RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT KURIOCITY
In this day and age, would you throw away your job in favour of something for which you will be paid pretty much nothing? Well, that’s exactly what Sainandan did! He gave up his teaching job at V M Salgaocar College of Law for a chance to learn and experience another culture. And so he packed his bags and set off to Chile as an English teaching volunteer, part of the English Open Doors Program, an initiative supported by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
Sainandan got to know about the programme from one of the teachers in Goa University and he then applied for it. He says: “It was a three to four months process that was online since it is operated from Chile. Initially I had to give a written application and had to go through a video interview. After the selection process a confirmation email was sent.” Later, after completing the travel process he left for Chile at the end of March for an enriching experience.
The eight months programme was divided in two semesters wherein he taught in two schools in a town called ‘Coya’- two hours from the capital city Santiago. “I taught students from class 5 to 8. The focus was on improving students’ listening and English speaking skills. My work involved conducting more of activities like pictionary, playing treasure hunt with the children. So they were learning English but not like it is in a normal classroom. Here it was more interactive,” Sainandan says.
Talking about his decision he tells us that Chile being a very different country from India, for him it was a unique opportunity to explore a place for its culture and more along with getting an enriching experience through teaching. “This programme has more authenticity compared to some private NGOs that have volunteering opportunities online,” he says.
The programme has no money involved; he did not have to spend a penny to participate. But, it meant he had to shell out money to travel to and fro Chile. He wasn’t paid any salary through the programme, but was given an allowance that had to be spent on stationery.
It wasn’t just work, as Sainandan also used his time to explore the place. Telling us about how he lived there, he says: “The organisers had arranged a host family; a Chilean local family of a father, mother and son. When the father would go to office, on his way he would drop me to the school.”
This host family who owned a restaurant provided him with breakfast, lunch and dinner. They knew I am a pure vegetarian so they would be extremely kind to cook food sans meats for me. All praises for the Luis Suarez, Ely and their son René. He says: “I used to eat with them, talk to them and they helped me learn a lot about Chilean culture, the way they celebrate their festivals and how they interact with people.” Apart from that many teachers also invited him to their homes and would thus enjoy his weekends there.
Speaking about his learning and experience, he says that Chilean people are very kind. “The language barrier was an initial hiccup, because I did not know to speak Spanish. Over the days I could understand Spanish but speaking was tough,” says Sainandan. When he went out alone to supermarkets or travelling it was a bit difficult and it was Google translate that would rescue him.
Comparing Goa and Chile, he says that while the differences are plenty, there are similarities too, owning to Portuguese influence. “Even in Chile they eat bread and the population in Chile are mainly Catholics so a lot of festivals and feasts are similar, but their way of celebrating is different.” Though the people there speak Spanish, the Portuguese influence can be felt there, like in Goa as Brazil is quite close to Chile.
When asked, if there is anything about the way of life in Chile that we in Goa would benefit from, Sainandan says: “People in Chile are relaxed just like Goans. They even have their siesta time in the afternoon when all shops close down. The one thing we can learn from them is to welcome people from outside the country or region. I would not say that Goans do not do it but that is the good quality I have witnessed in Chile. They do not look at you with suspicion which is prevalent in Goa.”
Sainandan came back in November with heavy bags that consisted of souvenirs and gifts along with some shopping he did there. What he also carried back are fond memories and enriching lifelong memories about his teaching experience, host family and about his explorations being a tourist in Chile.
He doesn’t at all regret his decision to go to Chile having quit his job. He says: “It is something that I’m not going to ever regret. I wanted to extend my stay in Chile into till 2018 also but the problem is that it is a not a paid programme. I had to look after all other expenses, apart from accommodation and meals. If I was travelling and eating out, all had to be borne by me.”
And now that Sainandan is back in Goa, he is in search of teaching opportunities in his field of political science and international relations. Sainandan has successfully completed his Masters in International Studies from Goa University in 2016. He has also begun preparing for National Eligibility Test (NET) exam to become an assistant professor at any university in India.
Sainandan believes that everyone should grab such unique opportunities that come their way as it can help the individual grow in life and is also a wonderful way of giving back to society.
(To know more about the English Opens Doors Program visit: http://centrodevoluntarios.cl/apply-now/)