Impressions of Glenstal – Jonas Ruiz

Jonas Ruiz from Argentina has just finished an Exchange with Declan Kinahan (5th Year)
It almost feels like as if it was just yesterday when I was on my own on a plane not really knowing what to expect but excited for what the future had for me. Now I’m going back home in 2 days with a ton of memories, photos, snapchats and messages to answer, and a lot of stories to share. I don’t even know where to start now that I’m writing about my experience of being an exchange student in Glenstal Abbey School for two months.
Well, first of all I’ve wanted to be an exchange student my whole high school life.For years I watched american films of students going abroad and everything and I never thought that would happen to me. But during my last year in Secondary School in Argentina, a very close english teacher told me about the opportunity of a school exchange. And God knows well I did not hesitate in answering her. Back in the day in April 2015 a student in Glenstal called Declan came over to my hometown in Argentina. Surprised because of the immensity of the big cities compared to small ones back in Ireland his review of his experience was incredible. But although it was sad and hard for everyone to say goodbye to him, I knew we were going to see each other again. And so it happened, on January 21st I got on that plane knowing that the following day I’d be in Ireland. When I got off of it Declan and his father (who’s also Declan) were waiting for me. I was so happy to see him again, because after all it had been 9 months since I saw him for the last time. As in January in Argentina we are in summer, I knew that the cold Irish winter was coming for me and was going to freeze. There were days when the temperature would go near freezing and I had to wear around 4 layers of clothing just to keep myself warm.
I was placed with the greatest host family in the whole world. They treated me like their own and they were like my own family in another part of the world. I had a host mom,dad,brother and 2 sisters. Sharing so many great moments with them I never knew they would hold such a special place in my heart. 
The first time Declan took me to his school I couldn’t believe what I saw. Have you ever heard of Hogwarts? Well, I can tell you for sure that Glenstal Abbey School is the closest you are going to get to it in real life. From te very beginning I felt welcomed to every-day activities and classes. The school was boys-only and that was a big adjustment coming from a mixed school. Everything was new, everyone was different and it was so diverse getting to know students from all over the world. I have never met so many kinds of people in just one place. I was scared during the first day of school. I didn’t know anyone, I got lost since the school was huge. But pretty soon I started to get comfortable. It was funny how people always got surprised by how good I was at speaking in English (Not trying to be conceited). They’re like, Wow, you even speak better English than sone students here. I loved answering people’s questions like, So, how do you like Ireland so far? or What language do you speak in Argentina? Where is it? or Aren’t you freezing?
I would say that as much as I missed my family and friends at home, I never really got homesick because I had friends who made sure I was okay. They were always there helping me with all the questions I had to ask, and things like getting directions, hanging out, shopping, learning slang terms, etc.
I visited lots of places with the school. From going to all Senior and Junior Rugby Cup matches to the French Film Festival in Cork I enjoyed every single field trip. But for me one of the best experiences was going to Westport, where we went on a 60 km cycling trail called Greenway surrounded by amazing landscapes.
Living away from home for so long, on the other side of the world, has impacted me in ways that will stick with me for life. I’m going back to Argentina full of new knowledge of the Irish culture, as well as an improved English and a bunch of new words to add to my mental dictionary.
I want to thank everyone in the staff and also the students of Glenstal for making this one of the most wonderful experiences of my whole life. I once read that an exchange is an experience never to be forgotten. They sure were right about it.