Being a double major in Spanish and International Studies, I had a desire to see the world. That is why I studied abroad three times, but I kept thinking, “What was I going to do when I graduated from college? How could I go take a break and travel again, but also gain experience?”
Well, upon speaking to an advisor at the study abroad office in my college, she informed me of Greenheart Travel. At the time, however, there was no program destination in Chile.
Five months later, and I was already out of college, working at a study abroad organization, still missing traveling. My job at the study abroad organization was temporary, so once the six months was over, I could either tie myself down to a new job, or, explore the world again…
I went back to the Greenheart Travel website, as I remembered there were dozens of opportunities to teach English, or even just volunteer, and you know what I saw? A new program teaching English in a homestay in Chile! I was extremely intrigued. Living in the New York area, traveling down to Chile was something very daring, as it is a place known to be the end of the world, and it is somewhere that most people in my area would never even think of traveling too because it is so far away. Well, I went for it.
I began to do my research on the country first and fell in love with the food and the nature. Chile is known to be the #1 adventure tourism country in Latin America, isnt that wild? I knew I had to sign up for this program once I read about the national parks, desserts, beaches, and more. They have a melting pot of environments here. What else would I need?
Upon arriving here in Santiago, I started to become quite nervous. I have never been so far away from home, nor have I ever been in a South American country, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I can say is that Chileans actually love foreigners! They have treated me like a celebrity here… I’m not even joking. They get very excited to hear that I am from the United States and want to hear all about New York City.
The photo below is of my bus ride from Santiago to my homestay in Quillota, a city populated with 60,000 Chileans. It was a 2 hour bus ride and more than half of it consisted of me gazing at the Andes mountains over acres of farm land.
Once I got to Quillota, my host city, I immediately loved the mountainous views. Everywhere you turn in the city, you see hills and you can even see Camapana Mountain, which is a very popular destination for tourists and Chileans.
I was stressed at first, knowing that I would be teaching English 15 hours per week in a homestay. When it comes to living abroad, Im used to going to a college and just focusing on myself and my grades, while also immersing myself in that culture. However, this time, I am more focused on lesson planning and having my homestay students learn the English language.
I came to Chile during the best time of year. September is filled with patriotic celebrations, due to Independence Day falling on the 18th. This photo was taken at La Plaza here in Quillota.
My host family has been so friendly to me and have brought me to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, two coastal cities. They are also planning on taking me to La Serena, a popular beach area more up in Northern Chile.
During my first month, I have been able to learn and experience so much of the culture here. If you are planning on traveling to Chile, make sure you try mote con huesillo, the most popular non-alcoholic beverage here. It contains wheat, a peach, and some syrup as well. A very sweet treat for a hot day!
At times, it isn’t easy. I teach two little girls and they can get bored or frustrated because they don’t know how to say something in English or they would simply prefer to speak in Spanish. However, I try to incorporate songs, games, and even dancing. Anything to get them active and having fun.
Teaching in a homestay is perfect for someone who is flexible and wants a break from the structured classroom setting. Yes, you need to have lessons planned, but they don’t need to be as intense as you think. Just have fun with it.
Figure out what level your students are at and go from there. You can have them listen to fun English songs while having them fill in the blank words on a lyrics sheet, or you can even have them create a fun skit. Or, if there are little kids, you can create treasure hunts, like I do.
If we learned about words in the kitchen one day, I will incorporate those words in the treasure hunt, such as letting them know the next clue is hiding in the freezer. Or, they can find the next clue near napkins. There are so many ways to teach English in a homestay environment.
Of course I was nervous at first, but after my first week, I felt comfortable and excited for my next lesson. My favorite part about teaching in a homestay is watching my students remember a word that they were just taught, or being excited about class. Sometimes, one of the little girls runs up to me and asks when we can finally start class. It brightens my day and makes me feel like I am truly helping them love the English language.