When I volunteered with Projects Abroad, I was a junior and biochemistry major at Northeastern University. I traveled to San Cristobal island, in the Galapagos, from Boston, Massachusetts during my summer break in May-June of 2018. One thing I would recommend, if traveling from the east coast, is to book a hotel room in Quito at the Wyndham near the airport. Typically, you arrive at the airport at around midnight, and the Galapagos flight does not leave until 9 or 10am; by booking a hotel room, we got a few hours of good sleep that worked wonders the next day. I volunteered with the ESL program, joining other volunteers to teach English at a rural location. When you arrive at the Galapagos, you are greeted by an open-air airport security center and a beautiful view. This is a far cry from dreary Logan airport in Boston! William Puga, the coordinator from San Cristobal, greeted me and my traveling partner Lindsay; from there, we took a pickup truck taxi ride (get used to these!) to our volunteer camp.
The volunteer camp is a beautiful, well-maintained row of dormitories about a 15 minute ride from the main town on the ocean. There are free bananas hanging from vines, comfy hammocks, and a clean common area where all the volunteers hang-out and get to know each other. We were taken care of by our host family, a couple in their twenties with a beautiful baby girl. My host family was nothing but professional and friendly. The rooms were kept clean, the meals were plentiful and nutritious, and I got a real taste of San Cristobal by living with them. The host “mom”, Abi, even did our laundry with a one dollar deposit per load! Speaking of food, they were also able to accommodate my traveling partners unique dietary restrictions, something that really left a positive impact on our experience.
As aforementioned, my traveling partner and I worked teaching English at a rural school in Northern San Cristobal, about a five minute walk from our placement. This was an incredible experience; we taught 7, 40 minute classes per day, from 7:15 to 12:30. If we had to form a lesson plan or do research, we would typically stay from 12:45 to 3pm at the volunteer office in town until our job was done. The teachers were very accommodating of our impromptu class scheduling and seemed excited about their students learning English; with so much of San Cristobal’s jobs being related to tourism, it makes future employees very marketable if they know even a little English. We formed our own lesson plans based on given material, and taught each age level at a different pace. I am happy to say that we finished the majority of what we had set out to teach by the end of our placement, namely high-yield vocabulary and verbs. Forming relationships with the kids and watching their English knowledge progress made getting up early really easy. All of the inside jokes and play-time during “Recreo” (recess) made teaching the kids a lot more fun and engaging. When the kids had a week of school off during our last week of placement, our coordinator, arranged for us to work in the tutoring center in the center of town. Here, we worked with three age groups and two other volunteers. It was very interesting to see how Lindsay and I viewed teaching English compared to the other volunteers, as we had been designing lesson plans independent of one another; the majority of the teaching was very similar and flowed cohesively with me and Lindsay’s knowledge.