Molly Vertz - General Teaching Projects in Ecuador
I came across Projects Abroad in the winter when I was deciding if I wanted to study abroad or volunteer abroad. As I was coming up on my final year of college, I wanted to go abroad to experience a new culture. My goal is to become an English teacher and I wanted some experience teaching English. The Teaching project in Ecuador stood out to me because it allowed me to lead my own classroom and to get some great experience working with Spanish speaking English learners.
Ecuador also gave me the opportunity to practice Spanish. I have taken numerous Spanish classes and wanted to be able to practice what I knew. Also, I could not resist the opportunity to live and explore the beautiful and incredible Galapágos Islands. I contacted Projects Abroad with some questions, and they responded quickly with plenty of information. I quickly decided that this would be the perfect programme for me. I could not have been more right! I decided to spend 8 weeks, June and July, for my project.
My host family
I travelled to the Galapagos with my family, who left me with Projects Abroad feeling good about their decision to allow me to go. Once I arrived at the Projects Abroad office, the country director, William Puga, brought me to my host family.
My family was absolutely amazing, caring, interesting, and loving. My wonderful family took me in as their own. I was able to get to know quite a bit of their extended family as they took me to their coffee plantation in the highlands and to their family’s home on multiple occasions.
On one occasion, the other volunteer living in our house, my host Mum and I spent the day roasting and grinding coffee grown on my host Mum’s father’s plantation. It was an amazing experience and it made me feel so welcome in their home.
My host Mum was an incredible cook and the food was always delicious and plentiful. I still miss the fresh fish, fruit, and empanadas. Every morning my host Mum and I would eat breakfast together and watch the news. It was a great time and we got to know each other quite well.
I learned so much about the Ecuadorean culture from her and I will never forget the time that we spent talking over homegrown coffee. During my time spent there my Spanish improved a great deal. My host family often commented on how much better I could speak and understand. On Sunday evenings, my host Mum and I would go to church together. I would often see my students there and it made me feel like I was a part of the community.
My time spent teaching was a lot of fun. I taught three English classes in a row, usually by myself, sometimes with an assistant. I usually spent about an hour making plans for my classes; however I usually made these plans while on the beach next to the sea lions.
There were days when it was hard work but it was very, very rewarding. The students were excited to learn English and were a lot of fun to work with. We played games and sang, wrote, spoke (in English and in Spanish) and learned together. Of course there were difficult days too, where the students were anxious and didn’t want to listen, but they were well outnumbered by the good, fun and productive days.
I was given books to use for the classes, which were very useful. The books laid out lessons for me to use and had questions for the students to answer. The students took tests each week, I was always impressed at how well they did.
I got to know my 60 students very well. They would come into class very early to talk to me, and would often bring me handmade bracelets and trinkets to class. On my last day there, I brought them sweets, and I was surprised when my oldest class threw a party for me. They brought cake and sweets and were very sad to see me go. It was wonderful to see that I made a difference and would be missed.
The support staff in the office was always extremely helpful and would give me help whenever I needed it. The Projects Abroad staff Erica, Daniela, and Judith were a lot of help and always had advice when I needed it and would help out in my classroom when I needed help. They were also a lot of fun and were always fun to have around. They organised a few events where all of the volunteers (care, teaching, and conservation) got together. One day, we had “dirty day” where we worked as a team to clean and paint our office. One night, William (our project coordinator) took us all out to a barbecue where we all got to talk and celebrate our accomplishments. Not only was the food delicious, but we had a great time.
One of the best parts of my trip was getting to know people from all over the world. I made some amazing friends who I keep in touch with often. I learned so much about the culture of so many different countries from all of the interesting people that I met.
On the weekends we would explore the island and all of the others. Groups of volunteers would often travel together to the different islands for the weekend. The support staff was always happy to help us organise our trips and always had great advice for us. One weekend, four friends and I went to Isabela, another island in the Galapagos. We had a great time snorkeling, hiking a volcano and biking around the island. I always felt so safe traveling and living in the Galapagos, which was a huge relief and made me feel comfortable.
All in all, my two months in the Galapagos were the best months of my life. I learned so much and had so much fun. My host family, the wonderful volunteers, the helpful staff, and my fantastic students made the experience absolutely perfect. Looking back it almost seems too good to be true. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I hope to return one day to once again see my wonderful family and the beautiful islands in Ecuador. I couldn’t be happier with my experience and I would recommend it to anyone.