Here's My Take On Volunteering In Guatemala
Earlier in the year, voting took place to find our first Teach and Volunteer Abroad Scholarship recipient. Thousands of votes later, Armando Wunsch emerged as one of our two scholarship winners, gaining the opportunity to teach abroad with IVHQ through the support of our online TEFL course. We were inspired by Armando’s enthusiasm for teaching English as a second language and his desire to translate his IVHQ experience to raise cultural awareness among his students back in Brazil. Read on as Armando shares the first part of his journey as a volunteer teacher in Guatemala.
I’m Armando Wunsch, a 24 year-old English teacher from the south of Brazil. I have been teaching for 4 years now and I’m halfway through getting my teaching diploma in Spanish. I’ve always been very fond of education and helping people, but not overly interested in languages. Only after travelling overseas for a month, I realized how important it is to learn English and once I returned home, I started teaching English and fell immediately in love with it.
I believe that teaching, not just English but in general, is one of the most powerful things in the world. Through education you can shape someone’s life and help them see the world with a different perspective, that’s what makes me so passionate about teaching. I mean, just the thought of having someone using the skills I taught them to achieve their goals and experience new things is incredible.
I already had the opportunity to teach English in a volunteer program at home in Brazil and it was an amazing experience to me, so I’m very excited to get to know all the students in Guatemala and hopefully inspire them to do great things in life, especially now that I have recieved the opportunity to get certified in teaching English through the TEFL course from IVHQ. It really covers all the aspects of teaching, from the student’s motivation, to class planning and classroom management.
Arriving in Antigua was one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. The city has a rich colonial feeling and the streets are so beautiful that they make you want to get out of the shuttle and explore the city right away. On top of that, Guatemalans are very welcoming, they’re always similing, especially the host family that welcomed me with a big “bienvenido”!
For someone who is used to waking up late, the first orientation starts pretty early and it covers everything you need to know about the volunteer program in Guatemala, including the city and extra activities that the IVHQ local staff offers. Orientation finished with an amazing walking tour of the city, and since all the volunteers are on the same boat, it’s pretty easy to make friends immediately.
My volunteer placement was scheduled to begin on Day Two, so I decided to explore a little bit of Antigua with another volunteer after getting a quick bite in one of the restaurants near the volunteer office. The food here is amazing and varied with food from all around the world, so if you end up needing a break from the traditional Guatemalan food that your family offers, you will always have plenty of choice right around the corner.
Antigua has so many attractions that will take longer than two weeks to explore. There are several volcanos you can explore with other volunteers or by yourself, the markets give you the chance to test your negotiation skills and the “cerro de la cruz” is a must do 20-minute hiking trip to overlook the city and take great Instagram photos!
As a new volunteer I found the culture shock can get the best of you in the first few days, but working in your chosen volunteer project will soon lift your spirit up. In particular, teaching volunteers will be working directly with children and will see first hand how much the children appreciate your help and care. This is the most rewarding thing.
To really make a lasting impact in their lives, the TEFL course helps a lot, as the teachers in Guatemala don’t usually have proper training to teach English (some of them can’t even speak it). I was able to plan a class that better suits the needs of both the local teachers and students, and create a long-lasting learning experience. Coming to volunteer in Guatemala, I was a bit apprehensive of what to expect, but seeing the smile on everyone’s faces when they learn and interact in a well planned class is magical.