I feel confident again that teaching really is what I want to do

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I was 22 when I decided to go to Peru for one semester. I had spent the previous three years at the University of Vienna, studying to become an accredited teacher of maths and geography. While I loved conveying ideas and being around children, my studies seemed removed from the realities of being a teacher, and not being able to see the point in it all, I felt like I couldn’t make it through the two final years of my degree.

So I made a pact with myself: I wouldn’t definitely quit, not yet, I would take a year off, studying philosophy in Vienna for one semester and going abroad for another. Hopefully, I would gain some insight during this break. At some point I had “liked” the Facebook page of HOOP – and had been toying with the idea of working for them for at least a year. Putting my plan into action, I applied … and a few months later, arrived in Arequipa.

It took me less than a week to adjust to life in Peru – to feel comfortable around the people I lived with in Soul Guesthouse, to feel like it’s an everyday thing to walk up the street to the HOOP office, to catch the combi to the school in Flora Tristán, to casually go on a churro-run the third night in a row – and to feel like this was my new home.

We spent the first week getting the school ready for a new year and receiving extensive teacher training – while many of the other volunteers didn’t have much teaching experience, I also benefitted immensely from the hands-on advice and examples we were given. Of course, I was extremely excited to meet my class – the Pandas – the following week.

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From day one, I was overwhelmed with the children’s enthusiasm for learning and immediate approachability. I knew instantly that the more I put in, the more both the children and I would get out of this. So I tried to make things as fun and challenging as possible: we did crafts, we performed a play, we sang and danced, we went outside to do an animal count and collected rubbish for an art project.

Sometimes, not everything worked out as planned – after all, teaching Panda meant engaging with 18 little individuals. In these moments, there was always a lot of support from the HOOP team and the other teachers I lived with. Our Tuesday meetings ensured that we shared the funny and inspiring moments of our students‘ learning, as well as the challenges each of us faced every week, followed up by ideas on how you might be able to solve them.

Of course, there was also time for traveling and seeing the beauty of this incredibly diverse country. On weekends and holidays, I explored waterfalls around Arequipa, hiked in the Colca Canyon, visited Cusco, and climbed one of the volcanoes surrounding the city.

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Being busy all the time, it felt like barely any time had passed when my four months with HOOP were over. The way I can tell that it has been four months are by looking back at the friends I’ve made, at all the things I’ve learnt about teaching and helping children grow, at all the fond memories I have of my little Pandas.

Going back to Austria, I feel confident again that teaching really is what I want to do, and that it is worth a little bureaucratic pain, but I also have a clearer idea of the kind of working environment I’d like to be in sometime in the not too distant future. HOOP with its professionality, clear vision on helping people, support for us volunteers and overall kind and welcoming atmosphere will definitely be a high standard for any future workplace of mine to live up to.

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