My name is Stella and I’m currently in my final year of high school. After nearly 13 years of school it’s safe to say I’m a bit sick of it therefore i’ve decided to have a gap year in 2018! So, I’m going to live in Argentina!!! Through a programme called Lattitude i’m going to travel there and do volunteer work for 9 months. I thought it would be cool to have this little blog detailing my adventures, for my friends, family, and other travelers or people who just want to read about my adventures but also for myself, as a record of what i’m sure is going to be a huge and exciting part of my life.
This post is about the process I’ve gone through so far, my experiences, advice and just all the ins and outs of the application process that you might not usually hear about!
Deciding where to go:
I knew that I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country. I’ve studied Spanish for almost 5 years now and the thought of losing the skill that i’ve spent hours in class studying was quite sad. Lattitude offers 3 different country placements in Spanish speaking countries- Argentina, Ecuador and Spain.The South American countries appealed to me a lot more than Spain. For one, I knew about those placements first but also I have visited South America before and absolutely loved it, so I wasn’t going in blind. Initially I was very keen to go to Ecuador as they had a unique placement in an Andean cloud forest community which looked absolutely amazing- Just look at it!!!
However mum wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of me travelling and living in Ecuador as it has a lot of poverty and generally is a lot less developed than Argentina, which is fair enough. It’s hard enough for her to let her daughter leave to an unknown country for almost a year when I’m only 17. So that left Argentina, which I’m so very happy about. I still had to convince my parents that I was prepared and aware of the dangers so I wrote a little report on safety in Argentina, cheezy, I know! But they’re OK with me going now so I think it’s safe to say it worked! Here’s a link to it if you ever need to know the risks of travel over there: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QfAP_istjIdYzHfD-YPNuxEb8Z_INTv8TU0qvdyMahk/edit
*The information is not mine, I just interpreted it, copied and pasted and put it all together in one place.
Preferential applications had to be in by April and by the time I was certain that I definitely wanted to go it was already June! I was a bit concerned that I’d miss out so I quickly wrote my application and got it in as soon as possible. In the end I didn’t need to rush as applications are actually still open however placements for Argentina are limited. Just a day or so after I had submitted my application and payed the $150 deposit, which was a little scary, it made it feel so real, I got an email from Lattitude in order to line up my first interview time. The whole application process actually worked really well for me because the Lattitude Coordinator for the America’s actually lives in Christchurch so she came into school and we had the interview there. The questions that they asked in the interview were actually very similar to the ones in the application however there were also more questions that were difficult. For example; ‘What would your friends say your strengths and weaknesses are?’. I had to pause for a moment and think about that one. It would’ve been easier if I actually had my friends with me. The biggest piece of advice I would give for this part of the process would be to just relax, and be yourself. The coordinator was super nice and easy to talk to, for the written application definitely get someone to check it over because they aren’t the most riveting things to write. Following the written application and interview I was accepted into the Lattitude programme!
Medical and police checks:
This is the part of the process that I’m currently completing. Once i was accepted into the programme i was sent an email with 7 different attachments with all these things I had to complete. One of them included a 17 page form to be filled out by a doctor with all my medical info. 17 PAGES!!! Let me tell you, full medical exams are NOT cheap! A part of it was to get a series of blood tests done which i just did a couple days ago. It was not a good time. I’m sure it would’ve been fine if I hadn’t fainted! If you ever have to get a blood test done make sure you eat and drink heaps before you go because I made the mistake of not doing that which lead to me waking up in a room with no idea where I was. I also sent off an application for my police records which i still haven’t got back, maybe i’ve got some criminal convictions that I never knew about or something…kidding(I hope)!!
Second interview with person in Argentina for placement:
I haven’t completed this part yet but I’ve signed up to have my interview next Sunday!!! Que emoción! I think this determines where in Argentina they’re going to put you. Either Buenos Aires, Córdoba or Neuquén. After a quick google search and my own knowledge of Buenos Aires I think I’d be most keen to go to Neuquen because it’s a smaller city, about the same size as Christchurch, looks absolutely beautiful and is in Patagonia!! I’ve wanted to go there since we saw this ‘Red Bull’ climbing video about it in Outdoor Education last year. It’s near the mountains and lakes so it’s very much my kind of place. Obviously, I’m not actually sure where the placements are but this is one image that came up when i googled it!
Also there are a few different things you can do for your placement; English teacher, Schools Assistant or Community Worker. The Community Worker placement appeals the most to me as you work with Children in children’s homes and help them with homework and sport however your accommodation is on site, that is to say, not with a host family. I would really love to be able to stay with a host family so that kind of puts me off that placement. So I might be an English Teacher…? I guess I’ll talk with the woman next week and see. Many of the English Teacher or School’s Assistant placements seem to be in private schools and I feel that if i’m volunteering my time I probably should give it to kids who really need it, those who are disadvantaged. But that’s just my opinion.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m starting to feel very excited again, before I was kind of nervous and unsure about my decision after the initial certainty, however it’s back and I’m more pumped to go and explore than ever!
Does anyone have any advice for me that might come in handy?
Talk to you later!