When I told my friends that I was going to live in Chile for a year, many of them didn’t believe me, made jokes about it being “chilly” there (a scottish expression for being cold), or thought that I would be living in a mud hut in an isolated village somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Chile is a long way from Scotland and not many people know anything about the country or its culture.
My own interest in Chile was first sparked when a Chilean family moved to my hometown of Dundee and enrolled in the local school. Our families became friends and they told me for the first time about Chile. They told us about the culture, showed us movies and helped me practice my Spanish. So when the time arrived for me to leave school I decided that I didn’t want to just go off to university like everyone else, I wanted to do something a bit different. I contacted the Mackay School and in September 2012, I boarded my flight to Santiago.
My first day at the Mackay School was daunting. I arrived at the school with no teaching experience whatsoever, only just out of school myself. The English Department made me feel welcome and helped me to understand the nuances of teaching English. I began to take part in English classes as a language assistant, helping with whatever the teacher or students needed. This has included one-on-one interviews in preparation for the Trinity exam, helping pupils with writing skills and explaining to pupils specific grammar or vocabulary points. Over the course of my time here I have been able to see both the students abilities in English, and my own teaching skills, improve vastly.
At the end of last year I also assisted the Sports Department with afternoon classes and with events such as sports day and rugby training for kindergarten. I also took part in the rugby match between the staff/former pupils and the first IX, with the staff ending up victorious.
One of the most rewarding things I have done during my time here has been my involvement in the English Drama Club, through which I have seen the pupils English, confidence and acting skills grow immensely. When I arrived the Drama Club was beginning a production of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and I contributed with the adapting of the script and the extensive rehearsal process. The play was a resounding success and inspired us to attempt an even more ambitious play “The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring”. Again, I adapted the script and helped with the rehearsals. The play proved a challenge for everyone involved, with a much bigger cast and a more complex story. It even involved me teaching some Scottish Country Dancing to a group of students for a scene. The play was yet another success and the script is already written for the next play “The Legend of King Arthur” which will push the pupils and their acting skills even further.
Throughout the year I have also been able to find opportunities to travel, during the holidays and long weekends. I have been able to travel to Villarrica and Pucón, and also to the North of Chile during week long holidays in April and June. For the long summer break I also had the opportunity to travel extensively in Peru and Bolivia, spending 2 months backpacking through the countries. Whilst I have been here I have seen and experienced some incredible things that are truly once in a lifetime experiences.
In many ways Chile is a very different country to Scotland, and one of the things that made the transition between the two easier has been the people that I stayed with, the Soza family. Organised through the school, I lived with them for 10 months and through them I have seen the best of the Chilean culture and people.
This has been an incredible year for me, one that I could never have imagined before setting off. The warmth of the Chilean people, the professionalism and dedication of the English teachers and the spectacular places I have visited, have all given me an experience that I will forever carry with me.