English Opens Doors Program: Teach in Chile for Free

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Are you interested in volunteering to teach English in Chile? Consider the English Opens Doors Program. Participation is FREE and placements are available throughout Chile.

The English Opens Doors Program is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education. The English Opens Doors Program seeks highly motivated individuals to work as English teaching assistants in public schools throughout Chile. A typical week for a full-time volunteer includes 24 hours of English teaching and 11 hours of extra-curricular activities. Volunteers teach alongside a Chilean head teacher and work with students ranging from 10 years old to 18 years old!

Volunteer Service options for 2019:
VS1 (March 18-July 21, 2019) application due: December 10, 2018
VS2 (April 1-Nov. 24, 2019) application due: December 24, 2018
VS3 (July 22-Nov. 24, 2019) application due: April 8, 2019
VS4 (August 5-Dec. 8, 2019) application due: April 22, 2019

Apply Now!

Questions & Answers

If you're asking how to become a volunteer, then you'll need to apply as per the website and go through the vetting process. All this information is on the EODP website.
The visa is free, all fees are waived. The only thing you have to do is make your own way to the embassy nearest you to get the stamp, and collate all the information and send it off.
Hi Edith, Yes, you have to take care of your flight and visa. You need to purchase your own flight, and the EODP will help you with any visa queries and guide you through the process, but you do have to do it yourself. Jacob
Our volunteer candidates must have a bacherlor's degree (or the equivalent) to participate in our Program. Please check out our website for more information about requirements! http://www.centrodevoluntarios.cl/


based on 41 reviews
  • Benefits 7.5
  • Support 8
  • Fun 8.1
  • Facilities 7.6
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 16 - 30 of 41
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Great experience

EODP was definitely the right choice for me. As a recent college graduate who wanted to have an international volunteer experience in my ¨gap year¨ between going to graduate school, EODP offered me exactly what I was looking for. The program is well organized and my personal experience was very positive in nearly all aspects. The Chilean students, although much rowdier than students in my country, were also much more eager and vibrant.

How can this program be improved?
Although I understood the reasoning behind this, I would have preferred the monthly stipend to have been received in the first months of the program (you receive aggregate lump sums in the last two months). The program gives you fair warning that you may have to draw on your own resources (which is later reimbursed by the stipend). However, I found I never had to spend too much of my own money anyways as all food and housing is provided.
Yes, I recommend this program
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OK program, but horrible support staff

The support staff aren't really there for the volunteers as they claim at the start of the program. Quite regularly they would respond to my emails late with very vague, broad, useless answers like some customer service reps trying to avoid responsibility. The worst of it was when I had to be hospitalized because of a very acute form of tonsilitis which required IV treatment. I had a really hard time dealing with the insurance company and because of that my condition got progressively worse and worse before I was finally admitted into the hospital. The support team did not help me. The disease repeated itself for me about a week later with same symptoms but on a Sunday when the clinic where the insurance company has an agreement is closed. I searched for urgent help from the program coordinators. Was told that they couldn't do anything about it until the next day. I was also advised to pay out of pocket at any medical facility and reassured I'd be reimbursed for my expenses later. Thankfully, I did not do it because the out-of-pocket transportation expenses I did make were not reimbursed. The reaction of the support staff was that they never told me that I could take a taxi and get reimbursed (which they did) and even went as far as making a scene and slamming money out of their own pocket on my table in the dining room of the hostel in Santiago.

The task at hand of teaching English is very challenging being at public schools where kids don't care about English at all. What is more, the English teachers often don't actually speak English.

Furthermore, Chile is cold and the food is bad. Perhaps the reason why I spent over a month sick and was even hospitalized. We did not have any heating neither at the school nor at my host family so the only place to find some body warmth is in bed. For 4 months. 90% of what we ate was bread. I practically did not see vegetables other than the occasional tomato for my entire stay. The idea of my host family of a good meal on a weekend was hot dogs.

The social scene was definitely lacking in the town of Los Angeles, but I managed to find some friends outside of the school and program's circles. Main activity of young people seems to be to go to the "campos" and drink, eat BBQ and talk.

To do anything fun outside the program, plenty of money is necessary. Chile is expensive and even mountains are private, so you can't just go on a hike, you have to pay for a company to take you.

Response from English Opens Doors

Petya, thank you very much for your feedback.

We hope that interested applicants will read some of the other recent reviews for a more realistic and honest view of the program. This volunteer's review is disappointingly deceptive, and from our perspective we made a judgement error when we reversed our decision to dismiss her for her consistently negative behavior during orientation. One thing that we have tried to make clear in all of our recruitment efforts is that this is not a study abroad program, where the volunteer is the client. Rather, this is a government-run education initiative designed to benefit students. From her behavior during orientation and throughout her volunteer service, it was very clear that this volunteer's motivations did not align with the program's (as demonstrated by her review, in which she writes at length about her free insurance and then criticizes her students and many other things about Chile). If any interested applicants are concerned by her review, please email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to share our correspondence with her throughout the semester.

To address one specific point, this volunteer did not understand the terms of the insurance, nor did she acknowledge the coordination that we did with the insurance company to expedite her reimbursement to make sure she received it before leaving Chile. The mentioned taxi rides were the result of her refusing the treatment offered by the hospital, and as such the insurance company rejected the reimbursement claim. The total was 6 USD.

No, I don't recommend this program
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From application to end of service, great program

The EODP program was everything I was looking for in a volunteer experience. They gave a stipend, provided a host family, and even provided travel health insurance and the visa. I hoped to get some practice in on my Spanish skills and do what I love -- teaching EFL -- at the same time.

My host family situation was ideal. They didn't live far from the school, the host mom was a retired teacher from the school I was working in and she also happened to be an excellent cook. She had children my age, which was helpful for making acquaintances.

My (2) fellow English Teachers were welcoming and helpful. I plan on being in contact with them far into the future. With my head teacher, were both teachaholics and spent a lot of time planning activities and lessons for our classes. Both of the English Teachers were a big help in the beginning when I wasn't so confident in Spanish and we helped eachother with our language learning endeavors.

I was in a public school in a fairly urban environment. Many of my students came from vulnerable backgrounds. They had single parent homes, problems with abuse or neglect, alcoholism or drug addiction in their family, and I had many students who were either parents or who were expecting, many of them also got their main meal everyday from the school cafeteria. They had various behaviour problems because their home lives weren't the easiest. On top of this the Chilean classroom can best be described as...chaotic. Cellphones, tablets, headphones and side conversations are normal fare.

Even so, my students were my favorite people. I spent all day with them in the classroom. I saw them in the halls and sometimes saw them in town. They played tricks on me, they made me laugh, the majority of them gave English a try in my classroom and we had a good time. I had very few problems with behavior, the majority of the problems were in the beginning when students test their new teacher.

If you are interested in Teaching EFL, working with teenagers (particularly teens with difficult home lives), becoming part of a community and discovering a different culture, this program could be for you!

How can this program be improved?
The Independant teaching model (ie, splitting the class in two, taking one half for an hour and then switching with the head teacher) is not always practical. Sometimes a class is too small (less than 20 students total?). having so few at a time isn't fun or interesting. It also makes it hard for the head teacher and the volunteer to give eachother feedback and help eachother.
Yes, I recommend this program
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A professional teaching experience

After spending ample time searching for programs to live and teach abroad, I chose to go to Chile through Programa Inglés Abre Puertas. I have my BS in Childhood with Special Education and Spanish, so not only was I looking for a memorable experience, but I desired a program that would allow me the professionalism and responsibility of a teaching position, yet still give enough freedom to teach as I wanted to. After a year of service, this program exceeded my expectations.

The National Volunteer Center Team was caring, poised, and attentive to the diverse needs of all volunteers. Communication was always clear and I had clear ideas of what the expectations were for us as volunteers. For example, one month after arriving there was an strong earthquake in the north of the country. I promptly received a phone call from the team making sure I was safe and my family in the United States was notified that I was okay.

Another reason that this program impressed me is because of the training that volunteers receive. I have attended professional development programs in the United States and the material covered in the training is up-to-date and shows the latest research in education.

If you are looking for a means to travel, have a good time, and earn money, this is not the program for you. Being a teacher means being a positive role model for the entire community and it is important that you embody this as a volunteer and assume the responsibility. In addition, you are a volunteer, which means that you are not doing this for profit. You will have enough money, but it is important to bring extra, especially if you want to travel when there are breaks from school.

Being a teacher means that you will be responsible, flexible, and humorous. You need to step out of your comfort zone to be successful. With an open mind and the ability to clearly voice your opinions, you will love this program. It is unique for all volunteers and is an experience that you will never want to forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
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A great experience

I came to Chile with some tutoring and teaching experience. I wanted to get out of the United States, practice teaching, and learn more Spanish. This program helped me to do all these things. They provide a strong introduction to teaching methods and support throughout your stay. The program is a lot of work because you teaching many Chilean students (I worked with over 200 students per week). Because of what I wanted out of my experience this was perfect for me. The more effort I put into the work and community the more I got out. This is an amazing opportunity if you go into with the right motivations and a desire to be challenged.

How can this program be improved?
One challenge is that the model of teaching is often to work with many groups of students relatively little over the course of each week. This results in getting a lot more students to work in small groups with a native speaker, but it prevents students from getting a lot of practice to develop their listening and speaking abilities. I understand the reasoning of the program and the objectives; however, I would rather see volunteers working with less students and spending more time with each group.
Yes, I recommend this program
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A Great TEFL Opportunity to get your feet wet!

I think that the English Opens Doors program was a wonderful and enriching experience. I have my degree in Spanish Education so I'm not a stranger to teaching, but I had wanted to 'get my feet wet' with TEFL for quite some time. The EOD program seemed like a great opportunity to do just that! Rather than moving and trying to teach English on my own, having the support of a program attracted me. I was also inspired by the fact that the EOD program has the support of both the United Nations and the Chilean Ministry of Education, so you know that you are contributing to something much bigger than yourself.

As for finances, you do have to pay for your flight yourself, but it is pretty generous for a volunteer program. The visa fee is covered, you receive health insurance, and you get lodging and three meals a day from your host family. You also get a monthly allowance to pay for transportation, extra food, etc. The only negative thing is that this money isn't available until the end of the semester, but English Opens Doors is very transparent about the fact that you should have enough savings for you to get buy until your check comes in.

I loved teaching in Antofagasta and the students were what made it worthwhile. I would say that I had somewhat of an atypical experience, because I worked in a semi-private (subvencionado) school that had an excellent English curriculum and English teachers in the double digits! Therefore, I had a lot of support from the fellow English teachers and my students were relatively advanced. Some schools have a much lower level of English and not as much support. I was also very apprehensive about behavior management, but having a system in place helped potential problems. However, behavior management can be a rougher issue in the fully-public schools, because there you teach children in vulnerable situations. But I have heard of many volunteers enjoying their experience in these schools as well.

It was great to interact with the students, say 'Hello' to them in the hallways, and see their projects and extra curricular activities (plays, etc.). And while you will always get at least a couple students who aren't really interested in English, I was overall very impressed with my students' motivation and creativity in the classroom. They would say things in English that made me laugh every day!

My host family was also very supportive and I couldn't have asked for a better family to be placed with! I was a little nervous to live with a Chilean family but it seems like most of the families who host volunteers really care about the program and they are excited to meet you. I found that this dynamic was very different than that of a study abroad program, where families host students due to financial reasons rather than a desire for a cultural exchange. My host family definitely had their heart in the right place and they made me feel like a part of their family from the very first day.

Also, I appreciate the transparency and organization of the English Opens Doors program. While getting our placement information seemed a bit unorganized, I think that the orientation in Santiago did a fantastic job giving us a crash-course on TEFL and teaching us about Chilean culture. Also, EOD made their teaching model very clear to us so that helped me understand their expectations (ex: taking half the class, having your own classroom, etc.). The volunteer center was also prompt to respond to emails and I felt very supported throughout the whole semester.

Of course, there were some difficulties. It was hard for me to get used to the family-centered nature of Chilean culture because I've always been very independent. Sometimes it was also challenging finding planning time with teachers or controlling a particular class. But these problems are very small in comparison to the wonderful experience that I've gained...I already miss my Chilean students and I've only been gone for a few weeks. I highly recommend this program if you are flexible, passionate about teaching, and open to new cultural experiences.

How can this program be improved?
I agree with some of the other posters that crucial information should be provided beforehand. It was a little nerve-wracking not knowing our exact placements until mid-week during our orientation in Santiago! Having so little information made my family members and friends a little worried and I think it made the program seem unorganized, even though it really wasn't. Giving the volunteers their placement information earlier can help them prepare better and pack accordingly!
Yes, I recommend this program
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You´ll never be the same again! A must have experience :)

I came across the EOD program by sheer luck. I say that because normally when you look around for programs that allow you to volunteer, they usually ask for a fee. This program does not. In fact it offers you a stipend for teaching. It might not be a huge amount but honestly you won´t need more than that as the program gives you options between staying with a host family or staying on your own. If you choose to stay alone then they give you stipend which covers your living expenses (around 2,15,000 CLP) and if you choose to stay with a host family then they pay you 60,000 CLP because you food and room are already taken care of by the family.
The best thing about the program is that everyone is super coordinated and always reachable. They try their best to make the transition of a volunteers, from their countries to the assigned region, as smooth and hassle free as possible.
When you reach Chile you are not pushed into teaching without any training. We had a week long orientation that prepared me for the task ahead. Teaching English can be a lot of fun but it is hard work too, and the orientation gets you into the right mindset for the same. I got some valuable tips and amazing lesson plans that I was able to use successfully during my service. It also allows to share your ideas and gain some amazing ones from the other volunteers. Plus I can guarantee that it´s not just work because it´s an active week and you get to actually practice with the activities that you think which helps you see if the activities would really work out or not.
I was assigned to a school in the beautiful little town of Los Muermos in the south of Chile. It was all that I imagined and much more. The kids loved having a foreigner all to themselves :). They have hundreds of questions and are super delighted to have some one answer those. I can say for sure that the kids would love you way more than you can imagine and actually put in more effort than they normally do just so that you would not be disappointed or to hear you say ¨ Excellent Job!¨ :). The teachers were lovely, helpful and super patient considering that I spoke zero Spanish when I came to Chile. The EOD team, my host family and the teachers made sure that I settled in my new environment and received all the material that I needed for my classes with in two weeks as the postal service in little towns can be pretty tricky.
My host family was like way better than I could have imagined! They were super accommodating and they made me feel at home instantly. I had a room to myself and the house was impeccable! Clean, big, warm and full of lovely people. My experience has not only equipped me with valuable knowledge about teaching English as a second language but has also made me a better teacher considering I taught kids who spoke very little English because I spoke zero Spanish.
I would recommend this program highly as it´s definitely one of it´s kind . It´s an amazing experience and definitely makes you realize that you can help and in the process you end up learning! :)

How can this program be improved?
As per me the program is perfect!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Incredible professional and personal experience

English Open Doors Program was a fantastic experience! The orientation was very comprehensive and I felt totally prepared when I arrived at my placement. I had all the tools necessary to enter the classroom and into Chilean life. I loved teaching my classes and developed strong connections with my students. Every day students were excited to come to "La clase de La Miss." We would learn vocab, have conversations, and play games. During my program, I saw my students´ English improve and their confidence increase dramatically. I felt I had made a difference and was a real part of my school and local community. I also had an incredible host family that included me as if I was their daughter. We laughed a lot together and my Spanish improved immensely. Professionally, it was valuable experience working in foreign country, and something I know stands out on my resume. Personally, I learned I lot about myself. It was a challenging, but nothing more than I could handle. Overall, it was a truly rewarding and immersive experience.

How can this program be improved?
The process for getting a visa for Chile can be a little difficult. However, if you follow their timeline and stay on top of your stuff, it isn´t hard.
Yes, I recommend this program
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EOD VS3 April-Nov 2013; Coronel, Chile

I volunteered with the English Opens Doors Program from April-November 2013. I worked at a public high school in Coronel, Chile throughout the duration of my volunteer service. I found my work to be challenging, but I really enjoyed my time there and found the experience very rewarding. The teachers and students were extremely warm and welcoming. Staff members seemed to support my work at the high school as well as the mission of the EODP.

During the orientation, we had been forewarned of some of the difficulties we would face, but I'm not sure I was fully prepared for some of the challenges I encountered in my work. I had to learn how to become more flexible and more patient. One thing I was not prepared for was the temperature inside of the school building. I come from Chicago where we've seen experienced some extremely harsh winters, but our heating systems make those winters bearable. Even though the winters are much milder in Coronel, I had a difficult time staying warm with a winter jacket and multiple layers of clothing.

My high school was often described as "vulnerable" or "complicated". At the beginning of my experience, I was overwhelmed and frustrated, because I felt that the students' environments--both at home and at school--impeded them from learning. I was rarely able to complete the lesson that I had so carefully developed. I was finally able to make progress with my students when I changed my attitude. The environment wasn't perfect, but I had to accept that I was not going to be able to make deep, systemic changes to the school or education system in the little time that I would spend there. I think that the English Opens Doors Program has amazing potential to do great work in schools like mine. The students who were motivated to learn English had the advantage of being able to learn from and practice with a native speaker. The students who were not as motivated to learn were able to participate in a cultural exchange. Many of my students had never met another foreigner and had never thought about travelling. It was profound to see these students' horizons expand past Coronel during our interactions.

For the first three months of the program, I was living with a family in the same town where I worked. Although the people in Coronel were very nice, I had a difficult time adjusting, because I lived in a neighborhood that was far from any sort of commercial or entertainment district. I was not within walking distance of downtown Coronel or even my high school and the buses stop around 11PM. Because of those factors, it was hard to find things to do and difficult to meet potential friends. I met most of my friends through my guide teacher, but the majority of them lived in Lota, a town further west of Coronel. I was living with a host family, but did not feel welcome in their home and struggled to connect with them. When I finally decided that my living situation was not the best fit for me, I moved to an apartment in Concepcion, the nearest big city. Even though I had a much longer bus ride to school, I preferred the longer commute to my living situation with the family in Coronel. I felt much less lonely and enjoyed the environment of a thriving city like Concepcion.

The English Opens Doors Program has opened a lot of doors for me. During my experience, I was able to build skills that I will draw from throughout my entire professional career. Chile has left a lasting impression on my heart. I was able to build so many beautiful and meaningful relationships that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life. I would absolutely recommend this program.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing about the program, I would change the fact that we find out such crucial information about our placement so late. The program discloses your region to you less than two weeks before your departure to Chile. While knowing the region is helpful, there is a lot of variation within each region. Even within the region where I was placed, I could have been in the mountains or near the beach, in an urban area or in the middle of nowhere. We are told the name of our town and school, and given information about our host family and guide teachers mere days before we go to live in these places. I think I could have had a more positive experience from the beginning and been better prepared had I known these important details well before I left the United States.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Best decision ever!

This program was a wonderful experience! I was placed in the Los Lagos region of Chile, which is in the South and what I listed as my first preference on the application. My host family was wonderful. They were some of the most kind people I've ever met and very welcoming.

The teachers I worked with were nice and the school I was placed at had great kids. It's a unique, challenging and fun experience overall. It won't all be easy and there will be times where you feel a little lost or lonely, but if you keep working at it and expect the unexpected, you will have a good experience.

Orientation: As someone without a teaching background, the program had very useful examples of teaching techniques and gave us a day to plan a lesson. I definitely used the ideas from orientation in my day to day teaching.

Be prepared to jump right into the program at orientation. This isn't a study abroad program, it's a job with the benefit of being in Chile and experiencing a whole new way of living. I think the program tries to make that clear at orientation. As with most orientations, there is a lot of administrative talk that repeats what you will read in the informational packets you must read before coming to Chile. I can definitely see why it's necessary for the program to repeat key points, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

You won't find out your exact location until right before you leave, on the last day of orientation. This is not a joke, you really won't know until right before you leave. It will be noon on the day you are supposed to leave and you will still need to find out where you are going. If you go in expecting this, you will be okay. In the online materials for the program, they state that you will find out your placement during orientation in Santiago, what they really mean is you should expect to find out your placement almost right before placing you on a bus or plane to go to your placement, at the end of orientation.

Packing: It was extremely hard to pack for this given the uncertainty of locations. When in doubt, bring layers. I found that Chile has a ton of re-sale shops with American style clothing so don't worry too much about it and leave a little cash aside to buy clothes appropriate to the location when you arrive. There are a few clothing items I definitely would have brought with me if I knew my exact location but I figured it out.

One key to remember is that Chile does not have central heating, it will be cold if you are in a southern region. It's completely normal, and expected, to wear a winter jacket indoors during the school day. If you preference a southern region, bring a comfortable winter jacket and rain coat to wear all the time.

Cell Phones: I think the program requires you to get a cell phone before you go to your placement. BUT, this did not work out well for me since my phone barely worked in the city I ended up in. Much like the USA, Chile has a few different major phone carriers and their service varies greatly depending on location. If possible, wait to buy a phone until you get to your placement or just get the cheapest one possible with the least minutes you can to start.

Program Staff: I loved my regional coordinators. They were really amazing and helpful. I think they really cared about what they do and want to make sure the volunteers are doing well. Definitely reach out right away if you have any questions or problems. If you have a major issue and can't get help from your regional coordinator, reach out to the Santiago staff because they want to help too. The key is not to let any problems fester too long before reaching out for help. I knew of some people who left the program early and it seemed like a lot of it had to do with host family issues. It is definitely important that you have a decent host family and safe/livable place to stay. You can't expect any perfection from your experience, but, reach out to staff if you have any issues, they might be able to make your situation better.

Host family: My host family was really sweet and amazing. My host mom made wonderful food and I bought a few things to eat I personally liked on my own each week. Be prepared to eat lots of bread, butter, and potatoes and supplement your own food if you have picky preferences.

I felt really lucky because my host family had a beautiful house, with an ocean view, in a nice neighborhood, with wifi, cable and a dryer! At the same time, like almost all Chilean houses, the only heating was through the fire place/stove thing and it was very cold at night and when it stormed the fire would go out. I learned to sleep with 5 thick blankets and my coat on when I needed to.

I ate lunch with my host family every day since it was a short walk from school. They only spoke Spanish and living with them was the main way I improved my Spanish during my time there. It took a lot of adjusting to get used to the Chilean accent and trying to communicate all the time in Spanish. My host family was very understanding with my bad American accent and tried really well to include me in their lives.

School: I was placed in a semi-private school and my students were very nice and fun to see every day.

Most of the kids weren't super interested in English but I think they thought I was kind of entertaining as the strange foreign girl who tries to make them play games and speak in English. My 5th grade class was a challenge because they were literally jumping around the whole time and trying to hit each other with various objects. I tried to integrate really active English games to use the energy they had but I couldn't quite figure out how best to work with that one group.

I had the opportunity to coach the English Debate team for competitions and I made a great connection with those students. While one of the keys to enjoying this program is being "open minded" and "flexible", it's also important to hold on to the qualities that work for you. In the case of coaching the debate team, I really had to push (in a polite, professional way) to get time to work with my debate team. The kids had "free" periods when theoretically they could work on the English Debate, but, the school and students put a big priority on events and other activities and would usually assume the kids didn't need much time to prepare for the debate. I ended up working out times for my debate team to practice and we went on to win the regional competition. My kids had a great time and loved the debates and my school was very happy, after we started winning. I guess knowing the difference between being "flexible" and a push-over is important in this, as in any, experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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EDOP April - July 2013

I would definitely start any review of my time in Chile by saying that I had a FANTASTIC time!! I was placed in Los Andes, which about an hour North of Santiago. I found the experience to be the most incredible, life-changing thing I have ever done, no matter how corny that sounds, and although it was certainly a challenge, I will be forever glad that I embarked on it. I feel I have made friends and connections on the other side of the world that I will treasure forever.

One important thing I will say is this: every volunteer experience on this programme is different. There are so many factors that can affect your time in Chile (the school, co-teacher, family, location etc). I think that most people might have a mix of positive and negative elements, for example a good time in school and not such a great family time, or vice-versa. No one I knew had a really terrible time. I had an overall very positive experience, so I guess I was lucky.

The main thing I would therefore say about the programme is that you have to be flexible and go in with an open mind!! It really isn't for closed minded or fussy people!! I met some people on orientation week who were nervous because they were worried about living with a host family - they shouldn't have been doing the programme if those were their fears. A lot of the reviews point out that you often don't find out your placement city until a few days before you leave to go there - true, but if you are chilled and happy to go with the flow, there really isn't any genuine problem with this!! I didn't know ANYTHING about my family or my town on the day I left Santiago. I was dead nervous, but ready to head off into what I saw as the biggest adventure of my life.

My town was very quiet. There was not a huge amount to do, and as I am from London, I initially found this very hard. But by the end of it I really had fallen in love, and had learned to see the beauty of where I was (right in the foothills of the Andes). I had a few weekends where I could travel and see other more touristy parts of the country. I also threw myself into town life and took up Arab Dance classes in the local community centre. I made friends with some of the teachers from school and we did quite a lot together on the weekends. I hadn't come to Chile to party and go out all the time - obviously that helped to make me feel at home, but I didn't need it in order to make my time there better.

My family life was also very quiet, as it was just one couple and the husband worked and studied in Santiago so he wasn't around much during the week. I come from a big, loud family so initially also found this hard, but by the end we had definitely made our own special bond, and we are still in email contact (if fairly irregularly!)

I would say that it is important to have a decent level of Spanish before you come out - it's not very suitable for beginners to be living with a family, as you have to have the basics before you can start speaking conversationally. I had a pretty good level and found that it enabled me to have much deeper and more meaningful relationships with the people I met - I also learnt a huge amount and improved massively as immersion really is the best way to learn another language!

My school was good so I was lucky, and my kids were amazing. Leaving was very hard and I am still in touch with many of them. I was supported and looked after by my co-teacher, who was incredible, and will be a good friend of mine for life.

I met so many other volunteers as well, many of whom I still see and keep in contact with. The beauty of the programme, which makes it fairly unique, is that you are part of a huge network of contacts and volunteers throughout the length and breadth of the country. We had a facebook group and every weekend people would post their travel plans and ask if there was anyone placed in their destination city, or if anyone wanted to travel with them. I went to San Pedro de Atacama with a group of about 8 other volunteers, all of who I had met in orientation, and I had another volunteer who I had met in the winter camp stay with me and my family for the weekend. You do feel like there are plenty of others to contact for advice, tips, or even just travel recommendations.

Chile is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I would recommend the English Opens Doors Programme, although only to someone I knew with an easy going and open minded nature, as I am aware that I had a slightly atypically positive experience. For me it was a very powerful thing to move to another country and immerse myself in another country, and sometimes by being pushed and thrown out of your comfort zone, that is how you learn most about yourself.

Response from English Opens Doors

Although she describes it as "atypical", we think this former volunteer's experience is very representative of the majority of EODP volunteers. Having a positive and flexible attitude will go a long way towards having a positive experience.

In 2013, we had a 13% dropout rate, with 83% of the dropouts leaving for personal reasons unrelated to the program (financial issues, personal health, family emergencies). Of those who completed their service, 100% responded in their final survey that their time with EODP was a positive experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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A risk but most likely worthwhile

The most important thing to know is that the program is a gamble. For me, it was an amazing experience and for most of the people I know, it was positive overall. However, there are the odd horror stories. Given the nature of the schools you are teaching in, kids,teachers, etc. can be extremely difficult.

If one of your main goals is to learn Spanish, then EOD ticks the box. There's an online Spanish course that you can do as part of the program. But much more helpful than this is the fact that you live with a Chilean family, so you will definitely be speaking Spanish every day. Having said that, if you don't know any Spanish, you will be pretty lost for the first couple of months and will have no idea what people are trying to say to you (Chileans speak particularly difficult Spanish).

I had a really cool host family. They were really sweet, made great food, introduced me to their friends and generally I loved hanging out with them. But I can imagine that it could be a intense living with a family that you don't get on with - basically like having parents you hate.

Undoubtedly the best part of this program will be your students. Most of the lessons these kids have a ridiculously boring and basically rote learning. So they love the fact that they can have a fun lesson with games, music, etc. Obviously there will be some kids who couldn't care less and a few who will try to disrupt your lessons. But it's incredibly rewarding when you get through to some of them. There should be low expectations on the degree to which you can improve their standard of English given the time constraints but making any kind of impact is great. You can make much more of a difference with kids who are keen to learn and participate in Public Speaking and Debate competitions.

Finally, choose wisely when you opt for location preferences and prepare to be very adaptable. Chile is geographically very diverse. The South gets freezing in the winter, whereas the North is a desert and obviously your experience will be very different depending on whether you're placed in a tiny, rural village or in Santiago.

Overall, as I said, being an EOD volunteer a risk, but chances are you won't regret doing it.

How can this program be improved?
My major problem was with communication from the Central Office, specifically the information volunteers are given. Before coming to Chile, you are basically only told the region in which you will be working. Details about your city, host family, address and school are given to you at the end of the training week in Santiago, literally one day before you leave. To me, this seems completely unnecessary and pretty ridiculous. I'm yet to hear a decent explanation for it by the program. But if you're alright with this kind of uncertainty, it won't be a problem for you.
Response from English Opens Doors

We appreciate the honesty displayed by this former volunteer.

We do hope that former, present, and future volunteers understand that we cannot guarantee a perfect town, school, and host family for each volunteer. However, each year we work to improve our protocols so that our volunteers have positive experiences. In the final surveys from 2012 and 2013, 98% of volunteers say that they had a positive experience.

It is important to know that a representative of the program does visit every host family and approves them to host a volunteer. In addition, schools must comply with strict requirements in order to be eligible for a volunteer. Head teachers must be certified with a certain level of English.

In the end, our program is focused not necessarily on the volunteer experience, but whether or not the students are receiving a benefit from having a volunteer work in their school.

To respond to this volunteer's criticism, we clearly and consistently tell volunteers about the timeline in which they will learn about their placements. All volunteers receive their placement regions 2 weeks before the program starts, so that they can pack appropriately. All volunteers receive their specific placements during orientation week. Among other factors, this is due to the complicated nature of matching host families and schools with volunteers, and the inevitability of last minute changes (both from schools, families, and volunteers who drop out or are dismissed during orientation).

Truthfully, knowing one's specific placement earlier than during orientation week is completely unnecessary, and will not change any part of the pre-departure process for the volunteer. Those volunteers who are negatively affected by the timeline may not be flexible enough for volunteering with our program.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My thoughts about volunteering with EOD in Antofagasta

My experience with English Opens Doors (EOD) has been great. I jumped at the opportunity to come here and I didn't do much research about the country before hand, and upon arrival I heard quite a few negative stories, which began to worry me a bit.

However, having experienced it myself now, I couldn't be happier. The training we received in Santiago, gave me the confidence and tools I needed to teach. My regional representative always responds to my E-mails within a day or two (as well as the National Volunteer Center). My host family situation, is better than ideal; I feel very safe and comfortable, we couldn't be more different in the types of things that we like to do and eat but we get on very well and I really enjoy their company. The school I volunteer at is great. The teacher, staff and students are all very welcoming; they always greet me and make sure I feel comfortable. The students enjoy learning English and are very attentive!

How can this program be improved?
I think it would be very helpful if the program had some contingency plans in place or suggestions for schools and volunteers.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I had a great experience, but others didn't

Personally I had a pretty good experience with the EOD program. My host mother was a warm person, great cook and provided me with everything I needed. She introduced me to her family and friends and made me feel welcome. I should say she didn't have internet though. But, there were internet cafes in my town and my school had internet.

I taught in a public elementary school, 5th - 8th grade. I've never taught before and had very little training. The program provides you with 1 week of training before you head out to your school. Needless to say this part was a challenge for me. Chilean students are known for being difficult to manage in class and my kids could be pretty disrespectful at times. English is not a subject that is focused on heavily in public schools. Example: my students would have 6 hrs each of math and language a week but only 2 hrs of English. It could be hard to motivate them. Definitely be firm at first. I made the mistake of trying to friend them right away and it was tough to regain control of the class many times. That said, they could be lots of fun, they're kids afterall. They're very competitive and love playing games. Bring stickers, they love them. Maybe buy some candy from time to time as well, they love that stuff. The kids were very warm and affectionate. In some ways they'll treat you like a celebrity. Always asking you questions and coming up to say hi and give you a hug. I will miss them. Just lower your expectations of what they will learn with you.

Overall, I had a pretty good experience. I heard about some volunteers who had host families that would take them out traveling and give them the family car to drive and others who had host families that wouldn't even feed them. Some volunteers taught in nice private schools where students knew a good amount of English and were more disciplined and others taught public schools in rough areas where the police would show up on a regular basis. I always got paid on time, but others didn't. Note: Save up some money before you come down, don't depend on the program money.

Because this program is a gamble I would not recommend it to a friend. I'd feel terrible if a buddy of mine didn't get fed and wasn't appreciated at his school. However, from all the volunteers I talked to, I'd say at least 60% had a solid experience. Most volunteers had a decent host family and decent situation in school. Maybe 20% had it real rough, but even then not all of them quit the program.

Response from English Opens Doors

To respond to this review's point about payments:

We state repeatedly and clearly that the volunteer allowance is not a salary, and not meant to be used to live off of. Rather, it is meant to reimburse you for any teaching related costs you incur (for example, if you take a local bus to school).

In addition, as it is paid through the UN Development Program, we do not have direct control over the payments. Instead, we coordinate with them according to their payment schedule. In 2012, volunteer allowances were divided into regular payments that came about every 2 months, depending on when volunteers started. For example, X volunteers were paid in August and Y were paid in September. The amount differed according to the total number of days in their specific programs. Often, volunteers talked amongst themselves and determined that their payments were wrong or late, and never asked us directly about their specific case.

For 2013, volunteers will arrive in Chile with their temporary residence visa already in hand. That means that they will receive their Chilean ID card within about a month of arriving. This will facilitate payments greatly.

No, I don't recommend this program
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Mixed reviews...

I should begin by saying that I was one of the lucky volunteers who ended up with a great host family, a nice house, and a decent school. However, the program was so, so disorganized, and I heard so many horror stories from friends in the program, that I don't know that I could recommend it to anyone.

A few examples of the disorganization of the program that I experienced.
- They don't tell you what city you're going to until the middle of orientation week in Santiago.

- My host family didn't know I was coming until the day before I arrived. I didn't know anything about them until I met them at the airport. Luckily, they were great, but many volunteers did not have a good experience.

- My first co-teacher was not prepared for me and did not communicate with me. This seemed to be common among the volunteer I knew. He often threw me in front of the class without warning or preparation and sat in the back of the class making noise and contributing to the mayhem in the classroom. I was able to switch to a second co-teacher who was much more organized, welcomed my help, and from then on, I enjoyed my time in the school.

- The 60.000/month is almost nothing, and generally arrives at random times. If you want to go out, buy anything, travel, or do anything extra, this will not get you very far. If you are placed in the northern part of the country, there's really nothing nearby, so traveling involves a long bus ride or a flight. Be prepared with a lot of savings if you want to be able to fully enjoy your time. Also, with all the disorganizaton, the potential issues, having to insert yourself in a school, etc., they really should be paying you more.

I decided to leave the program early because I wanted to work and earn some money. The office in Santiago did not respond positively to this news.

If you're really brave, super flexible, have a lot of savings, good luck and a back-up plan, this program might be a good way to try living in Chile. But, I'd recommend starting with the shortest volunteer service and extending if you're having a good experience. Be prepared to face a lot of challenges!

Response from English Opens Doors

To respond to this review's point about disorganization:

We state repeatedly and clearly the timeframe through which you receive information about your placement.

In 2013, we will be working on helping volunteers become more proactive in working with their head teachers. Schools and teachers who successfully apply to receive a volunteer have committed to certain criteria, are given a manual describing the program, and attend a regional orientation. However, it is still up to the volunteer to have an effective relationship with their head teacher.

Despite the challenges that volunteers might face, we ask that in a situation such as the one described by this reviewer, volunteers fulfill their stated commitment to their school and students. This reviewer had a positive experience and situation, but still dropped out early. When this happens, the students and school are left without the resource that they are promised for the remainder of the semester. In addition, the investment made in the volunteer by Chilean taxpayers goes to waste.

To respond to this review's point about payments:

We state repeatedly and clearly that the volunteer allowance is not a salary, and not meant to be used to live off of. Rather, it is meant to reimburse you for any teaching related costs you incur (for example, if you take a local bus to school).

In addition, as it is paid through the UN Development Program, we do not have direct control over the payments. Instead, we coordinate with them according to their payment schedule. In 2012, volunteer allowances were divided into regular payments that came about every 2 months, depending on when volunteers started. For example, X volunteers were paid in August and Y were paid in September. The amount differed according to the total number of days in their specific programs. Often, volunteers talked amongst themselves and determined that their payments were wrong or late, and never asked us directly about their specific case.

For 2013, volunteers will arrive in Chile with their temporary residence visa already in hand. That means that they will receive their Chilean ID card within about a month of arriving. This will facilitate payments greatly.

No, I don't recommend this program


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About English Opens Doors

The English Opens Doors Program is a English education initiative developed by the Chilean Ministry of Education, and is supported by the United Nations. It was established in 2003, and has since flourished. The Chilean Ministry seeks to advance the...