1. Is the course intensive?
The course is very intensive. For us, input sessions were from 11, feedback after lunch and lesson planning for lessons at 6 in the evening. We taught every second day, and evenings/mornings before class gave just amount of time to complete assignments and have extra lesson preparation time. Week one and four were the “easy” weeks, as there were fewer deadlines and some mornings off. Weeks two and three were hard to manage as this was when the brunt of the work was completed, and assessment criteria for classes became harder to pass.
2. How can I prepare?
The best preparation is previous teaching experience and background knowledge of grammar. Cambridge English Teacher (http://www.cambridgeenglishteacher.org/) has a free online grammar course. There is also a CELTA Pre-Course task, which prepares well and even reading some of Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage would help. The grammar isn’t a major component of the course but it is covered quickly and can only be understood properly through independent study.
3. Can I sightsee/go on tours during the course?
Free time is scarce during the course. We went on a day trip on the first weekend and sometimes went to the beach. If you are keen to fit in exercise or local sightseeing it would be possible if you wake up early and finish work quickly. Otherwise any free time during the course is sleeping or errands.
1. What’s the accommodation like?
Accommodation is in Carliza II, also known as Carliza Suites. It is a 10-15 minute walk from the main tourist street, and nearby are produce markets, bakeries and other convenience stores. The accommodation itself is great, it is more or less a house with locked ensuite rooms. There is a kitchen, with a fridge, stove, toaster and coffee maker. There are balconies with a nice view of the town and several living room areas. The downside is that there is a lot of busy-town noise like roosters, barking dogs, loud cars and motorbikes, people doing mechanical work etc. It can be frustrating trying to study there, especially in the morning. You can also study in the library or at Carliza I if the noise is particularly bad one day.
2. What is the cost of living?
Cost of living is high here – expect prices to be a little cheaper if you live in a city in the UK, USA, Western Europe or Australia. Bread rolls from the bakery are cheap (20c) but milk is $2, three apples is $1, a can of tuna is $1.50, and beer is $4.50 for a big bottle. It doesn’t seem to be the custom here to tip.
3. Do I need to know Spanish to get by?
It is helpful to know some conversational Spanish, or words in English that are similar to the Spanish translation. Most people on the island speak very little English if they aren’t working directly with tourists. If you don’t know Spanish or don’t have time to learn, it would help to have a phrasebook or dictionary handy. Functional language is far more useful than grammar, if you memorise a few key phrases (can I have, do you have, where is, this is broken etc.) you will get by.
4. Will I improve my Spanish if I do the course here?
During the course, it is hard to learn Spanish because the CELTA is done entirely in English and you aren’t allowed to use Spanish in class. Afterwards and during volunteering there is more chance to converse with locals and students in Spanish.
5. Is it safe?
Galápagos Islands is very safe, far more so than any South American city or even cities in home countries. You can walk anywhere at any time of day and night and there is no visible crime issues on the streets. People are friendly and very welcoming; it is often acceptable to say hello to strangers on the street.
Food on Charles Darwin is pricey but a nice break from chicken, rice and bread. The street behind (kioskos) has many small restaurants with meals $2-$10. You can buy a crate of beer from some kioskos at $25 for 12. Galápagos Deli is up the road from the library and has affordable decent sandwiches and pizzas. It also has great Wifi.
There is a produce market next door, and small convenience-type stores everywhere. Prices tend to be the same across all shops.
Amadito up the road is reliable and is $1/kilo. Most are $1.50-2/kg.
The one with the most reliable ATMs and less withdrawal fees is the Pichincha, the one with the big yellow sign 5 minutes up the main road away from Charles Darwin. The others charge $5 withdrawal fees and have faulty ATMs.
If you enquire for day trips there are often spots available the day before for cheaper prices. For Isla Isabela, a 2-day trip was around $200 and 3-day $270. It’s best to shop around and ask a few places for prices. Most have everything included.
2. Tips for tours
- Sometimes the snorkels were dirty or faulty. You would get more out of the trip if you had your own.
- It’s worth bringing a waterproof camera - the animals aren’t afraid of people and look great in pictures.
- Most of the boat trips trigger motion sickness, especially the ferry to Isla Isabela. Highly suggest taking motion sickness tablets, and preparing for a very nauseas 2-3hr boat trip.
- Sun burns a lot here, bring a full set of bathers and keep putting on sunscreen especially just before snorkelling.
The CELTA Galápagos volunteering is self-orientated which means more self-discipline and higher accountability, where participants can choose between teaching adults or children aged 5-6 or 9-13. If the first option is chosen, the adult students would have already been introduced to the volunteer participant during the CELTA course teaching practice exercises, thereby establishing a relationship for continued learning. Particularly, the volunteer would be able to identify the current level and challenges of the student, as well as logistical information such as their availability and willingness to attend regular classes. If the candidate chooses to teach children, then they will attend the local elementary school for the morning session where they will participate in both group and individual teaching activities supervised by respective teaching professionals. We ask our CELTA candidates to indicate well in advance their preferred option as well as any other particular interest or ideas they may have to augment their volunteer experience. We will try to accommodate any special requests to the extent possible, and we will work with candidates to continue improving our volunteer outreach program.