jueves, 1 de octubre de 2015

A welcome from our new director

This month I’d like to introduce myself as a new member of the i.e. team. As I enter my third month as Executive Director, I feel lucky to lead this dynamic institute powered by qualified, experienced and well-trained teachers and further bolstered by a handful of friendly, resourceful and gifted administrators.  At the moment, we have Spanish teachers, English teachers, Aymara teachers, Quechua teachers and Dutch teachers on staff. This talented group impacts students way beyond La Paz thanks to our online classes.

I arrived in La Paz last December and immediately heard of the Institute as the place to go to learn Spanish. I signed up, sat on the comfortable couch and looked around.  Students from around the world were learning to communicate in new ways. I saw a group of 18 year old Germans on their first  experience abroad. I chatted with a 60 year American volunteer still dusty from an afternoon of work. Also, through closed doors, I heard Bolivians learning English. By February, I was a full-time student and by June 1, my portenhol (a blend of Portuguese and Spanish because I started as a Portuguese speaker) had almost completely converted to Spanish. On my study breaks, I explored our neighborhood of Sopocachi with its lovely park, many coffee shops, tasty food options and plenty of hills where I could get a little exercise. 

The opportunity to lead the Institute unfolded through conversations between my Spanish classes. My work experience as a Director of Study Abroad combined with my years as an international development professional complements the exciting and burgeoning opportunities the Institute will face in the near future. 

As Director, I continue to be amazed at the diversity of students who pass through our doors and sit in our classrooms. We’ve had groups of international volunteers from Japan and Korea, study abroad students from Norway and travelers from Holland hoping to gain experience and skills during their gap year. 

During this time many individual students have studied with us as well. Although it’s difficult to describe a typical i.e. student, they do have some qualities in common. The students I’ve chatted with are bold and adventurous - they’re willing to wade deep into the waters beyond their comfort zone. There’s also a palpable respect for culture and a desire to tap into it through language. As an example, one of our long term students is researching (for her Phd) how indigenous women understand their legal rights as women and as members of an indigenous group. The project involves enormous amounts of listening. When she arrived here a year ago, she thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew as her Spanish was basic. After several months as a full time i.e. student, she developed the skills and confidence needed to conduct her research. “For me”, she said, “Learning Spanish at the Institute was essential for me to be able to build rapport and understand the perspectives of the women I interview.” 

Another student came to i.e. to learn survival Spanish as he biked across South America. However, once his classes started, he didn’t want to leave La Paz and yearned for a level of Spanish beyond the basic. Eventually, he did leave and biked for five months across Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. After only a couple months back home in Alaska, he decided to return to i.e. and explore more of La Paz. He told me, as we conversed in Spanish, “I think I’ll have to go back home in November but then again I really love La Paz - I may stay an extra couple of weeks.” 

I hope you too can join the i.e. family. If you don´t happen to find yourself in La Paz, how about learning with us online? I’m sure you’ll understand why our students choose ie . Or, if you fancy trying out life on the other side of the desk, why not train to be an English teacher with our accredited TEFL course or look into one of our internship opportunities.  In the meantime, check out our website and feel free to email us any questions you may have. 

I hope to see you soon and hear your story.

Mansir Petrie