Number one for English language teachers

Chile: Travelling halfway round the world to work

South African and red head Kirsty Maclaurin is not afraid to stand out in a rural area of the country.

chile flag

Why does any woman up and leave her family, friends and beloved country, to travel half way around the world? It could only be love. That is how I found myself arriving in Concepción, Chile two years ago. My inability to utter one word of Spanish left me with only one employment option: teaching English. I found a job at a language institute in town, and off I went.

As with most places in South America, the idea is to have only native speakers as teachers, and experience is essential. Unfortunately, not many people awake from the bite of the travel bug and yell out 'I think I'll try Chile', so inevitably many teachers are not experienced and receive only minimal training from these institutes. The salaries offered are not the best, but the cost of living is also not very high. But once again, who teaches for the money??

At first arriving here was an absolute culture shock. I come from very diverse South Africa and arrived in a country where being different gets you many strange looks. My first impression of the Chileans was that they seemed very distant. It took me a while to realize that this was natural.

This is a country that was literally locked away from the rest of the world. The north is desert, the south is glaciers, the east is The Andes and the west is the Pacific. This led to a very isolated existence. So when the really tall girl with red hair, blue eyes and freckles walks by, yes she does tend to attract a little attention.

Granted, Santiago is now a more cosmopolitan city, but where I am is still very much Chilean territory. This ‘distant’ feeling however, changed very rapidly. I found that once people had sized me up, they became very warm and welcoming. They will do anything to accommodate you.

After teaching here for a year and a half, I've also realized that there are common mistakes that are made by most students. The inability to pronounce the word 'would' and 'no, dear, there is no need to start buying diapers when you are embarrassed.' Once you have found out how to surpass these little obstacles, teaching here becomes a very satisfying venture. Remember however, this is still a very male dominated society, and one has to adapt a little to that. You can't take everything said to heart, or you will not last long.

You also have the opportunity to travel. This is a country with so much to offer. And travel and accommodation is generally cheap. All in all, I would not change a thing about the last two years. Living and teaching here has been one of the most satisfying things in my life. I will be here for many years to come. So, if you ever do awake to the idea of Chile, I hope to see you around.

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