It was February 2010, the bone-buckling cold bore down hard, exacting revenge for my decision to leave Minnesota for the summertime embrace of South America. Family and friends flooded a bar in tiny St. Joseph for my going-away soirée. I remember the parade of faces asking me about my plans, my future job, but mostly asking, “What’s Chile like, exactly?”
Their ignorance was merited. Outside of tragic mining accidents and natural disasters, the good people of Minnesota aren’t often exposed to this wonderful land. Occasionally “Chile” is printed on the stickers of their fruit- that’s about it.
I myself have questioned my choice. Why Chile? Every blog post I’ve read concerning the “best places to teach English abroad” cites Mexico or Argentina as the most viable Spanish-speaking candidate. I wonder if people read those posts, blindly obey, and (uninformed of other options) return home to propagate the same arbitrary advice.
There’s always more than meets the eye. Take the Lord of the Rings trilogy: at first blush, Fellowship is bland and trivial, but as you read further a rich story world unfurls, filled with a myriad of subplots and infinite depth. It is one of the many instances in life when taking the time to truly see reveals something much more profound. Such is Chile; there are many positives for those who dare to dig deep:
1) Chile is the one of the safest and most politically/economically stable countries in South America. You can actually trust the police here.
2) Jobs for English teachers are relatively abundant throughout all levels of education in both the private and public sectors. From what I’ve seen, English teacher pay is high compared to other countries in S.A., typically ranging from $14-30 USD/hr.
3) The diversity of its 2,700 miles of terrain is legendary, from the icy peaks of Patagonia to the driest desert in the world: the Atacama. Getting around by bus is affordable and convenient. There’s nothing like an outdoor adventure to rekindle your love for the classroom.
4) At the heart of Chile is a vibrant social core. People here are actively involved in the arts and passionate about bringing about advancements in education and government. The weekly protests make this self-evident.
5) Though you may have to work a little to encounter traditional Chilean culture, you’ll find a colorful history that includes many native tribes (such as the Mapuche and Yaghan), huasos (cowboys), Cueca, and folk music.
6) Chileans are wonderful hosts, always willing to help and particularly friendly towards gringos- sometimes to the point that they want to date you.
There are many other countries I’d love to teach, but I’m glad I made the choice to come to Chile. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met along the way have shaped my life forever. Especially if it’s your first time, I’m convinced Chile deserves to be one the “top 10” countries to teach English abroad.
* For anyone interested in teaching in Chile, feel free to DM me through Twitter @Lukasgohl
** For anyone currently teaching or working in Chile, I’d love for you to share your personal reasons for coming here. What made you pick Chile over other Latin American countries?