by Sarah Bennett
As I sat waiting for the plane to take off, I could not believe that almost three years had passed so quickly. It felt like just yesterday that I had boarded the plane from Canada to Santiago, Chile. So many memories rushed through my mind; from living in the driest desert in the world to celebrating the 18th of September (the Chilean national independence day) like a true Chilean by dancing Cueca all night. But aside from these ¨bucket list¨ experiences what really resonated with me were the day to day experiences of living in Chile. I had loved how each day I became more and more fluent in Spanish and more and more assimilated in the Chilean culture. For example, I remembered the sheer bliss I felt when my Chilean friends actually laughed at my jokes in Spanish as opposed to the normal reactions of confused expressions and uncomfortable silences.
After finishing university, I decided that I wanted to have an experience in which I could improve my Spanish and travel at the same time. I had never been very fond of the box-ticking, one-week whirlwind kind of travelling and thought that teaching English abroad would be a great opportunity to truly immerse myself in the Chilean culture. The TEFL course I took before arriving in Chile was extremely useful at helping me find work as most employers in Chile requested a TEFL certificate. Plus, the skills I learned on my TEFL course, such as lesson planning and improving my English grammar, were extremely useful once I started teaching.
It’s even possible to get TEFL qualified for free! TEFL Org UK runs a range of accredited TEFL courses throughout the country, including here in Aberdeen. Their basic TEFL course takes just one weekend! Best of all, they offer a free TEFL Job Centre, perfect for when you are deciding to travel halfway around the world!
Once you have your TEFL certificate, teachers can also find their own work abroad if you want to work somewhere in particular. From my personal experience, there is a wealth of English teaching jobs abroad. In Chile, native English teachers were in very high demand and companies were very willing to pay generous salaries. I worked in a copper mine in the Atacama desert, which is located in the northern part of Chile. I taught engineers, geologists and business executives and had an absolutely phenomenal time. There were also many opportunities to work in language institutions and schools. Socially, the experience was wonderful. Not only were the Chileans extremely welcoming but I also developed a large network of international friends among fellow expatriate English teachers.
Teaching abroad provides so many benefits to students and graduates. You can learn a foreign language, spend your summer break travelling, or get paid to spend a gap year in an exciting foreign country. International work experience and foreign language ability are great things to have on your CV that will impress employers. After my time teaching in Chile, I am fluent in Spanish and have shown that I can adapt to new cultures and prosper in an international work setting – just the sort of employee that many companies are searching for in the global economy!
Teaching abroad in Chile has been an unforgettable and invaluable experience. I made incredible friends, developed transferable skills, experienced a fascinating culture and in the process became a much richer person for it. Although I have left Chile, for the time being, I feel that Chile will never leave me!