Name: Frances Louise
Hometown: Montgomeryshire, Wales UK
Volunteer Service: S2 (March-November 2013)
y name is Fran and I’m a 9 month Volunteer for the English Opens Doors Programme. I am placed in the capital city of Chile, Santiago, and live in a community know as San Bernardo. Santiago is a beautiful city full of culture and has many places to discover and the more you look, the more you find. I can now say Santiago has a big piece of my heart.
Enjoying a night out with friends in Bellavista
I teach in a Semi-Private Catholic All-Girls School. Students range from pre-kinder to 12th grade. I currently teach 7th through 11th grade on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I was fortunate enough to be placed in an amazing school where behaviour is not an issue and education is different than what I’m used to. My school has around one thousand students though it feels like a small community where everyone knows one another. Upon my arrival at my school I was welcomed with open arms and soon settled in. On a daily basis I hear “Hola! Miss” a thousand times and the students have made me feel so welcome. It has been a great pleasure to be here.
Students making my 23rd Birthday a very special one, never forgotten with 8th grade
Feeling loved and like a celebrity- smile for the camera Miss Frances!
Although family life has had its up’s and downs for me, I can now happily say I have a perfect family here in Chile. I started my time here with an older family who had a daughter slightly older than me. They were great from the off, however, after 4 months I thought it was time for a change, and therefore had to make the difficult decision of asking the programme organisers to place me with another family. My new family of 3 months consists of my host mum Francisca and her husbandMauricio and their dog Julieta, and soon their first child due in November. They have a very loving family like most Chileans I have met. We have many Chilean asados or BBQ’s together and they have lovely friends who often come around.
My host mum and her husband and friends around the house for a Chilean ‘choriana’!
Chileans can be quite direct in their approach. I have had comments about my weight, my hair, and other things, but I have learnt that it’s meant in the nicest way. Also, Chileans are rather affectionate and they greet with a kiss and hug which is more physical contact than I’m used to. I am quite into this new way now and am enjoying all the affection. Having kisses from students wasn’t easy at first but it’s something I’ve learnt to love. It’s definitely something us Brits need to warm up to.
Chileans are extremely patriotic and have a lot of pride. I have been luckily enough to see and be part of National days here in Chile, for example Fiestas Patrias on the 18th of September.
Independence Day celebrations in my school me and typical Chilean ‘’shoe shine boy”
Something I was warned about and a little apprehensive of was Chileans and personal space. Being an only child I have always had a lot of space and am used to my space. However, I did get used to it and learnt to adapt to the nice hospitality and constant show of affection.
This really shows how Chilean hospitality goes above and beyond in making me feel welcome
Chileans like to feed you. I’ve learnt it’s kind of offensive to refuse food from them, or perhaps I’m not strong enough to say No! Meal times are a very sociable affair. Your main meal being lunch and what is known as ‘Once’ for dinner consisting of bread, avocado, cold meats and cheese with tea to accompany all. Overall Chilean food is delicious and I have some great memories of sharing meal times here in Chile and have some great recipes to try out in my home country. ‘Me encantan las empanadas,’ the empanada, this is a savoury pastrysnack filled with either cheese, meat, and even sea food. It can be fried or prepared in the oven. Empanada de pino is my favourite which is comprised of minced meat, egg and an olive.
A typical Chilean ‘asado’: Barbequed meat
Competitions run by the Ministry of Education and the English Opens Doors Programme are not compulsory but they are very beneficial for the students. The competitions include spelling bee, public speaking, and debates, all three of which have been extremely successful in the development of my students’ skills and knowledge as well as my own development as a teacher. During the many hours of preparation was when I really got to know the students on a more personal level. This has been one of my highlights as a teacher here, as I worked with students who loved English, were enthusiastic, and wanted to better themselves in English and all aspects. I especially enjoyed the debates; we did some serious debating and actually won the Metropolitan Region Cup and were sent to Rancagua, a neighbouring City to debate in the Regional finals!
Me and the debate team after our first debate round here in Santiago
A normal weekend in Santiago for me is usually a weekend full of activities with the family. This is normally in the form of socialising with other family members or sharing a hearty Chilean ‘almuerzo’, lunch, which extends into a whole day of family time (and somehow I always seem to eat too much!). In my household every day is family and friend time. I never know what’s around the corner. My host mum and I like to go to La Feria, the market, on a Sunday to buy fresh vegetables and fruit for the week. I have made many friends, both volunteers from the programme as well as Chileans, and I often meet them in the city for a night out or a low key lunch and a stroll around the city.
Arriving here in Chile was my first experience with learning another language as I had not studied Spanish in school. Chilean Spanish uses an extensive amount of slang. To most sentences Chileans add ‘si po’, ‘no po’, ‘ya po’. After being here I’ve learnt to love it and enjoy using it, although I am far from fluent. I’ve learnt that the Chilean way of speaking is a very exciting way and has been fun to learn; slowly I am improving each day and am adamant I will get there.
A lesson learnt for me is: no matter where you are or what type of school you are in, there is always a difference to be made no matter how big or small.