Island, and Alaska.
Although they became separated, the AFS still organized many events that allowed the students
to meet up and experience America together. For example, the group has toured D.C., gone
skiing, and even got invitations to attend the annual UNICEF summit.
One of the biggest differences Ortuño noticed between Chilean and American culture when he
arrived was that everything was much larger here, from the meal portions to the highways, cars,
and houses, but the cultural differences didn’t stop at just the physical things. Ortuño pointed out
that our government gives us a lot of opportunities, like an education.
“My school back home has way fewer resources than Sherwood and I think there are people that
don’t really appreciate that,” explained Ortuño. “When someone complains about how bad are
the bathrooms, how they hate their piano class, etc., I feel like they need some perspective.”
At Sherwood, Ortuño has been able to pursue his love of music through joining the Chambers
Singers and performing in Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival. How Ortuño ended up at a school that fit his interests so well was completely up to luck. The application process involves the applicant
selecting three countries in order of preference, but the rest is completely random. After a
selection process, the AFS chooses where in the country the applicant will go, which is based on
what it thinks will be best for the applicant and where families are that are willing to host.
Ortuño is staying with junior Lauren Twombly, whose family found out about the AFS program
from a friend’s recommendation. “Pablo is our second foreign exchange student,” Twombly said.
“We hosted a second time because we had such a great experience the first time around.”
Although Ortuño is from Chile, he still values Spanish traditions, and even brought a few to his
host family’s house, including the tradition of eating grapes on New Year’s Eve.
“I’m … so thankful and so happy to have done this exchange because it’s such a great, enriching
experience,” said Ortuño. “I think everyone should, at some point, go study abroad.”