Working at an Artisanal Shop in Vicuña, Chile
HOW OPPORTUNITY WAS FOUND: Talking to people wherever I went.
I was in the south of South America, and started making my way up north, because it’s warmer there. I’d originally planned on going to Peru, but they sold out of bus tickets going to Peru, so I went on a bus to a town north of Santiago in Chile (La Sarena). As I made my way up, I talked to ANYBODY who had the time of day to talk to me, told them I loved their town (in all three towns I visited), and asked where I could find a job, room to rent, etc. Eventually, I was playing hide and seek with some kids I’d found in Vicuña at this little artisanal fair—and this lady sent her daughter to come find me, and offered me a job at her shop, as well as a shared accommodation with her and her daughter.
LENGTH: 3 months
LOCATION: Vicuña, Chile
PERSONAL GROWTH: ★★★☆☆
*Had a couple different jobs (with hiking groups, at a coffee shop, etc), but they were all part time, so had a ton of free time
- Work 2-3 hours a day
- Go running/ hiking
- Hang out at this local farm
DESCRIPTION OF WORK/ACTIVITIES DONE:
Running, hiking, working at coffee shop, artisan's shop (made wood burnings)
HOW MANY HOURS OF WORK DID YOU DO PER WEEK? 20-25
IN EXCHANGE OF WORK, PROVIDES:
- For work at the artisan's shop: shared accommodation (later moved into separate housing where I paid rent with others whom I shared it with)
- Half the food (after moving out, I bought all of my own food)
- Small payment (about $2/hr; I had enough to pay for my rent and food)
If you’re trying to get to know a culture and learn a language, just do yourself a favor and don’t talk to ANYONE in English. Don’t stay at hostels. Stay at one place for multiple months. My rule was that I would answer questions if someone asked in English, but I wouldn’t approach someone who spoke English. Or I’d just speak to them in Spanish.
You could start with a Workaway, and use that as a time to settle/explore the area and meet the people around there. It could be your stepping stone to living in that area—because more often than not, you probably won’t be offered a job while just walking around a town.
MOST MEANINGFUL LESSON TAKEN AWAY:
I was just shocked by how welcoming these people were. It really shocked me that in the U.S., when somebody from Chile comes, people can be mean, racist, and super hateful—especially when they’re learning English. But when I was there, people were very welcoming and patient with my Spanish. People were excited to get to know me. It just made me realize how important it is for America to take on a similar role and mindset in how they view and treat immigrants, because it’s really hard living in another country and speaking another language.