Argentina Gap Year – Vitoria in San Luis

Posted on the 6th August 2018

Argentina Gap Year – Vitoria in San Luis

A volunteer interview with Vitoria Monteiro about her Argentina gap year placement in San Luis, Argentina.

What made you want to take an Argentina gap year in the first place?

My family had lots of homestay kids from different countries in Asia. I grew up seeing how helpful and rewarding staying with a host family could be. I wanted to travel on my own and not rely on my family. I also wanted to work somewhere and get some experience while traveling. There’s a certain kind of freedom you get when you’re doing your own thing – making your own decisions and relying on yourself.

Why did you pick Argentina?

So I’d already been to Brazil and Ecuador and I wanted to explore another South American country. Lattitude offers two programs in South America (Ecuador and Argentina) and I wanted to try something new. I honestly thought it would be similar to Ecuador but Argentina was very European – especially Buenos Aires.

Argentina Gap Year

Can you talk a little bit about your placement?

Sure! I worked at the Instituto Superior de Ingles Saint Louis in San Luis. It’s in a smaller province, about a 10 or 11 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. I worked at a primary school as a teacher’s assistant and was paired with one other volunteer from the UK.

Was it a boarding school or did you work school hours?

No, it wasn’t a boarding school. It was a 9-5 type thing (actually 8-4) Monday to Friday so we worked typical school hours. I would help the younger students and Charlie (the other volunteer) would help with the older kids. It took a bit of time to ease into the work but I really had a great time.

What was the community like?

The school and even the neighbourhood is very new and I believe it was built for low-income families in a rougher area. The school was really nice and it was actually a really great space for the kids to come and get away from troubles at home.

Argentina Gap Year

So you helped the teacher with lesson prep?

We would actually do activities with the kids. We would help them with pronunciation, games and English. Half their day would be spent learning in English and the other half in Spanish. The younger kids were very willing to learn and were very excited. They always wanted to play with me and get to know me. I actually had a meeting with the headmaster of the school at the beginning of placement and she warned me that some kids would tell us about their home life and it might be tough.

How did she suggest you deal with that?

The school had an amazing support system. They had counsellors and quiet rooms that the kids could go to. Everyone was really well supported and I think I really made a difference. The kids had laptops, dance class and even a sign language class.

How did you get along with your host family?

They were great. My host mother was an English teacher and she actually wanted to speak English with me instead of Spanish! We did speak Spanish as well but I actually felt like Charlie came away from the trip with a better handle on Spanish than I did!

Do you have a favourite moment or memory?

Hmm..Well, I’ve got a few. I think one of my most memorable moment was the last day of school. It was actually very sad and I cried through most of it. They gave me and Charlie a big send off and a gift of a hand painted tea set. The kids had painted it themselves and it was really touching. They also threw a staff party for us after – I felt so close to the kids and the staff at school. They treated us so well!

Argentina Gap Year

I’m sure they saw that you were willing to help wherever you could and wanted to show their appreciation to you.

It could be, I definitely think that you have to go into this experience with the right attitude. If you say yes to everything and make yourself available, you really endear yourself to the staff.

Any memorable travel experiences?

Yeah, we took a trip to Mendoza with the rest of the volunteers. We went to the capitol region and discovered that it was an area that was popular for alien sightings and abductions! There was a ton of merchandise they were selling and it was kind of fun. We went on a 12-hour round trip hike the next day and the views were absolutely stunning.

Did you Skype home often?

I actually only Skyped about once a week. My mum and I had a set day every week and aside from that, we would text or message each other. I remember reading about homesickness in the briefing pack and I think it’s great advice. When you try to Skype with people back home, they don’t fully understand what’s happening there. I think it’s best to make friends and connections with the people at your placement (teachers/host family) because they’re right in front of you!

Vitoria Monteiro was placed at Instituto Superior de Ingles Saint Louis. The school was in San Luis, 10 hours west of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

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