So, what EXACTLY do Global Volunteers do in Querétaro, Mexico? As with all other GV projects, the volunteers do whatever our host asks us to do. And boy oh boy, are we well utilized here!
At the Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro (UTEQ), we spend four to five hours a day talking with highly motivated, enthusiastic students. Our schedule varies from day to day, to ensure that the early morning and late afternoon students also get an opportunity to interact with us. For example, on Tuesdays, we catch our cab for UTEQ at 7:20 AM for an 8 AM class and are finished teaching at noon. On Wednesday, we start teaching at 5:00 PM and are done at 9:00 PM. On the remaining days, our start times range from 9 AM to 12 PM. I’m here to tell Ya–I have even more respect for teachers. It is NOT easy being 100% focused for several hours straight.
Because the demand is so great, we never work with a student more than once. Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d like getting a new group every hour, but the students are wonderful, and the time absolutely flies by. You don’t even notice how tired you are until the cab ride home.
Group size varies. Sometimes we might each have 2 to 4 students. Other times we might have 10 to 12.
It is difficult to do much preparation, because you don’t know what you will be getting until you arrive in the classroom and start talking with the students. Some have prepared questions to ask us; others are shy, needing encouragement and gentle coaxing to get them to talk.
Pam, our leader explained that the goal was not necessarily to teach specific words or grammatical points, but to build students’ confidence. What a relief–I can do that! Once again, I discovered that patience, a sense of humor and enthusiasm were my most important tools. Oh yeah, that, plus a small white board, index cards and my iPad have been getting me through the day.
Before I left home, I raced around my house, camera in hand, taking photos of various objects that I could show on my iPad, as my back up plan. Good thing. For beginning students, it came in handy. For example, I used visuals like this, to have them practice asking each other, “what is this?”, then take turns answering.
In the midst of my pointing out objects on my iPad, I heard a chorus of “awwwwwww”. Mystified that cutlery could inspire such a reaction, I flipped my iPad around to find I had inadvertently switched the photo from my kitchen table to my sister’s granddaughter.
The students wanted to know all about “the baby”, so we talked about Bonnie–what was her name, where was she when the photo was taken, what was she wearing, what was she holding? Little Bonnie is now quite famous here in Querétaro. One student (bless his heart) wanted to know if she was MY baby. That led to a discussion about grandchildren, my sister, her daughter, all the other members of my family tree and my age!
Occasionally some of us have a break between classes. That’s the perfect time to head for the cafeteria for informal discussions. Today, I met an older student who is employed by the Swedish company Ericcson and attending school. He confessed to being a bit reluctant to approach me until he saw me smile at him and nod my head. His English was excellent–he just needed a little confidence. I felt like the Wizard of Oz!
Ericsson isn’t the only major employer in the areas. Other companies include Samsung and Daewoo from South Korea, Bombardier(Canada), Nestle(Switzerland) Siemens(Germany), Santander (Spain) and Kellogs, P&G, Bose from the good Ol USA. Querétaro is definitely an international city.
Ericsson has invested heavily in UTEC. Volunteers that had been here before mentioned that the campus had been spiffed up, buildings had been repainted, thanks to the generosity of Ericsson. They also donated the language lab, which is the building behind this sign.
What I really like, however, is the banner BEHIND the building, and not only because it is in English.
“An Everyone Everywhere World”, in which everyone gets the chance to fulfill their potential. What a beautiful sentiment. What a wonderful world that would be!
And what an amazing way to spend two weeks! Who knew work could be so much fun?