Just over 4 years ago, I arrived in this long, narrow, Spanish speaking, empanada eating country in the far south of the Americas. The majority of foreigners arriving in Chile set camp in Santiago; which is a modern city with supermarkets in every neighborhood, malls galore, and culinary delights from sushi to Arabic food. Life in Santiago is not so different from the daily grind in San Francisco, Chicago, or any other major city. However, once you escape from Santiago to any of the 15 regions of Chile, life runs at a slower pace.
This slow pace allows you to enjoy your surroundings, appreciate the people you meet, digest the new sights and sounds, and enjoy one or more hour lunches. Luckily, upon my arrival in Santiago, I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach in the south of Chile, on the island of Chiloe. This came to me through Transworld Schools
alumni Philip Cary who has brought English to Chiloe through his institute, English House.
Living and working in Chiloe (population of 130,680, census 1993) was a unique experience. First, I lived in the town of Castro and later in Ancud. In both locations I primarily taught adults working in the salmon industry. The students were incredible both in and out of class as we enjoyed Happy Hours and barbeques (a Chilean tradition) together.
Chiloe is beautiful, most notably in summer when you can appreciate the rolling green hills and constant view of the sea. Rain, however, dominates the year (86 to 118 inches per year) creating a dark, mysterious environment, making it easy to understand why the Chilote people hold their beliefs in witches, trolls and ghost ships. On more than one occasion I could have sworn to have seen a pot of gold and leprechaun at the bottom of the many rainbows which constantly appear as a result of the unpredictable rain.
While the mysticism and natural beauty of Chiloe is attractive for many people, especially the creative types, life is hard, and the reality is that you can feel rather isolated when 135 kilometers separate you from civilization (the nearest big city is Puerto Montt). The isolation and constant rain brought my time in Chiloe to a close, driving me to the warmer and central location of the 5th region.
The transition to the central region of Chile meant an end to the romanticism of island life and a return to the fast-paced rhythm of the city. After a few months of teaching at the Chilean Navy and Instituto Chileno Norteamericano in Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, I moved to Santiago.
The capital city of Chile is gigantic with one-third of the population living here. Needless to say, the opportunities to teach English are limitless. In Santiago, jobs are easier to find and salaries are higher. If you want to teach in Santiago, it’s worth taking some time to visit several institutes, schools, or universities (depending on the area you’re interested in) to compare the locations of classes, required administrative tasks, available materials and, perhaps most importantly, salaries.
In Santiago, teaching at institutes generally means teaching professionals working in a variety of industries such as IT, finance, and mining. Class sizes can range from 1 to 20. Classes may be on-site or may require you to travel to a company’s office which could mean anywhere from a 5 minute to 1 ½ hour commute.
Institutes generally provide teachers with books though have different guidelines as to how to use the book (some institutes will ask you to stick to the book while others ask that you use the book 50% of the time). Part-time salaries can range from CH$4,000 (US$1- CH$500) to CH$9,000 per hour. Full-time salaries start at CH$400,000 per month. If you find private students you can earn as much as CH$20,000. Keep in mind that with private students you run the risk of cancelled or unpaid for classes. Teachers working at institutes work 20-30 hours per week (30 is A LOT!).
If you’d prefer to teach children or young adults there are many schools and universities looking for native speakers. To work in an academic environment you should hold at least a university degree. Some universities will require you to hold a master’s degree, but this depends on the university’s location and prestige.
Before heading to Chile, it’s a good idea to send your resume to a few institutes, schools, or universities. But don’t expect to be hired until you arrive to Chile and have a face-to-face interview. Be sure to bring a copy of your TESOL certificate as well as college diploma.
When you arrive you will receive a tourist visa which allows you to stay in Chile for 3 months. Within those 3 months you will need to determine how you are going to work: under full-time contract or free-lancing. Depending on the form in which you work you will need either a Visa Sujecta a Contrato
or a Visa Temporaria
. For more information on the visa process visit http://www.extranjeria.gov.cl/
Once settled in Chile you will embark on the process of learning Chilean Spanish. Although you may think you’ll get along just fine from having been to Mexico or having studied in Guatemala, you are wrong. Chilean Spanish is a language of its own, full of idioms which you’ll find nowhere else in the Spanish speaking world. It’s worth purchasing ‘How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle’
by John Brennan. You will find this book extremely useful in your stay.
Chile is a land of opportunities for teachers and a great base for exploring the Southern Cone of South America. Whether you choose to live in Santiago or Puerto Mont you will be astounded by the natural beauty surrounding you and the geographic diversity this country has to offer. It’s a country that boasts deserts in the north, lakes and glaciers in the south, and volcanoes from north to south. The photographic opportunities are endless and your stay may be as well.