Stuart Cowie - 2014 Program Participant

Wearing sombreros in Mexico

Fiesta time in Mehico!

What led you to volunteer abroad? What did your time abroad teach you?

I had just completed University, and sought to gain valuable life experience for my future. It confirmed that I loved teaching and working with children, which helped me with my teacher training application back in Scotland. Furthermore, I was able to develop a strong understanding of the Spanish language, and learn from other people's cultures.

Why did you choose a teaching placement?

I wanted to gain teaching experience, as I was considering applying for teacher training at University for 2015.

What was your favorite part about volunteering in Mexico?

It wasn't too far to visit historical sites, such as Chichen Itza and Cenotes.

What makes IVHQ’s program in Mexico unique in your mind?

Most people go to countries in Africa and Asia to volunteer. This programme was unique as it combined aspects of both developed and developing life (e.g. Merida as a city is quite developed and you can encounter aspects of globalization such as McDonalds and Starbucks). Yet, at the same time, a trip into the suburbs of the city where the school was, you were able to witness everyday struggles and poverty. Teaching English at the school helped me realize how lucky I am, as many students came from different backgrounds (Salvation Army, Orphanages etc.) while some students came from normal families, which was in many ways unique as well.

How would you rate the support you received from the staff in Mexico? 

Very well - Miguel Ceron was a great family host.

What was one thing that surprised you about the program that you wish would have turned out differently?

I learned Spanish on my own, which was good, however I would have learned quicker if I would have taken the lessons. Nevertheless, the lessons were more expensive than I anticipated, and the fact you could only do them in three hours blocks (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) after a day in the boiling sun/volunteering, was not a particularly enjoyable prospect.

Describe a day in the life of a volunteer teacher in Mexico.

Wake up at 6:30 a.m. and have a cold shower. Arrive at school around 8 a.m., and teach four different classes per day. We would then prepare our lessons for the next day, come home, and immediately jump in the pool to cool down.

There was a gym round the corner which I went too in the afternoons, around three to four times per week. Skype or Whatsapp friends and family at home. Spend more time in the pool conversing with volunteers, while having cerveza. Practice Spanish in my room or occasionally watch a TV series for some home comfort. Communal Dinner with volunteers and conversations. Play cards and drink more cerveza. Bed around 11 p.m., as the sun really takes it out of you.

What was your favorite thing to do after your placement?

Cooling down in the pool and drinking beer, whilst listening to music (I'm from Scotland).

Can you explain your accommodation a little? 

Basic accommodation, shared bedroom with one other person, no air con (but a fan that was OK), one desk (two would have been better), and a communal bathroom and kitchen.

Have your experiences abroad changed your perspectives on life?

Majorly. Words can't describe it. I appreciate life so much more, I can impress people by speaking Spanish, I have a passion for working with children and Education, I understand global politics and culture better, and I feel very lucky and proud to be Scottish. Travelling abroad and discussing aspects of your own culture, makes you feel very proud of your own nationality.