Friday, October 7, 2011

UACh Travelogue: My Adventure in Valdivia 2, by Georgia Wyche

Unfortunately, there still is not a lot going on in university campuses throughout Chile because of the national strike to reform education.  The semester dates and school year calendars are completely out of whack due to many months of striking and student protests. The second semester is supposed to begin in October, but nobody really knows. Things change in the Chilean news everyday and there are student protests every Thursday afternoon.  

Georgia at the Center for Languages, UACh
The situation in Chile has been frustrating for a lot of people at the university, including myself. Despite my frustrations, I am still very happy to be here representing Virginia Tech. Also, I have been able to keep myself busy. I’ve been teaching English classes on a daily basis, working with English teachers at the university and in the community, giving presentations on foreign language teaching methodology at the “Centro de Idiomas” and preparing lessons for my Applied Linguistics class. I’m also going to be volunteering and attending the upcoming TESOL conference, which will be hosted at UACh next week.

I’ve also met with many important people at Universidad Austral de Chile, including the university president, Mr. Victor L. Cubillos. Mr. Cubillos has actually requested that I give him English lessons. I’ll begin working with him in the coming weeks.  I’m excited about strengthening and building a new relationship between Virginia Tech and Universidad Austral de Chile.  

I’ve also met with the director of the American Corner of the UACh library. The American Corner is a special section in the library devoted to lovers of English language and American culture. The American Corner is funded by the American Embassy in Santiago de Chile. There are 12 other American Corners in different universities throughout Chile. Along with the American Corner, there is also the Australian Corner. I look forward to sharing and assisting with activities and projects at the American Corner during my stay in Valdivia.

I’ve arranged English classes for faculty members, including university administrators, deans and directors.  In addition, I’ve met with honors students, living in Valdivia, who would like to attend classes to improve their English skills while the university is on strike. The English classes I’m teaching primarily focus on speaking and listening skills.

Georgia with the foreign language instructors of UACh
I teach English classes to professors and faculty members from the veterinary, economics, engineering, architecture, medical, chemistry, biology schools and departments.  All of these are scholars attend my classes on a regular basis and are excited to build their confidence in conversational English. For example, they want to be able to speak English comfortably at a coffee break during an academic conference in an English speaking country. They want to be able to use everyday English at the post office, the supermarket, or at a friend’s party. The university professors are confortable with academic and technical terminology in English related to their field, but they want practice and help with everyday conversational English.  I’m happy to assist them in any way that I can while the university is on strike.
Along with teaching English classes to academics, I’ve assisted in editing and revising material to be presented at conferences and to market the university on an international level.  I’m eager to assist in more of these projects and activities because they serve to strengthen the relationship between UACh and Virginia Tech.
I’m also going to be teaching an Applied Linguistics class to students in their last year of study to be English teachers at UACh. Initially, I was only going to teach this class during part of the second semester, but now due to the strike I’ll be teaching the class during the entirety of the second semester. I’m excited about this teaching opportunity and new challenge.   

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