Teaching in Argentina by Haneef Abdulrehman
When I first arrived at the airport in Cordoba - after twenty-some hours of travelling - I knew that this trip would be one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. I was proved to be right, of course, but I had no idea then how special my time in Argentina would be.
Ines picked me up from the airport and took me to my host family in Villa Allende. I was their first volunteer and we clicked right from the very beginning. As this was a small family (mother, daughter, and the family dog, Cheta Sanchez - which translates to "fashionable Sanchez") I didn't feel 'suffocated' at all. I felt very at home and very welcome. I remember I was so tired on that first day, I could barely keep awake, but I just wanted to stay up and talk with my new family, as we were already learning so much from each other. As the weeks went on, we continued this tradition of sitting around the kitchen table all through the evening, talking about everything from U2 and the Cure (Adriana, my host mother, had some terrific CDs in her collection despite the odd Phil Collins album) to spirituality and the paranormal. I'll always remember the laughs we shared watching Susana Gimenez ("la abuela de Barbie") together.
The wonderful staff at Projects Abroad really could not have chosen a better host family for me. To say that my host family added to my experience would be an enormous understatement; they were more like the foundation that my experience was built upon. I can't stress enough how valuable it was to live with a host family. There really is no better way to live the Argentine way of life. If you're into cooking, then you're really in for a treat as Argentines love to eat. I've come away with a few recipes, though I'm still trying to get the milanesa just right! I should also add that the steak is, inarguably, the best I've ever had.
For the first few days, Agustin took me around to a number of schools, so I got the chance to meet the students, the teachers, and experience the classes before deciding which ones I would commit to. Nuevo Milenio Instituto Educativo became my home in the mornings, where I worked with the secondary students, who were a real pleasure to work with. Everyone at the school - students and faculty, welcomed me with open arms with the trademark Argentine cheek-kiss, and it didn't take long for me to become part of the Nuevo Milenio family. I really loved taking the InterCordoba bus to the school in the morning, having all the students say hi as I go to set up my classroom (3B, the last room to the right on the main floor!). The Teaching Supervisor Susana Reyes and I organised an advanced Conversation class, the "Vanguard of Higher Level English", composed of the most well-versed and most interested students. I would plan my lessons around topics that would be of interest to the students and that would make them want to contribute ideas and opinions. Some topics like fame and celebrity, health and obesity, travel, internet addiction, etc were a real hit with the students. As my classes were, on average, 10 or 11 kids, I really got the opportunity to get to know the students as people, which made leaving all that much harder.
In the afternoons, I would serve as a teaching assistant at New Ways School of English. New Ways is a specialised English academy, so teaching there and at Nuevo Milenio were very different experiences. New Ways was close to home in Villa Allende, so I used to walk there and back regularly. Again, I really got to know the students and working closely with the staff allowed me to gain a lot of practice and confidence in developing my own teaching style. I should point out that my working full days at both schools was my own decision, it was not put upon me by Projects Abroad.
As I worked Monday through Thursday, I had the weekend to wander around Cordoba (which I loved exploring and visiting on Saturdays). In the day, the pedestrian streets and Plaza San Martin were popular destinations, and at night some of us volunteers would get together and explore Cordoba’s vibrant nightlife. We had a lot of fun making friends and meeting locals who were interested to hear about how we found their country. Argentina is quite a safe country too, so we could wander and enjoy ourselves without worrying. Sometimes we would travel around neighbouring Argentine provinces as the bus system is affordable, comfortable, and efficient - Buenos Aires is only an overnight bus away! There is so much to see nearby, I never had the opportunity to see it all, which only means that I have more of a reason to go back, don't I?
I could go on and tell you more and more about my experience, but there really is no need. The only way you'll understand what this is all about is to experience it yourself. What are you waiting for? Go on, join already!