I have been teaching English in the Chilean Patagonia for just over three months now and I am contracted to be here until the end of November. I’m teaching in a country and continent that is completely different from anything I have ever experienced.
The idea of teaching English in Chile was circling around my head for about five months prior to actually arriving here, so I did what I could to prepare myself. Naturally, I turned to what I imagined lots of gringos like me would turn to; literature. Chile has some world-renowned authors such as Isabel Allende and Pablo Neruda who are worth packing up your suitcases with. If you are not that into literature, there are many things that are shared throughout the country such as their love of soccer, regional music, amazing cuisine, and funky street art that will make your days in Chile more fun and colorful.
Chile is also a great travel destination if you are planning to teach abroad for the travelling. It’s a long country that spans from Patagonia to Peru, so there is a great variety of landscapes and tourist destinations for TEFL teachers to get acquainted before their arrival.
–Spencer completed the TEFL certification course with OnTESOL.
Life at the End of The World
As far as the infamous culture shock I have always been warned about, I don’t believe I’ve had a real sense of “shock”. There have of course been a fair number of surprises but nothing that has ever discouraged me from staying here. I believe that the things that have made Chile stand out were just the things that have made me fall in love with this place.
It seems to be a very honest country and it doesn’t have anything to hide. For example, stray dogs don’t get whisked away to the pound, they get ends of meat and jackets put on them. Street artists don’t have to resort to making quick, few color tags on the inside of a bridge, where they’re given permission to do enormous murals on the side of some of the most well-seen buildings in the city.
Starting out as a Volunteer
Chile is most likely one of the best decisions I have made. Though there are certain aspects of life down here at the end of the earth, I’m planning on remaining here after my contract, perhaps to find more work teaching. My original intention was to teach in a Spanish speaking country because my minor is in the Spanish language. While going through the process of interviewing for jobs in South Korea, I realized that wasn’t where my heart was and a former professor of mine suggested a volunteer program for teaching English in Chile.
This was not a “pay to volunteer” program as it seems many of them are. The process was simple: I had to apply to the program with my resume, letter of recommendation, and then eventually got an interview with the volunteer center in Chile over the phone. If I was accepted then they would help me obtain all my documents and my visa, so I wouldn’t have to interview for an actual placement within the country.
One of the aspects of this volunteer program that attracted me was it worked closely with the Chilean Ministry of Education and was an actual government program that is quite reputable. I felt that this virtually eliminated the possibility of my experience being a horror story, which I have heard a fair amount of. The program also worked with the consulate in Chile and my visa fee was waived, as I was a volunteer. Altogether, the visa process went quite smoothly considering the circumstances: the consulate general was located in Los Angeles so I needed to fly from Colorado to get fingerprinted and pick it up in person. I also move to Colorado from New York 3 months prior, so I needed 2 criminal background checks, one from each state.
Upon arriving in Santiago we went through a week of intensive TEFL training that, along with what I had learned from the TEFL course with OnTESOL, made me much more confident teaching in front of a classroom. After the first week in Santiago, where everything from housing, food, and transportation was taken care of, we all went to our placements.
Like all the other volunteers, I was placed with a Chilean family. Overall everyone seems happy with the experience. I plan on staying in Chile and teaching. I find it very much to my advantage being able to say that I spent one whole school year teaching in a public high school in Chilean Patagonia, that I am TEFL certified, and have had intensive training in teaching English in a Chilean classroom.