Alexi Thompson

volunteer students

Highlights: Within the school, the highlight of my trip was definitely my school anniversary. If you are lucky enough to be at a school during their annual anniversary, you will really enjoy it. In my school it was rare to have a full week of uninterrupted classes, but during the anniversary we had a lot less of formal in class time. In the school I was in this was taken seriously, and dance routines, costumes and crowning of kings and queens was a big deal.

Outside of the school, the “Dieciocho” celebrations were definitely a highlight. Although their Independence Day is on the 18th September, the entire month is full of celebrations. As Chileans are extremely patriotic, they revel in this month, eating asado, drinking terremotos, visiting ramadas (big fairs that open up all over the country) and dancing Cueca. As the town I lived in was pretty small, it was pretty traditional which made the “Dieciocho” so fun. I would definitely recommend trying to make plans to be in Chile during this time.

Morning: My typical morning would consist of me waking up at about 8’o clock as most of my classes started at 9 o’clock and walking to my school. Although the English classes were in 90 minutes block so would start earlier, I would come half way through the class (for the last 45 minutes) and take half of the students, or the most interested/participative students. Every other Monday morning there was a timetabled we had an assembly, although this was pretty inconsistent in my school. I lived with someone who worked at the school which is pretty common within the program, who would go to school before I did, so I usually had breakfast alone.

Afternoon: We left the school at 1 o’clock and everyone went home to have lunch until 2:30 when we came back to resume classes until six o’clock (except Thursdays and Fridays which were half days). On Thursday and Friday I would run an English club for an hour and a half which would generally consist of the best students from 5th – 8th grade coming together to practice English. We would play games, I would teach them about English speaking cultures around the country. This was a requirement of the program to offer an extracurricular workshop as part of the ten hours outside of the classroom (this could also include planning time).

volunteers group photo

Evening: As I lived in a very small, desert town, the evenings were probably the biggest part in which I had to adjust to. I lived in a house without internet or TV, so I generally exhausted my host mum’s film collection and read. A lot.

In this situation I was fortunate to have got on with my host mum as we spent a lot of time together. Being in the North also made it harder to travel for weekends, as unlike the South of Chile, the cities and towns are more distanced from each other. If you have chosen to be in a small town, you should think realistically about what you are accustomed to or what kind of situation you are willing to adapt to, as 5 months is a long time to be somewhere you don’t want to be and although you can drop out, it’s not ideal for the students of teachers at your school.