Stella & Carlos – Lobos, Argentina
Gap Year Argentina: Stella & Carlos in Lobos.
Stella: After travelling to South America in 2015 I found a place that I loved, a place that I knew I would someday return to. It was not so different from New Zealand but had so many subtle differences and a vibrant and exciting culture. As the memories of the trip began to fade and my eagerness to return with it I came across Lattitude and the opportunities offered to travel to so many amazing places. I remembered how much I loved those 3 weeks and longed to experience that adventure and these beautiful countries again. I also studied Spanish at school and didn’t want to waste the countless hours I put into learning the language just to forget it after I left school. The volunteering placements seemed a perfect platform for me to continue learning Spanish, revisit the country I loved and to adventure more! So long story short, and a lot of paperwork later, on the 7th of March 2018 I was off to Argentina.
Carlos: I knew I wanted to travel after leaving school, but I wanted to experience more than just the tourist sites of the country I visited. I wanted to feel immersed in the culture and get to know the people. Lattitude offered a perfect opportunity for me to do just that.
Where in Argentina are you?
Stella: Carlos and I live in a town called Lobos about 100km outside of Buenos Aires. I reckon Lobos is almost the definition of rural Argentina. Life here is relaxed. Dogs roam the streets and horses graze in the local park. Kids play football in the grass on the side of the roads and trade their world cup stickers. The boliche (night club) is an absolute highlight for the teens of Lobos where hundreds of people go to dance all night!
It’s a town of about 40,000 people but seems smaller because everyone knows everyone. Every time we go into town we see someone we know and the kids from the school always point us out to their parents, we feel like celebrities. Lobos is surrounded by countryside and many of the roads, even main ones are dirt. And yet all of this is only an hour and a half from the excitement and wonder of Buenos Aires or ´la capital´as it’s known here.
Lobos is very different from any New Zealand town. All the house are made from concrete or brick and the roads are all one way. When you do your shopping you have to buy your meat from the ‘carnicería’, your chicken from the ‘pollería’, vegetables from the ‘verduría’ and the remaining things from the supermercado. The fact that almost every street is one way here also takes a bit of getting used to!
What are you doing there?
Stella: We work at a private school called Horizonte which has 2 campuses, one for the secondary school and one for the primary. The two couldn’t be more different. The primary school is out in the country and is the cutest little school and the secondary is in the town, inside a 3 story building. Both schools are small. The primary has about 150 kids from 6-11 years old and the Secondary only 60 kids from 12-17. We love the schools, the teachers are so friendly and honestly it feels like one big family. The little kids are always so excited to see you and I think we are about 15 different kids ‘best friends’ now. At the Primary school we always have to be prepared to be hugged by kids covered in dirt and paint, or to play a game of ‘mancha'(tag) and every time we walk into the dining hall to eat different kids call from every table for us to come sit with them. The students at the secondary are also friendly and often invite us to join them and their friends on the weekend for asados, burgers and fiestas.
The duties we perform depend very much on the teacher in charge of the class. At the Primary school we often take groups of students that are falling behind or need to catch up on their work and help them separately or work with kids that are excelling and ahead of the rest of the class. We also do a lot of crafts, helping the teachers with things they need cut out or stuck in. Sometimes we mark kids work, read stories to the class and occasionally take the lessons if the teacher needs to go somewhere. We usually have something to keep us busy at the primary. The secondary school can be a bit boring at times and sometimes it feels like you’re just another student however during extra curricular English, 3 times a week, we are often utilised more and take one group while the teacher takes the other. We have a lot of down time during the week.
We’ve also prepared and presented a number of presentations about New Zealand which is a lot of fun, both to the students at the secondary school as well as at a teachers college here in Lobos.
Stella: I have THE most lovely host family. With the mum, dad and 10 year old daughter. I have my own room in the house and we spend quite a lot of time together. We eat dinner together every night and play card games, they’re very patient with me learning Spanish. I´ve been so lucky as they´ve taken me to many different places around Argentina as well as a weekend trip to Uruguay.
Carlos: I haven’t had a permanent host family since arriving in Lobos, all the families that I’ve stayed with have only been temporary and I haven’t really felt settled. Despite this, it has been really wonderful to have been able to stay with several families and if anything it’s helped me to better understand the lifestyle here more than if I’d just stayed with one to begin with. It was also a fun experience to be able to live in different parts of Lobos. I have lived on a beautiful big property with a pool and my own guest house, a townhouse and even a horse farm. The families were all very welcoming and such lovely and helpful people, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with each of the families I’ve stayed with.
How are you coping with the big differences between Argentina and home?
Carlos: Just embrace it! Things are different but what do you expect? I came here to experience something different from what I was used to, so I didn’t really find it hard adjust to the differences. Don’t get me wrong though there will still be some struggles, I found the language barrier quite difficult when I first arrived and it is still one of the hardest parts of living here. Having other volunteers to talk to, who are often dealing with similar struggles to you is also very helpful.
Stella: Despite having such a lovely host family at times I do get quite homesick. The differences between here and home are inevitable, I mean you´re completely surrounded by a different language, it´s become the norm to not understand the conversations going on around you!
Getting stuck in and experiencing life here is really the best way to forget about it. Also to bring a little bit of home to your life sometimes helps, I always feel better if I go for a swim or a run because I´ve been doing that all my life! Carlos and I often talk about the things from home and what we miss, with a feeling of nostalgia but there are always amazing things to do and discover here too. I´ve had so many amazing moments and have built so many memories and relationships across the world!
Carlos: There have been many memorable moments so far, many of which I might not have had if I had traveled in a more traditional fashion. Something that stands out was being gifted a mate cup (pronounced mar-te) and a River Plate shirt (one of two popular football teams from Buenos Aires) from local friends I have made here. It has also been a lot of fun sharing kiwi slang with Argentinian people, and I’ve discovered that a lot of words I thought to be standard english are in fact only used in New Zealand.
Stella: It’s hard to determine a single best moment for me. So I’ll make a little list.
- In the first week at the primary school one of the teachers asked me to come up the front and help with the lesson, when I walked up the front one kid(about 7 years old) came up and hugged me, then another joined in and another and before too long I had the entire 2nd year class all hugging me in a big group hug and I was backed up against the blackboard!
- The other volunteers, Carlos and I visited Mar del Plata on Easter weekend and we brought the rugby ball. We decided to have a game of touch on the beach as the tide came in and we end up playing pretty much in the water as the sun set. It was so amazing to bring a little piece of kiwi to Argentina.
- I absolutely love meeting new people and making friends, one of my favorite moments was after we had burgers with some of my friends they brought out guitars and we had a little jam session.
Can you give us any examples of personal development?
Carlos: I would say my biggest development so far has been how quickly I have been progressing with learning Spanish. If you want to learn a new language or improve on a language you studied at school, there is no better way to learn than by surrounding yourself with native speakers. I think I have also developed in other ways which I think is to be expected when you take on a challenge like this and take yourself out of your comfort zone.
Carlos: I am still considering options upon my return to New Zealand, but I think that the things I’ve learned in my time volunteering here will help me with whatever I decide to do. It definitely sets me apart as it’s a more valuable and credible addition to my resume than if I were to travel solo.
Stella: I hope to study international relations at university and my volunteering experience will definitely help a lot with this. However who knows, I think what I´ve learnt so far is it´s very hard to plan your future so I’ll just take things one step at a time, because it’s better to have a flexible mindset- you never know what something is like until you try it. Whatever I do in the future I just know that I have to follow my passions because being happy is so important to me.
Why should others consider a gap year like this?
Stella: Lattitude placements offer an opportunity to discover the world without having to be all alone in doing so or too far out of your comfort zone. With the other volunteers you have a group of friends to travel with and being based in a county such as Argentina allows you to travel to other places in South America. There is always a new experience to be had and the best things in my opinion are that you get a true taste for life in a country, you meet some amazingly kind people and make so many friendships!
Carlos: Argentina is a beautiful country filled with amazing people and many incredible places to visit and explore. Lattitude gives you an opportunity to live within a community for an extended period of time and if that’s what you want to do then Lattitude is a great choice for you.
Stella: Before I end I´d would like to pass on some advice. Don´t leave your laptop charger in New Zealand, it´s hard to charge your laptop without it, impossible really. And always kiss people on the cheek to the right, to avoid any awkward situations such a having a near miss with kissing the principal on the lips…
Abi - English Tutor in Cipolletti
Hola! I’m Abi, a New Zealander currently volunteering on my gap year in Argentina with Lattitude. It’s an awesome experience and if you’re considering this country, I encourage you to read what I have to say – because I promise you that it’ll be an experience unlike anything else!
Why did you decide to take a gap year in Argentina?
I decided to volunteer so that I could take a breath and learn more about the world before moving forward in academic education. I studied Spanish in high school – and quite simply fell in love with the language. My Spanish teacher lived in Argentina for a year, and his passion for the people and the country rubbed off on me a bit, I think.
In 2016 I came to Argentina for 3 weeks as a part of a school trip, and the atmosphere of this country really sucked me in – it compelled me to figure out how I could spend more time here learning about the language, culture, history and people. It’s so different to New Zealand – it’s crazy and beautiful and a whole new eye-opening experience.
Can you describe your town, and your placement?
I live in a small city in the Northern Patagonia called Cipolletti. Here, I help with English classes in the home of our local representative. The majority of my work on placement is at this school – where I generally help with multiple different groups of kids aged 9-16. Sometimes we help with adult English classes too. It’s nice to have a wide range of ages to work with, because we get different questions, different jokes, and different experiences depending on the age of the pupils. Having such a diverse range of people to teach is a really unique experience, and I love it.
About 10km down the road, or 15min by train, is the city of Neuquén. We travel into Neuquén twice a week, where we both receive Spanish classes, and help with the English lessons at a language institute. Once a week we also attend a high school to assist the English teachers there. In reality, we help (and learn) in 3 different places.
Neuquén and Cipolletti are both reasonably small cities. They are beautiful, homely, and easy to get around in. They lie on the banks of a few rivers – which are beautiful to visit on Saturday afternoons. There are many shops, bookstores, parks, and gyms to find; and many small restaurants, bakeries and heladerías (ice cream parlours) to sample. The food in Argentina is exceptional – if you’re a foodie, this is the perfect country for you.
What are some of the duties you perform there?
I’m valued as an English tutor because I am a native speaker. Consequently, a lot of my work involves communication – asking and answering questions, conversing with the pupils etc. However, I also help with grammar, pronunciation and writing. The majority of the English activities involve working through textbooks and activities. I often help to mark answers and answer questions about vocabulary and the use of different tenses. Sometimes I think that all of the work we do is as equally beneficial for the pupils as it is for me – I’m learning so much about my own language because I’m seeing it from a completely different perspective.
Can you describe your host family/accommodation?
My host family are lovely! They don’t speak any English – so as much as it’s difficult sometimes to explain how I feel or what I mean, it’s very beneficial for my language skills. In my house there is just me and my two host parents. We also have a dog called Bolt – he’s pretty cool too. I have an abuela who sometimes stays with us, and she’s such a caring and sweet person! Despite initial awkwardnees and uncertainty (as you can expect), there’s no doubt that my family here care about me as if I was one of their own, and that’s something really special to experience; another family halfway around the world.
I live in a rather large house with my two host parents. I’m walking distance from the school I work at in Cipolletti, as well as from the Centre of town. It’s very easy to get around – the train to Neuquén is only a 15min walk away. I have my own room/own space (bed, desk, wardrobe, drawers etc.), and we have a pool, which is pretty fun, even though it’s getting too cold to use!
How are you coping with the differences between Argentina and home?
I rolled into Argentina and this experience expecting a lot of changes and differences to New Zealand. Because I had already experienced a little bit of Argentine culture, I had some background knowledge of what I was getting myself into. Not only that, but I knew that I had a big network of people, both within Lattitude and without, that were (and are) supporting me.
I find the best way to cope with the changes and the differences is to talk them through. Whether that be with your fellow volunteers (who are likely struggling with the same things), or with your host families and local representatives. Maintain open lines of communication, be open if you’re struggling with something, and everything should go smoothly.
What’s been your favourite moment so far?
About 2 weeks ago we were helping to teach a class of 9-10 year olds. They had been studying how to tell the time in English – (“It’s quarter to one” or “It’s twenty-five past seven etc.) There were two boys who were really struggling and not really understanding how to pull the sentences together. The teacher asked us, myself and the other volunteer here, if we could take them into the other room and try to explain the time to them. Finally, after 30 minutes of confusion, distractedness and challenges that had to do with the language differences, their willingness to learn, and our patience; they were able to say the time back to us when we drew it on the board.
Seeing the look of comprehension and understanding on their faces, and the feeling of pride when they understood a really difficult concept was so rewarding, and it’s been my favourite moment by far. I helped make a difference – I helped someone to understand something and learn more. It’s wonderful when you realise that your favourite moment isn’t something personal or selfish, but something that you helped somebody else learn – it shows that giving and volunteering is so much more personally rewarding that simply receiving.
And I think that that’s what this is all about – the subtle lessons we learn, the realisations that we have about what it truly means to give; to work and help for the sake of helping, and not for the sake of money. Because instead of being paid in wealth (because we’re just volunteers), we are paid in happiness, knowledge, and laughter.
What kind of new skills/personal development have you noticed so far?
I think the majority of my personal development so far has come down to my language skills improving, which is a journey and a challenge and something that is so personal, and therefore very personally rewarding. Being able to follow conversations and what people say to me, being able to read my favourite book in another language, and being able to know and connect with more people are all wonderful things that really allow you to grow as a person. I said in my latest blog post that I still feel like me – but my heart and who I am just feels a little bit bigger. My world has expanded. The way that I see it, the way that I think about it, the way that I understand it; it’s all just a bit bigger. And I guess if you think about it, if an experience changes the way that you think about the world – that’s an extremely significant event.
I also feel a bit more independent and sure of myself, and considering that I came into this with not much confidence in who I am, I’ve really developed quite a lot. Right now, I’m content with who I am and where I am. And contentedness is something that people spend their whole lives trying to achieve.
What are your future plans, and how do you think this gap year experience may help?
Next year I’m probably going to head back to New Zealand and study at University. I love the humanities, so I’ll probably go into English, History, Classics and languages. I want to be a teacher, and so volunteering here teaching English and connecting with younger people is really valuable for me. It’s showing me that I do truly love what I want to spend my life doing, if that makes sense. It’s confirming and solidifying my passions.
And regardless of what I want to do with my life career wise, the experiences that I am having here are valuable for my life in general. I’ll have a wider connection of friendships and relationships – and a greater knowledge of other cultures and places, which is valuable for whatever the future holds.
Why should others consider a gap year in Argentina?
Argentina has an intoxicating culture – it really pulls you in. It’s language and atmosphere are unlike anything else, and if you come here, it will be an experience that’ll change your own dynamic and widen your worldview. It’s different and it’s crazy but it’s also so rewarding and you’ll learn so much about people and life and the world, and those are things we all need to know about a bit more; especially if we want society to change for the better.
Another reason to come is because there’s so many diverse travel options in Argentina (and wider South America), so you’ll never be bored or sick of places to go: Iguazu Falls, Salta, Bariloche, Rio de Janiero, Machu Picchu, the Bolivian Salt Flats etc. It’s easy to get around in Argentina, with long-haul bus routes connecting you to the rest of the country. It’s so diverse here – you’ll see everything from rivers, to deserts, from big cities to small alpine towns, from the tropics up north to the glaciers down south – there is just so much to see.
The food in Argentina is incredible, and the environment is indescribable. Doing volunteer work here is so rewarding in ways that even I haven’t fully realised yet. If you’re unsure of where you are and what you want to do, I encourage you to take a year to do things for other people, experience new things and new cultures, and make connections that will last you a lifetime. Create your own adventures and forge your own memories throughout the world – it’s cliché but I promise you, you won’t regret it because it’ll change your life!
Lattitude Volunteers in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tim and Lachie chat about their experiences in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Lattitude… in bed, on a roof, and on skateboards.
Charlie - English Tutor in Argentina
All the placement options in Argentina are very different from one another. Northlands, for example is in Buenos Aires. It is a huge and very wealthy school with loads of facilities. The volunteers there can usually speak English to the kids, who are completely bilingual from a young age. San Luis, however, which is where I am, is a much smaller and poorer primary school. The students don’t speak English too well, so it’s put my Spanish to the test! So there’s a lot of variety of what you your placement could involve in Argentina.
Day to day life in my placement begins with getting up around 6:45 and having breakfast with my host family. They take me to school for about 7:30. My Lattitude volunteer partner and I always get an enthusiastic welcome from the kids as they arrive to school. Especially from the ones that we respectively teach, which is lovely! We’ll eat breakfast with our class, and then teach for the morning.
I’m an assistant so I don’t take classes on my own, but I help out whenever they do activities. I check a lot of work, do a few presentations about where I’m from, or something related to the topic they’re studying. We have a break in the morning and then we’ll eat lunch with the kids. Lunch is provided by the school and is very nice.
We continue teaching in the afternoon after switching classes, and it’s overall a lot of fun, a completely satisfying experience. The kids really seem to love us, they’re so enthusiastic it’s great! School finishes at 4pm. My partner Vitoria and I usually get the bus into San Luis centre. There we occasionally wander around some shops or stop in a cafe for a coffee or some food, and then head home.
I personally have some free time when I get home because my host family work until relatively late. But when they come back we’ll eat dinner together. Luckily my host mother is a brilliant cook, and I’ll normally play some FIFA with my host brother Facundo who’s 19 (I struck lucky there). Then off to bed.
That’s my stereotypical day on my placement in San Luis. Obviously some days there are more things going on than others, but every day has presented a new challenge and not once have I been bored. It’s a constant learning experience and I’m loving it. As for the weekends, Argentina is your oyster! Especially when you have a 3 or 4 day weekend as we have done a couple of times already.
I’ve been here for 2 months. I’ve already been to Buenos Aires 3 times to meet up and stay with the other volunteers (who are absolutely awesome by the way), and also to Mendoza. Being on placement day-to-day is what it’s all about, but when a weekend comes around it’s an exciting place. Particularily when you know you’re going on a 12 hour overnight bus trip to meet your friends in such an awesome city as Buenos Aires! That most definitely helps to put the cherry on top of such an already sweet cake.
Natalie & Maddy, Argentina
Natalie & Maddy chat about their Lattitude placement, Northlands, Buenos Aires
Roxy - Community Worker in Cordoba
Georgi - School Assistant in Buenos Aires
Why a Gap Year?
I planned to study health science at university, but didn’t want to go straight from school into a massive degree. My older sister took a gap year to England doing a similar job as what I am doing now and she really pushed me to do it: for it her it was the most worthwhile experience of her life thus far. For me it looks like its shaping up to be the same!
Something that has always stuck with me about taking a gap year is:
(1.) Life experience and learning from experiences is a lot more precious than what you could ever learn in the classroom. Unless you have experienced lessons for yourself, you do not have as much of an appreciation for them.
(2.) For most students heading off into their chosen field of study at university, right now will be the richest you will be for at least the next 5-10 years of your life. You are debt free and are now ready to take on the responsibilities of being a new adult in an independent world. Taking a year for yourself is also a great way to learn money management!!! Being responsible for what you do and don’t buy is a great learning tool.
I always knew I wanted to come somewhere Spanish speaking as I studied Spanish at school. My main goal for the year is to become fluent! I had already been to Spain and so the other options were Argentina and Ecuador. Argentina for me was larger so had more travel opportunities for weekends and holidays. Also a vast spread of culture from the cities into the more rural towns.
Can you describe your placement in detail?
My specific placement in Buenos Aires is at Northlands school. It is a bilingual school. Depending on the year group, mornings are taught in English and afternoons in Spanish or vice versa. This means that the student’s English is very developed. The majority are almost fluent by the time they reach year 6.
Northlands has 2 campuses, Olivos (closer to the city) and Nordelta. I am placed at the Nordelta campus. I work with year 6 classes in the mornings and year 4 in the afternoons. My campus is a 45 minute bus ride from my house. It has incredible open spaces, massive fields, art rooms, science labs; anything you could wish for, which pays tribute to the prestige that comes with the Northlands name.
Northlands has high standards of teaching and gave us workshops on their IB curriculum. They taught us to mentor the children so they can come up with answers on their own. In the English sessions Spanish is prohibited, so at all times it is compulsory for us to speak English.
The work environment is great. We are given quite a lot of freedom to decide how to focus our time. Given tasks include reading to the children in library, creating resources for reading comprehension, making wall displays, working one-on-one with groups in workshops and much more.
The children are very different than in New Zealand and the whole classroom vibe takes some getting used to. They are all very passionate and loving: running up to you and hugging you or giving you a kiss at the end of the day are not uncommon practices. They are almost too eager sometimes and can end up climbing over their desks wanting to give you their answers. Overall though, it’s great. The children give you a sense of belonging at the school, and the differences in culture make each interesting.
Can you describe your accommodation?
I live with a host mum and another volunteer. Erica is my room mate and we also work at Northlands. We have gotten on amazingly and I could not wish for better living conditions. There is plenty to do where I live so it’s amazing. The environment is very safe, almost one step away from a gated community. There are guard boxes on every few street corners. Not that they are needed, but it does make you feel very safe, especially at night.
My mother’s name is Nora and she has 3 children of her own. They have all grown up and now have their own kids, meaning there are always people around, for dinners, lunches, or just to say hi. The grandchildren are great for practicing your Spanish with. They do not understand that you can’t speak Spanish and so continuously talk at you as well as using simple and easy to understand language because of their age.
I live in a house rather than apartment and share a room with Erica. We have 2 bathrooms, a living room and dining room, outside areas and even a small pool. Nora makes us feel so at home, that I have had no problems adjusting to the new lifestyle.
How did you cope with the big differences between Argentina and home?
The most difficult part is the language. You can feel like a bit of an outsider when you can’t understand what people are saying. However in the city where I am, most people are very accommodating. If they don’t speak English they will find someone who does to translate or work with you to figure out what you want to say.
In terms of home sickness, I haven’t really experienced much. The key is to keep yourself busy. Exercise, read, go and explore the city, learn Spanish. It can be as simple as making a meal for your family to take your mind off home.
Favourite part of your Argentina experience?
My favourite aspect of being here is definitely the company. There are nine of us volunteers here in Argentina. Despite being in different places we have travelled together and enjoyed orientation week together, becoming very close very quickly! They provide a network around Argentina to visit each other, as well as share experiences, and travel with. If homesickness or work is getting you down, having travel to look forward to with the Lattitude “fam” can really help get you through.
When I could form my first Spanish sentence without having to check conjugations or verbs was a milestone! Being able to have a conversation with a native speaker without having to ask “what?” a hundred times was definitely a gleaming moment.
I’ve definitely grown more independent and more considerate of other people around me, especially the ones I live with. Contributing with laundry, cooking, and making an effort to become a member of my new family rather than simply a visitor has given me an appreciation for what I have at home.
I plan to study health science at Otago university in Dunedin. I definitely think the year off has given me time to miss learning and yearn to use my brain in an academic way. This will help me take on every opportunity and duly take advantage of them as well as adapt me to working with different people from different background and environments, being able to appreciate theirs while maintaining my beliefs in a respectful way.
Lastly, I would like to encourage everyone to just take the plunge! Wherever you go you will have an amazing time. Take advantage of every weekend and every spare moment to plan, explore or do literally anything because before you know it your time will be up. Nerves and apprehension are natural before you depart, and I had my fair share too!! But be brave enough to take on the challenge and independence because you never know, you might surprise yourself.
Tim - English Tutor in Argentina
Name: Tim Lovett
Nationality: New Zealander
Placement Country: Argentina
Dates: From March 2016 to December 2016
Name of the placement:Horizonte School, Lobos
Role: English Teacher
1) Description of the work you did on placement:
I was in the classroom with teachers from both the Horizonte Primary and Secondary schools. I would aid them with my knowledge of English as a native speaker. Also generally help out in the class (with any kids that need extra help). We helped with other subjects such as P.E. too. The teachers also had an English class which I went to, to help the teachers themselves learn English.
2) What new skills have you learnt?
My interpersonal skills have improved immensely over the course of my placement. This was accelerated by my desire to learn the Spanish language. I would make an effort to try and talk to as many people as possible to improve my speaking skills. My time management and planning has become a lot better, because I have to organise my whole life by myself. This includes assignments for school, planning trips and thinking ahead for university. My Spanish has also improved a lot. Being immersed in a language is invaluable in helping your studies progress.
3) What was the best thing about being a volunteer?
The best thing about being a volunteer is how much everybody appreciates having you there, and how much you can really help. It is a really special feeling when you can inspire such enthusiasm in a subject for the kids, while helping them learn an important skill at the same time. The families really appreciate your efforts as well, and I was warmly welcomed into every home that I visited! It is amazing when you notice an improvement in the way your kids speak English, even over the short time you are there.
4) What did you learn about the community you lived in?
The value of family in Argentine communities is a lot more prominent than back home. Here the extended family takes any opportunity to get together, whether it is a Birthday, Christmas or just a Sunday! There is always someone new in your house to meet and talk to, which I found very interesting. Lobos (my host city) is very small so everybody knows everybody which is pretty crazy. Any time I walk down the street I am guaranteed to get recognised at least twice. It is a really nice feeling to be accepted into the community so quickly.
5) What are your plans for the future and how have they been shaped by your Lattitude placement?
My plans for the future were to study Physiotherapy at the University of Otago, and this trip has re-enforced my desire to do so. However, I am exploring the possibility of using my skills after finishing my degree to do more charity based work. This change has been shaped by seeing what a difference putting time into a community can really make.
6) Any other comments:
Another great thing that came from the experience has been getting to meet the other volunteers! We have become a tight-knit unit, and sharing these experiences with good friends makes it so much more enriching. I feel like we really have a special bond now, and we will continue to adventure around the world in the future.
Erica - School Assistant in Argentina
Name: Erica Blundell
Nationality: New Zealander
Placement Country: Argentina
Dates: From March 2016 to
Name of the placement: Northands
Your role: English Teacher
1) Description of the work you did on placement:
My main role as a volunteer at Northlands is to assist with the Reading, Writing and Math workshops of my Year 3 & 5 classes. This often involves taking a small group of students out of the classroom and supervising/assisting them with their work in a more personal environment. Reading to the children or preparing resources are other common tasks.
2) What new skills have you learnt?
The main skills that I have learnt are centred around classroom management. Learning how to organize the activities in such a way that interests the students is paramount for their engagement in their own learning. Ensuring that the children are posed with open questions is also very important in the process of their learning – guiding them to the answers as opposed to giving them. I have also exercised the skill of phrasing things in such a way that helps the children to understand difficult concepts in their second language without resorting to their first.
3) What was the best thing about being a volunteer?
One of the best parts is the children that I work with. They are so fascinated by us and are always so excited to learn from us! This makes the work a lot of fun and really brings about a sense of purpose in my presence. The other best part for me is travelling with the other volunteers over the weekends or holidays. I have made friends for life with them and together we get to play tourists and explore South America! Can’t ask for anything better.
4) What did you learn about the community you lived in?
Seeing as Northlands is one of the top bilingual schools in Argentina, most of my students’ parents are CEOs of major companies, politicians, or are part of other prestigious circles. It is clear that my students come from very privileged
backgrounds, which is different from my own community at home. Living and working in this community has helped me to realize that we all have the same basic needs, no matter what our backgrounds look like.
5) What are your plans for the future and how have they been shaped by your Lattitude placement?
My plan for the future is to return home to study Psychology at The University of Otago. Teaching has always been a career interest in the back of my mind and since I have enjoyed my teaching placement with Lattitude so much, I have decided to seriously explore the concept of teaching after I finish my degree!
6) Any other comments:
I really underestimated the effect that my friendships with the other volunteers would have on my own experience. All of us Lattitude volunteers placed in Argentina (not just the kiwis) bonded unbelievably quick, and being part of such a close and supportive unit has totally enhanced my already awesome Lattitude experience. I know that these guys are my friends for life and that we will all continue to travel together in the future!
Laura - English Tutor in Argentina
I am rarely in a situation where I take a class by myself (only in certain circumstances – if a teacher is sick, or travelling etc). However when I have had this opportunity, I have come away feeling positive. The children I have worked with have all been extremely cooperative and respectful.
At my institute I do a variety of different things each day. I help children of all levels with written work and pronunciation. I mark exercises, as well as helping students study for first certificate English with conversation skills. I think that my time here has been extremely fulfilling. I know all the students names, and I feel like a have really built up a relationship with the institute during my time here. The teaching staff have been absolutely fantastic, and make great use of my presence here.
I enjoy sport and going to the gym, and here I have been able to continue that. On the weekends and on public holidays we have also had plenty of opportunities to travel. As soon as we arrived in Neuquen, our Lattitude Representative organised Spanish lessons for us which have been very useful. We attend these classes twice a week, and my Spanish has definitely improved a lot.
My accommodation here is excellent. I absolutely love my host family – they are like a second family to me. I have a wonderful host brother and two wonderful host sisters whom I adore. We get along with like a house on fire! The house is situated about 11 blocks from the institute where I work and about 20 or so from the city centre. Getting around on my own is never a problem, whether it be by bus or on foot.
My Spanish is quite basic, and my host parents do not speak English. Despite this, I feel as if I have been able to build a strong relationship with them. I will be very sad to leave! Having sisters has also meant that I’ve been able to meet a lot of new people and make friends outside of my school.
I would recommend that future volunteers to Argentina be as open as possible about their placements (school and accommodation). You cannot predict what kind of family or work you will get, so you just have to be completely open-minded, and make the best out of your situation. Of course it will be different to what you are used to at home, but in my eyes, that is the essence of this kind of program. Immerse yourself in another culture, and find each new day fulfilling. Go home with no regrets, knowing that you took advantage of every opportunity that came your way.
Our Local Representative here in Neuquen has been absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job. She is kind and caring, and has given us all a huge amount of support. She has built a comfortable relationship with us, so that we feel able to talk to her about any problem we might be having.
I would just say that this is definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had. I would recommend anyone to do this if they have just finished school and are unsure of what to study as a career. Or for those who wish to take a break from their studies, as it is a wonderful opportunity. I have made some amazing, lifelong friends, and feel like I have become a lot more independent.