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Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a third year student on the BA (Hons) TESOL & Modern Languages (Spanish) programme. He talks about his experience in Peru, thanks to UCLan’s Travel Bursary Scheme.

“Thanks to UCLan's Travel Bursary I was able to spend a month of the summer holidays in Cusco, Peru where I volunteered as a TEFL teacher for three weeks. Because of this opportunity I was able to gain a unique view into Latin American culture and receive the vital experience I needed in order to reaffirm my decision to become a teacher.

I lived in a volunteer house in central Cusco alongside other international volunteers within the fields of hospital relief work and construction. We also lived with Peruvian volunteer helpers and chefs who taught us to cook a range of national dishes from zesty ceviche (seafood cooked in lime juice) to alfajores (a shortbread type biscuit with the South American equivalent to caramel, dulce de leche) living amongst other travellers and gap year students and also having volunteer supervisors at hand provides a safety net for both travel novices to veterans."

"During my time volunteering I worked at two institutions. The first being an orphanage for homeless girls in which we gave evening classes of basic entry level English. The lessons were completely optional and informal but due to the girls’ lack of access to education they were always very enthusiastic to be learning and many girls would try to stay past their one hour lesson time to be in the older girls’ class and practise more. It was an incredibly different view to England where many take free education for granted.

It was also a whole new way of teaching as there was no access to materials from course books and no printing or photocopying facilities which meant all classes revolved around working on the board. It tested my teaching abilities in a whole new way by taking away a lot of the equipment that I’d relied on previously."

"My second placement was in a low income primary school during the day where I taught six classes in 45 minute slots. It was more formal than teaching at the orphanage but no less rewarding as the students had little to no experience of communicative language teaching and really enjoyed being able to ask more questions and be involved in language learning games as opposed to working from books with little freedom for conversation.

In all I spent one month in Peru but felt as if I'd been there for far longer. I was able to experience a part of the world I'd never been witness to before and was able to see that although teaching can be an overlooked skill, it can also be a lifeline for developing countries where being able to communicate in basic English can be the difference between a secure job and unemployment.”