Benjamin Silver - General Teaching Projects in Ecuador
My name is Benjamin Silver and I’m a 17 year old junior high school student who lives in California in the US. I enjoy travelling, which is why I decided to go on a two-week trip to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador in summer 2017. That summer, I wanted to do a service learning project that would help boost my college resume. I was in between jobs and was looking for some way to utilise my time. I chose to teach kids English in Ecuador, because I wanted to improve my Spanish and I’ve always wanted to travel to a South American country, so the Galapagos seemed like the perfect fit.
My host family
When I stepped off the plane in San Cristobal, Ecuador, I was anxious to explore the Galapagos. I quickly got in touch with the Projects Abroad staff on the island, and they came and picked me up at the airport and took me to where I would be staying for the next two weeks. My host family consisted of a mom, a dad, and two daughters. My host family was supportive, nice, and caring from the moment I set foot in their house to the time my trip was over. To help me improve my Spanish, the family primarily spoke in Spanish, which helped me improve tremendously.
My host mom was an excellent cook and I enjoyed every meal she made. The youngest daughter and I quickly became friends and we did a lot of activities together, like going to the park and playing games. I also learned a lot about Ecuadorian culture through them. Overall, staying with a host family was super cool and it's something I would do again
My Teaching placement
Teaching English ended up being tough but rewarding. I was co-teaching along with three other volunteers who had already been on the island together for a couple of weeks. I had no idea what to expect with teaching, but it ended up being one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The other volunteers brought me up to speed on what the kids were learning about. They told me that class began at 2:15pm but I should be there by 11:00am to help plan lessons for the day.
Lesson planning isn’t easy, but by the end of my trip I got the hang of it. My first class began at 2:15pm and I stayed until 6:00pm. For my first week, I mostly observed how things were run and helped out when asked. By week two, the other volunteers stepped back and let me try leading a couple of classes. That week, the kids in the first class were learning animals. We played hangman to help the kids gain a better understanding of how to spell out each animal and what each animal translated to in English.
The second class was learning about present participle and conversation. To help them learn these concepts, I planned a present participle bingo lesson, and Pictionary and charades for the conversation terms. The kids loved both activities and I was happy to see the activities planned in my head come to life and be enjoyed by others. Teaching English was truly an amazing experience and it gave me insight into what a teaching career could possibly be like.
The Projects Abroad staff are amazing and a great help. Before I got to the island, they were already helping me book my flight and planning my accommodation. Once I got to the island, they were waiting at the airport, ready to take me to my host family. They helped me get acquainted with the island and gave me a map to help me get around.
Over the weekend when I told them I wanted to explore other islands, they wrote down the best places to go and what I should spend each day doing in order to get the most out of my experience on the other islands. They also helped prepare me for teaching and getting to know other volunteers. On my last day, they were nice enough to prepare a gift bag for me, and they helped me get to the airport and waited with me until it was time for me to board the plan. I was happy to be in good hands in an unfamiliar country, and to meet helpful and supportive staff.
My overall experience
Overall, I really enjoyed my time volunteering abroad. Projects Abroad is a great organisation and I would recommend them to anyone who wants the same experience I had. Two weeks is not enough time to meet everyone and explore the Galapagos, so I would definitely go back to volunteer again. I met so many amazing people, got to experience Ecuadorian culture first hand, and was happy to give back to the community through teaching English. I know I definitely made an impact on the kids’ lives. I will miss the islands and their beauty. The time I spent teaching and exploring is something I’ll never forget. I would recommend this experience to anyone who has a thirst for adventure and wants to make an impact on other people's lives.