Tuesday, December 05, 2006

10 months in Chile: Reflections

Last February I came to Chile to teach two semesters of English at DuocUC, a DeVry-esc post-secondary institute in Santiago. December has now descended upon us and the second of the two semesters is coming to an end. There only remain final oral presentations to hear, papers to grade, and students to fail (just kidding upon failing students… well, not really).

Last semester I had a relatively good bunch of students. They were generally interested in learning English so long as they didn’t have to work too hard, and we had some fun in class. In contrast, at the opening of the second semester my new students didn’t really care for English at all. They saw my class solely as a requirement -or obstacle- they had to take on to get their degree. I tried not to become jaded but I felt whatever magic there was from the first semester had disappeared. However, things began to change somewhere around the semester’s midpoint. Class started to improve, unfortunately I have no idea why, and the students began to show a better attitude. Many have told me they want to take English with me again next semester. To be sure, I’m uncertain if this is because I was an effective teacher or an easy grader.

Before I left a year ago I tried to act cool. “A year abroad ain’t no thang,” I said to myself and people I knew. But honestly I was scared out of my mind. I had studied abroad in Madrid for a semester in college, but that was for four months. I spent most of my time with fellow American students and came into little contact with the local population. On the other hand this was the real deal. I’d be living daily life for a year in a foreign country to which I had never been. “How would I feel six months down the line? How much would I miss my family? My friends? The New York mindset?” A year, I thought, was a pretty long time to spend away from home, and I was taking a dark step into a completely unknown situation.

So how do I feel almost a year on? Pretty damn good, actually. Sure, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t go through patches where I feel home sick. That’s only natural. But what I’ve learned is that a year is not that long to spend in a foreign country. I feel like I’m just now getting to know Chile. Moreover, everyday here potentials presents a new challenge. I never know when I’m going to discover something new. Teaching English, while not my career goal, is a pretty cool job. It’s much more interesting and fewer hours than whatever I’d be doing right now if I were in New York.

So I’ve decide to stay a bit longer…

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