Why did you choose this program?
I chose to work with the English Opens Doors Program (EODP) because I spoke with a past volunteer who had a very positive experience with both the program and the country of Chile.
Additionally, the program appeared extremely reputable as it is an initiative supported by the Chilean Ministry of Education and the United Nations Development Program-Chile.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I was responsible for purchasing my transportation to (and eventually from) Santiago, Chile.
Once in Chile everything was taken care of for me by EODP. Transportation from the airport, lodging, and board were all covered in Santiago during the week-long training program. Transportation from Santiago to the town where I worked was covered as well.
My host family and place of work (school) were organized for me by EODP. The host family, with funding from EODP, provided me with 3 meals a day and I had my own bedroom in the house (a guarantee of the program).
EODP provides a small stipend to teachers to cover basic travel, school supplies, and other costs. Should an applicant to EODP want to travel frequently or long distances they should save the funds to do so before arriving to Chile.
EODP also helped guide me through the process of receiving my visa from the Chilean consulate before I departed for Chile.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone going on your program?
While it is fun to imagine what your experience will be like ahead of time, it is impossible to anticipate what will happen and who you will interact with upon your arrival to Chile. There are many variables when working with EODP, such as your assigned town, family, and school.
Most likely not all the variables that influence your experience will be ideal, but you can draw upon the components and people of your experience that are positive, as well as the EODP staff, to address any serious issues or concerns you may have.
In short, not everything will be perfect, but I can sincerely say that navigating the issues that arose during my experience resulted in some of the most memorable and personally developmental experiences I had.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
All teachers with EODP are responsible for 24 hours in the classroom each week. Additionally, 4 hours of leading an extracurricular activity and 7 hours of lesson planning are expected.
EODP teachers will meet with the Chilean English teacher of their assigned school to determine which classes and times the EODP teacher will be working. Each class will have about 15 students and last 45 minutes. What is normally a 90-minute class with 30 students is divided into two parts, with the EODP teacher taking half of the students, and the traditional Chilean English teacher taking the other half. The two groups switch after 45 minutes. EODP teachers focus on speaking and listening skills with the students, while the Chilean English teacher works on more technical, grammar oriented material with the students.
An EODP teacher’s 4 hours of extra-curricular activities could be in the classroom (an expansion of what you are teaching during the school day, or games in English), or could be outside the classroom in the form of sports or other activities.
I hosted a baseball club on a field near the school. We played with tennis balls and used cones as bases. The students enjoyed getting to learn a new sport they had only seen in the movies, and loved some of the phrases and words surrounding the game.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issues change?
My largest concern before departing for my work with EODP was the language barrier. I knew almost no Spanish when I left.
Professionally, this was not a large concern for me, as EODP asks teachers to use only English in the classroom (total immersion being the current leading theory in language learning).
Socially, I was concerned that the language barrier would be an issue. While learning a new language was of course difficult, I found both my host family and the other teachers at the school to be very patient and willing to help. The most difficult part was having patience with myself. Being stripped of the ability to speak was frustrating, but the progression I saw each week was exciting and fun.
Were you able to travel within the country during your time abroad?
I was able to travel frequently and found the bus system in Chile extremely efficient and affordable. Santiago, the capital and largest city, was a popular place for EODP teachers to meet and share their experiences.
Other places I enjoyed visiting in the middle portion of the country were Pichilemu and Valparaiso (both near Santiago), and Valdivia and the Island of Chiloe (further south).
But, if one has the time and resources to do so, the far north (San Pedro de Atacama) and the far south (Torres del Paine) are absolutely stunning. In San Pedro one can bike through the desert, tour the mountains, swim in salt lakes, sand board, and star gaze.
Torres del Paine serves up an epic hiking adventure—be sure to book campsites way in advance! If you are fit and an experienced hiker look into the big circuit, also known as the “O”. I travelled to the far north during my school’s winter break and to the far south after the school year was completed, as these trips necessitated more than 2 or 3 days.