Hello, my Name is Luise and I am an 18 year old volunteer who has been working with FSL-India for the last 10 months now.
I teach English to first to seventh standard kids in a primary school in a small village in the Udupi-district called Brahmavara. I live with one of the teachers in a lovely house in an even smaller village four kilometers away from my school.
My experiences so far have been amazing and I learnt so many new things! I have to say that it is always a challenge to do voluntary work so far away from home as the culture, traditions, food and especially the language are so different to what you’re used to and all of these changes take a while to adjust to. On the other hand, people have been amazingly nice to me. Wherever we volunteers go, people want to know our names or how we like India and want to take pictures with us. My host family consists of my host mother and her husband. I talk a lot to my host mother and she explains me a lot about Indian culture and traditions and took me to many functions of her family. Unfortunately, my host father doesn’t speak any English, so it is difficult to communicate with him. Generally, many people in the small villages only speak the local language, Kannada, so I am trying really hard to learn it, because it will also help me teaching.
My primary school is actually a quite big one, with classes consisting of up to 45 students, but most of the time, I don’t have to teach the big whole classes but take some students that need extra help out of their regular classes and have a little extra class with them where I can focus on the topics they still need help in. When I have big classes, I teach them general knowledge, things about the world outside of India, like my country, Europe, geographic facts or political affairs.
The teachers in my school are all very nice to me but again, I struggle with the communication as some of them don’t speak any English. The school system in India is quite different to the European ones and takes a while to get used to, but I think the schools really do benefit from having international volunteers around, because we have different ideas about teaching and learning and the children get to experience both- and grow up to maybe be “world citizens” that understand different cultures and their own a little bit better.
But doing voluntary work does, in my opinion, not only help the students of my school but also myself: In the last couple of months, I have learned incredibly much about this country, about its culture, its citizens and styles of living, about working as a teacher and about myself: How I identify as a person, what matters most to me, what I miss from my home country and how I react to unusual situations. In my opinion, the only way to really experience a country and not merely take a look at its surface is to stay there for a while and live in a local family and this is exactly what you get to do when you work here as a volunteer. Before I came here, I was so nervous about my volunteering time in India and I was almost scared to go, convinced that I would miss home so much and that this year would feel like an eternity. But I came only to find that none of these fears were true, not only has FSL found an amazing host mother for me but also a job that makes me happy, and so time flies!
On the weekends, I am either going to functions with my host mother, or I use my free time to travel and see some of the beautiful places in India. A big plus in India is that it is not expensive to live and travel here, so even us volunteers get the chance to explore this truly incredible country.
See you soon/Mathesigua!