"I am not sure exactly what I had expected before departing for Chile after graduating from VU. I know that I was excited about having the opportunity to experience another culture while using Spanish and helping children. However, I never believed that I would feel such sadness when I had to leave after the two months were completed.
As a YMCA intern, I was allowed to choose which grade level I would prefer to assist. I ended up helping out in a first-grade classroom at the Colegio Jorge Williams, a school for low-income students located in the hills of Valparaiso. I will never forget how the students would stand every day and say (nearly scream), "Bueños días, Tío Eric." Many times, they would all leave their seats to come up and give me a big hug before class started. Assisting in this classroom, however, was more overwhelming than I had originally thought it would be. The students were very far behind academically and fights and other disciplinary problems frequently hindered the lessons. Despite these issues, I found the work to be extremely rewarding. I enjoyed helping the students with their math and reading skills as well as having one day to present some English words. Many of the students also lived in the foster home that we visited on a regular basis. As a result, they knew that we would come and visit them later to play games, sing songs, go the park, etc. Seeing the smiles on their faces made it all worth it, regardless of some of the problems we may have faced throughout the day.
Being an intern also meant that I had the chance to make friends with the Chileans working at the YMCA. The people I met there will always remain in my memory and I hope to see them again some day. I cannot possibly explain how grateful I am. I never imagined that I would travel to such a distant place and not want to return." -- Eric Matul