I am currently in my third month of the English Opens Doors Program and I am enjoying every second of it! I was placed in the Tarapacá Region in the North of Chile and I am living in the city of Iquique. Iquique itself is enough for me to want to stay in Chile forever! It is situated in the middle of the desert but it is also a coastal city, which makes it a hot spot for surfing and a relaxing weekend at the beach.
Sarah’s English classroom
My teaching experience has been the most challenging, yet the most rewarding part of my time here thus far. I teach in a semi-private school that has grades pre-K all the way to 12th grade. I am currently working only with the 11th and 12th graders and I am teaching technical English. I have six classes Monday-Thursday, each lasting 45 minutes. I have my degrees in both Spanish and Sociology, but I always remind my students “you are the experts, I am just the English teacher,” and believe it or not, I have learned SO much from my students!
Even though teaching can be extremely frustrating at times, my favorite part of my job is my students. Of course, there have been instances which have been difficult to handle, especially since my students are juniors and seniors in high school, but the constant love letters, presents, and notes with “I love Miss Sarah” make the difficult times all worth it.
I have even had the opportunity of working with my school’s debate team, which is part of the English Opens Doors Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education. For the past three months we have worked every day after school researching, writing, and reciting information on whether or not the Internet is the “opium of the masses.” During a stressful first round of debates, we won by a large amount of points…and it was at this point that I felt most accomplished and proud of my students. All of our hard work had paid off and I could not have been any happier!
My house is in the South Side of the city and I live with an AMAZING Chilean family. I live with an older couple and their two sons that are 19 and 22 years old (plus our new puppy, Canela). From day one, they have welcomed me into their family and I have had a blast with them. My host mom works at an upscale bakery in the center of the town and always brings us homemade cakes (which is why I may have gained a few pounds here!) and my host dad stays home and cooks, cleans, and does our laundry. I often help with the family chores and it is my responsibility to keep my room clean at all times. In our family, we eat a lot of rice, chicken, and bread.
Sarah with her Chilean friends
A normal weekend here consists of hanging out on the beach, meeting up with friends at a bar or disco, and quality family time. I have had absolutely no problems meeting Chilean friends and my Spanish has improved so much over the past three months! I am always meeting new people and it has been a blast to share stories and experiences with others. I even have a friend that is teaching me how to play the guitar and in return I give him English lessons! Every Sunday my family spends the afternoon together. We eat a huge lunch and often times have extended family over for tea in the evenings. I know that Sunday is family day, so I like to finish my planning beforehand so I can partake in the family activities.
Overall, this is my second time in Chile and I absolutely love everything about my life here. Teaching English has been an amazing experience and I plan on staying for at least another year. The Chilean people love to share their culture, language, and traditions and they have made me feel a part of their lives. This program is fabulous and I recommend it for anyone who has an open mind and wants to improve their Spanish language and expand their cultural perspectives.