24 Hours at an English Institute in Chile

Emily Alcock is a student at Luther College, and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad and participating in service-learning with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile.

The beautiful Institute building (left) stands proud in the bustling downtown of Valparaíso on a sunny, fall morning.

One of my favorite parts of the week is going to work. That’s right, you read it correctly – work! I am lucky enough to have complimented my study abroad experience with a service-learning placement, and three times a week I get to completely immerse myself in a Chilean organization. I work for the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano de Cultura, an English-language learning institute, as a teacher’s assistant. A normal day on the job includes helping the teachers with activities, pronouncing words as a native English speaker, and sometimes creating and teaching my own lessons. As part of the service-learning program, I reflect weekly about what I’ve learned, what has been challenging, and what are my most memorable interactions with people at my organization. Looking back over my last six weeks with the institute, I have found my “memorable interactions” reflections to be particularly insightful as to what a normal day at work looks like.

Here are some highlights from my reflections as part of my ISA Service-Learning Portfolio:

March 21-29

“On my first day, one of the students told me they loved to play the ukulele. I told him that I own one but don’t know how to play, and he offered to teach my how to play. Then, during another class, the teacher told me all about his love for classical music. I also told him that I play in an orchestra, and we were able to talk about our favorite pieces and composers. He told me about the different places in Valparaíso and Santiago where you can hear classical music.”

March 28-April 1

“I really enjoyed speaking with the teacher I worked with today. She is originally from the United States and is in her second year living full time in Chile. She also studied abroad in Chile when she was a college student, and she loved it so much that she had to come back to live. We began talking about what it means to be a responsible study abroad student. We talked about really getting to know the history and culture of Chile and also your host family. I really related to this conversation, and I think it was a good conversation to have, and one that I might not have had without talking to this teacher.”

April 18-22

“I will definitely remember teaching the conversation and phonetic workshops for a long time. I enjoyed the challenge of lesson planning and teaching the classes. The students all have a great passion for English and hope to come to the United States someday. We talked a lot about learning a second language and also about studying abroad. I felt like I could really relate to them and I’m sad that I probably won’t ever see them again.”

April 24-29

“I was speaking with one of my students during our break yesterday, and he was really excited to show me videos of famous Chilean bands. I really enjoyed our conversation because we both love music and I got to learn something from him instead of him always having to listen to the teacher and me. It showed him that I also know what it’s like to learn a second language, and I think he appreciated the fact that I was willing to speak to him in Spanish. I hope that these conversations continue in my final months at the Institute.”

The world awaits…discover it.


Leave a Reply