Volunteer Review: Emma M., Teach English and Other Subjects in Ecuador
After graduating from high school, I decided to take a year off before going to college. Studying Spanish and volunteering have always been passions of mine, so I decided to go to the Galapagos Islands to teach English for 4 weeks.
Arriving in Ecuador
I was extremely nervous upon my arrival but was immediately greeted by two staff members, who were very friendly and helpful. They took me right to my new home where I met my host father and brother. They had a traditional Ecuadorian lunch ready for me, after which my host brother took me snorkeling at a local beach. I met several of his friends and was able to practice my Spanish and begin my immersion into the culture.
My host parents made sure I had everything I needed and asked me what I liked to eat for breakfast. I told them I normally just ate cereal. The next day I was woken up early by roosters, something everyone on San Cristobal is used to, and there was a bowl of cocoa puffs, fresh papaya juice, and banana chips waiting for me in the kitchen.
Projects Abroad staff
A staff member picked me up and brought me to meet the Director, William Puga. The staff were incredibly supportive, and William was not only passionate about his work, but also personable and kind to every volunteer.
One night towards the end of my stay, William invited the whole group of volunteers into his home for a BBQ to say thank you. There was never a moment when I didn’t feel looked after during my stay.
For my teaching project, I worked at one of the local high schools, Alejandro Humboldt. I was paired with an English teacher and helped him plan lessons, grade, and worked with him on his pronunciation. It was shocking to see that even their regular teacher struggled a lot with his English and how disorganized the government issued curriculum tended to be.
My day lasted from 8am to 1pm, which included one break class. I really enjoyed getting to know the students, since most of them were only a year or two younger than me. We exchanged cultural knowledge, music, and they helped me work on my Spanish.
A big part of teaching in the high school is motivating the students to want to learn English. Since not many people on the island speak any English, making the students aware of how important the language is can be one of the most important things. Towards the end of my stay, another volunteer and I tracked down the story where our students bought their uniform jackets. We ended surprising our students by getting matching jackets.
The students were all very well behaved which was helpful. Some of the students were really excelling in the subject, while others would simply not put in effort and keep falling behind. One big job I had was to work one on one with those students, trying to catch them up to the students who were surging ahead in the work. The town being so small, it was always nice to see my students around at the beach or on the boardwalk at night. I grew close to many of them, and will hopefully stay in touch with them for many years to come.
Life on the Galapagos
My host father was a fisherman so we would always have fresh fish, lobster, octopus, soups, and the most incredible fresh juices for lunch and dinner. I would eat with my host brother, and host niece. During the meals, we were also in charge of my five-month old host nephew who I absolutely fell in love with.
My host mom ran a hostel, so there were always new and exciting people eating meals in our house. My host sister would help her serve the food and take care of our hostel guests. It was so neat to hear their different stories, and lunchtime was always good bonding time with my family.
On the weekends my family would take me on trips either to the highlands or out on their boat to different parts of the island. I would go snorkeling and hiking with my host brother, take care of the baby, help around the house, walk my host niece to school and walk home with her after my placement.
My favorite nights were when my host parents’ oldest daughter would come to the house for dinner with her three kids. They are so adorable and the house was always full of laughter. I was lucky enough to have my birthday while I was still there. We went out to eat, and my host mother let me invite all of the other volunteers over to our home to eat a delicious homemade cake she had baked, dance, and play games. Living with a host family is such a blessing, and really adds to the experience of being abroad.
Another great thing about being in the Galapagos Islands is how much you have the opportunity to see. In the afternoons you can go to three local beaches within walking distance and relax or snorkel with sea turtles and sea lions.
On the weekends there were so many options of day trips to take to other amazing places around the Galapagos. I have never seen so many interesting animals, been to more beautiful beaches, or done the cool things I was able to do there. Every day brings a new adventure and new beautiful sights to see.
One of my favorite places just off of San Cristobal is Kicker Rock or ‘Leon Dormido’. Snorkeling there you undoubtedly see several reef sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, starfish, and more. Nearby is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Both times I went to Kicker Rock we were the only people there and the only people on the beach. Many other volunteers took weekend trips to other islands and do even more exploring. I wish I had had more time to do so.
There is never a dull moment while on San Cristobal. There is always something to do, someone to hang out with, and somewhere to go. Weekend nights were always fun, there is a local bar and two discotecas. A group of volunteers took Salsa lessons and we would dance all night at the clubs. Feeling like a local on an island like San Cristobal is an amazing feeling.
Getting to know so many Ecuadorians and other volunteers from all over the world was an eye opening experience for me. I hope one day I will have the privilege to go back to visit my students, family, and witness the heaven on earth sights once more.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.