I chose my first Worldpackers experience quite carefully.
I wanted an experience where I would walk away with both a greater knowledge of my surroundings and the knowledge that I’d left a lasting impact on those surroundings.
I’d visited Bahia Blanca on my previous visit to Argentina in 2014 but only spent a few hours on my way from Buenos Aires to Bariloche.
My only opinion of it was that it was a quiet, small and flat city. At the end of the Worldpackers experience I walked away with a real love of the city, and people who I would now call really good friends. So, volunteering abroad really changed the way I pictured the city.
This is the description of my volunteer work to teach English in Argentina: run conversational meetings with adults and share with them stories about my life as a traveler, my hometown or my culture.
Before I started, my host gave me a brief summary of all the students I would be working with, and guidelines of what was expected from my lessons.
Even though I’ve worked in a school for 8 years I still had nerves before the first class. Those nerves were blown away within the first few minutes as the students, as every single class afterward, were as warm and welcoming as I could have ever hoped for (they made me a strawberry cheesecake in my first lesson!).
Working 4 days a week, I had between 1 and 3 classes per day, with each class lasting 1.5 hours.
The school was a 15-minute bus ride or a 40-minute walk away from the accommodation, which allowed me to get a real feel for the city. The schedule was really well arranged, so at no point did I feel overwhelmed.
Each class was different, featuring students of all ages and backgrounds. The goal of each lesson was for the students to learn about my culture, my experiences and the differences between us. And my personal goal from each lesson was to learn a little more each day about Bahia Blanca, and Argentina in general. The students did not disappoint.
For me, it was like having 43 personal tour guides! Each lesson I was given new information about where to go, what to see, where to eat, where to avoid etc. Information that you would never find in a guidebook or a Google search.
And it wasn’t just limited to Bahia. Ideas for the surrounding areas, nearby cities and Argentina in general. They were so passionate about showing off their country that a few times the classes dissolved into heated debates (in English!) about go here/don’t go here, do this/don’t do this.
I won’t say it didn’t feel like work, as I wanted to deliver the best class for each individual group, but it was always fun. I learnt so much as a volunteer, but I also feel that the students gained a good understanding of some of the other options available to them if they wish to become a digital nomad.
As my accommodation had everything I could want, I was able to live on a very small budget. I was advised where to shop cheaply and was able to really save money during the 2-week stay. It definitely helped reduce my spending, and I would wholly recommend working with Worldpackers to anyone who is on a tight budget. My host also offered me a free bus pass, which was awesome, but I love wandering so I chose to walk everywhere.
So who would benefit from this experience?
I would say it was not for introverts or people wanting to just get your head down and enjoy a quiet time. I spoke about myself more than I ever have, and was asked deep and really thought-provoking questions.
I love my peace, quiet and solitude, but during these classes, I was forced to really open up and bare myself to any questions… And there were lots of questions! (I’ve been travelling on and off for 18 years, and one question was, “What are you running from?”..... Wow!).
One of the events/classes was a meet-up in a bar, where all the students had the opportunity to get together and practice their English in a relaxed environment.
It was during this relaxed environment where I really made some strong friendships. From these friendships, I’ve managed to get paid work in another city, joined a photography group and see more of the city than I ever could have hoped to experience if I was just visiting.
That's why you shouldn't think twice: go teach English in Argentina as a worldpacker.