Paula in Cartagena – Volunteering in the Teaching Project Colombia
“The culture in Colombia is very diverse, unique and very different from the German culture. The local people are more open and outgoing. I have only had good experiences with the people. In general, I would describe the country and life there as colorful and full of life.”
Paula spent a month volunteering at a school in Cartagena, Colombia. In the teaching project she was able to teach the children, help them with different tasks and play with them. In the process, she got to know the beautiful city of Cartagena by the sea and fell in love with Latin America.
After graduating from high school, between school and university, I wanted to take a break for a year. Since Latin America has always appealed to me as a continent and I had already learned a lot about it in Spanish class, I decided to spend part of the year there. I started planning my trip about five months in advance. It was clear to me that the project should definitely have something to do with children. After I had informed myself about the different countries and projects, my choice fell on the Teaching Project in Colombia. Of course, WanderWorld supported me during the preparation time, for example by taking care of flight tickets or insurances. In addition, we were provided with a helpful preparation package with all the important information.
MY FIRST DAYS
I was picked up directly at the airport and brought to my future location. My host, a very nice and hospitable Colombian, gave me great and helpful tips for everyday life on site right at the beginning of my stay. Starting with information about the usual means of transportation to very important information about less preferable places. This made me feel safe right away. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet other volunteers who also participated in my project.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
Classes started around 9 am and were divided into two classes. The first class had classes until 11 a.m., and the classes of the second class started at 1 p.m. and lasted until 4 p.m.. We used the time in between as lunch break, where we usually got something to eat on site. We often spent the rest of the lunch break together with the children. For example, we played games together, such as “City, Country, River” or “UNO”. Our main task was to help the children with questions or to give them tasks. For example, we helped them with math problems or reading comprehension. Often there were also worksheets that we worked on together. Occasionally, the teacher asked us to teach English (basics). Especially nice was the greeting every day, where the children always hugged us directly. We also had a good relationship with the project staff, so we felt well taken care of.
MY FREE TIME
In our free time we mostly explored Cartagena or the surrounding area. Cartagena has a super beautiful, colorful old town with many old churches, squares and buildings. There is also a city beach where you can spend the evening and enjoy the sunset. In any case, there is always something to discover, even if you just stroll through the alleys between the diverse fruit stalls at the market. One weekend, for example, we took a trip to the Islas del Rosario, where we canvassed various islands and beaches by boat. Afterwards we went back at sunset. Another highlight was a mud bath in the volcano. Since Cartagena offers many clubs and rooftop bars, it was also good to go partying on the weekend.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
The culture in Colombia is very diverse, unique and very different from the German culture. The local people are more open and outgoing. I have only had good experiences with the people. In general, I would describe the country and life there as colorful and full of life. Music is played and danced to on every corner – sometimes until late at night. But not only the way of life is different from ours, also the culinary side. For example, there are many dishes with rice, fish or bananas. You can also find fresh and tasty fruit on every corner, which we unfortunately don’t know from Germany.
I was accommodated in a guesthouse together with other volunteers. The apartment had the perfect location, you were directly in the hip neighborhood Getsemaní. I had a single room including a bathroom. There was also a living room with a large balcony and a kitchen (with washing machine) that could be used freely. From time to time our host also cooked delicious for the whole group or made us breakfast. Due to the great hospitality, we felt at home right from the start. Of course, the conditions in Colombia are not the same as in Germany, so it can happen to meet one or the other gecko in the room. After the first few days, however, you get used to it.
SAFETY ON SITE
Because Cartagena is very touristy and there was always a lot going on at any time of day, I felt safe on site. You were never really alone on the street (there were always people on the road), so you could easily go out alone. I often went out on my own to get something to eat or drink. Since our apartment was close to the center, everything important was within walking distance. For further distances, such as to school, we used neither public transport nor the available cabs on the advice of the locals, but resorted to the cab app Uber.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
I would recommend a stay abroad in Latin America to everyone. Latin America is very open, colorful and diverse. With its culture and landscape, it is simply special and unique – there is always something to discover. On your trip you get to know many people, make new contacts and leave your comfort zone. My stay in Colombia made me want to travel to other countries in Latin America and get to know their culture and people.