If you’ve “liked” our facebook page, you may have seen our occasional job openings, either as a Language Travel Consultant or as a Volunteer Director and Front Desk Assistant. You may have wondered whether you fit the profile, or you may have asked yourself whether this is something you had the guts to do.
It is very tempting to get a job on a gorgeous island in the tropics, but truth is the unknown can be scary. It can be frightening to commit to spending 6+ months in a country you don’t know, hearing a new language and being surrounded by total strangers. You may have wanted to apply, but have not done so because you don’t know what you are getting yourself into, or because it is hard for you to picture what it will be like. For some, leaving their families and friends for a long period of time is an important factor to consider.
But fear not, we are nice people, and we will treat you well, we promise! But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let me introduce you to our newest staff and Habla Ya family member Ludovic Jolly. This laid back, young Frenchmen joined us a little earlier this year, and decided to join our team in order to work as our new Volunteer Coordinator.
Here's Ludo at the front desk of Habla Ya Bocas del Toro
We were looking for a dynamic and motivated person, with a fun personality and a willingness to help the community. Ludo fits all the requirements, and is now officially part of the family. His role is to welcome students at the reception desk, provide customer service, and set up volunteer projects for those who want to give back to the community while studying Spanish with us.
I first met Ludo through a common hobby, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Bocas del Toro, where we meet 3 times per week to train. Ludo was working as an independent massage therapist back then to finance his trip in Latin America, but decided that he wanted a more stable job opportunity (preferably in a place where he could surf!). When I told him about what we do at Habla Ya, he was instantly excited about the idea, and joined a week later.
But instead of me doing all the talking, why don’t we let Ludo answer all your questions about what it is like to work at Habla Ya Spanish Schools. Maybe his story will inspire you to embark on a similar adventure.
What do you think made you a suitable candidate for this position? What does it take to do what you do?
First of all, I have always been looking at opportunities to work in a sustainable business operation, especially one that works with volunteers to help the local community. Volunteering is definitely an activity that I’ve always wanted to invest time, effort and money in.
I had also been working as a volunteer in Costa Rica, during which I studied permaculture farming and sustainable living solutions, which became my passion and personal project in life. I eventually ended-up being in charge of volunteer projects involving other volunteers, which allowed me to develop leadership skills and the sufficient knowledge to put new projects together.
Another advantage that I have is that my Spanish is fluent now, so I knew communication wouldn’t be a problem for this position that involves frequent meetings with non-English speakers and communicating with the local community.
What was your first impression of our school and the staff when you started with us?
What I noted can be summarized in just a few words: professionalism, enthusiasm and vision! As I first walked into the school's building, I could immediately appreciate the tidiness and the sense of detail of the structure. Then I got to meet the different staff members and found myself immersed in a really positive and enthusiastic atmosphere, as we've instantly started to joke around with the teachers and staff members, who were very welcoming and warm. Finally, when discussing the goals and objectives of the school regarding the volunteering projects, I felt that I wanted to contribute because they matched my personal expectations of a smartly run, and truly community oriented volunteer program!
Did you already speak Spanish before coming to Panama? How did you learn the language?
Yes, I learned Spanish in Costa Rica in a similar establishment, and I'm actually really happy to have a chance to immerse myself again in an educational environment. Here I can benefit from the teachers helping me improve my formal Spanish, which got tainted with incorrect grammar along the years living in a more rural environment.
Do you feel you have improved your Spanish during your time in Panama, and does it help you with your current position?
Yes, I'm definitely learning new vocabulary and a different accent in Panama, thus training my ear which gives me a better comprehension.
What were your first thoughts when you were told about the job opening at Habla Ya? What made you want to apply?
I had been looking for such a work opportunity for a little while already, so I got really interested right away. Then, witnessing the great deal of professionalism put into the operational part of the school and meeting the staff made me want to apply the very same second I discovered those different aspects!
What are some of your ideas for new projects that you would like to implement at Habla Ya?
I would love to work on improving the (barely) existing waste management system, and incorporate plant based infrastructural solutions, creating a local food production system based on organic waste reuse, thus facilitating access to healthy foods, and run educative programs to raise awareness about sustainable living solutions that people could implement in their home.
Do you have a funny story to share, that happened to you so far?
Carlos, the School Director, can be quite sarcastic and likes to joke around with people. Some of us recently rescued a malnourished cat from town and were taking care of It. Without wanting any harm, a teacher took it to his class, which he shouldn't have done, since the cat hadn't been vaccinated and the classrooms are shared with other students who are allergic to animals. So Carlos wrote an email remembering all staff members to please not take any animals into the classrooms and he also mentioned in that email (to all the staff members) that I was not allowed to bring geckos and lizards as my pets to the school anymore. Of course I had never done that, but since then some teachers have been asking me about my geckos =)
My co-workers and new friends at the front desk: Carlos (left) and Dominique (right)
Do you miss home sometimes? What do you miss the most? What is it you definitely don’t miss?
I feel home pretty much anywhere on this planet as long as it is warm and as long as there are waves to surf, and I haven't been back to my home country (France) in more than 2 years now. I do miss it a bit, but I find it really hard to go back as this job and the people I´ve met here mean a lot to me. It is not really about what I miss, but more about who I miss, which is my close friends and family members.
On the other hand, I definitely do not miss my country as the social dynamics there have been really stuck on materialistic, superficial so called "problems", but on a more optimistic note I'm looking forward for it to reorient toward a more "solutions seeking" attitude, so that I'll be able to bring the knowledge I gathered overseas to help.