Heather Drinnan, from New Zealand, was in her second year of teaching English in Japan when she decided that it was time for a new challenge. After a little bit of thought and lots of preparation, she decided to commit to a Working Holiday program in Balcarce, Argentina. She shares her thoughts about the entire experience with Connecting Worlds in this short interview.
1. What made you start looking for Working Holidays in Argentina?
I’d always wanted to try living somewhere in South America I started searching online for opportunities in Chile and Argentina. I got talking to a friend I’d studied at university with and she suggested Connecting Worlds to me, as she had spent six months in Argentina two years previously, working at a ranch through Connecting Worlds, then travelling. She told me they were “The best six months of my life!”, so I got in touch with Cristina and went from there.
2. How did you go about finding your Working Holiday and what made you choose Piedra Naranja with the help of Connecting Worlds?
I had an initial Skype interview with Cristina and told her what kind of experience I was looking for, and she got back to me with a few options. I chose Piedra Naranja because it offered the chance to be involved in adventure activities in a beautiful setting, and speak Spanish every day. From my first Skype chat with the owner of the ranch I knew they were a lovely family and I would enjoy my time there.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about Piedra Naranja?
Piedra Naranja is a tourist ranch 40km inland from Mar del Plata (5 hours south of Buenos Aires). Guests come to the ranch from Buenos Aires and La Plata to experience a range of adventure activities from kayaking in the lake, hill trekking, mountain biking and horse riding, to paragliding, rock climbing, rappel and zip lining. There is also a swimming pool. Guests stay in solar powered cabins and have the option of being served up to three meals a day. The food at the ranch is both delicious and healthy, Nadia (the owner) being a former nutritionist and very passionate about cooking. Asados are a common occurrence at Piedra Naranja. Piedra Naranja hosts guests all year round, and can accommodate large groups, such as school camps, and sports clubs.
4. What were your main responsibilities?
My main responsibilities were: preparing cabins for guests (making beds and stocking bathroom and kitchen supplies- no cleaning), working in the kitchen to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as making the desserts, Serving the guests in the restaurant and showing guests to their cabins, accompanying guests on mountain biking, kayaking and hiking excursions, looking after the two young sons of the owners, washing towels and bed linen, helping with supplies shopping trips, pool maintenance etc. Also, chatting with the guests which was by far the highlight for me!
5. Would you be interesting in returning to Piedra Naranja to work full time?
My time at Piedra Naranja was great – a relaxed lifestyle, in a beautiful landscape, and I absolutely loved meeting and chatting with all of the lovely guests. I wouldn’t return to work full time as this is not the type of work I want to be involved in long term, but for a working holiday this ranch is the perfect opportunity to improve your Spanish rapidly, meet and form friendships with amazing people and just enjoy nature and good food!
6. Would you consider another Working Holiday? If so, where, doing what and why?
If I was to do another Working Holiday I would probably choose another South American country, to experience a different culture and dialect. I would absolutely love to return to Argentina one day, but see myself seeking paid work, independently, rather than doing another Working Holiday.
7. How do you think this experience is going to help you with future plans?
This experience was amazing for developing my Spanish, and I learned so much about many different facets of Argentine culture. It gave me more confidence in relating with people of a foreign culture of all ages and backgrounds
8. Did you travel around Argentina at some point during your Working Holiday?
I took one week partway through my Working Holiday to travel down to Bariloche and El Bolsón, which I absolutely loved. The landscape down there is beautiful! I also spent a bit of time in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires. After I finished at Piedra Naranja I spent one month travelling in Córdoba, Rosario and Uruguay.
9. In addition to the Working Holiday itself, is there anything else about being in Argentina that you particularly enjoyed?
The people!! I found Argentines to be so warm and welcoming, and genuinely interested in talking with me. I loved being surrounded by Spanish every day, and I really came to love the social nature of Argentines – always out socialising with family and friends, over great food and fernet.
10. What advice would you give to someone wanting to commit to a Working Holiday in Argentina? How might he or she prepare?
Come with an open mind, ready to make lasting friendships! Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, and be prepared to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes in Spanish! You’re going to love it!!!
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