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English Opens Doors/Teaching - funds/location/reources?

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Joined: 09 Jul 2013
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Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:42 am    Post subject: English Opens Doors/Teaching - funds/location/reources? Reply with quote


I am applying to English Opens Doors for 2014 from March 14th until July 27th. However, I am not entirely sure how much money I should plan on bringing with me. I would be living with a host family, so I figured I wouldn't need to bring a crazy amount, but I would like to travel around Chile a bit in my free time (go to some wineries/visit some national parks, go out occasionally for dinner, etc ... ). From everyone's experience, what would be a reasonable amount to bring? I was going to bring around $2500 with me ... does that sound sufficient? How far could that get me? Sorry if that seems a bit vague/ignorant.

I have also been looking into the popular (at least from what I can tell) cities for teaching English in Chile. I like the idea of living in southern Chile, like Puerto Montt or even Punta Arenas. I'd appreciate hearing anyone's experiences living or traveling in these places (especially your opinion of what it's like to live in the south in the winter months). If anyone knows of any good blogs, resources, and/or especially where I can see PICTURES from these areas, let me know! I've been on flickr and google images but most of these pictures are a bit artsy/scenic ... I guess I want to get a look at what daily life would look like, not just the most photogenic/touristy locations.

I was also toying with the idea of trying to find employment teaching English in Chile after the volunteer program ends (I will have my CELTA before I leave to volunteer) - if anyone has actually found employment after volunteering there I'd appreciate any advice you can think to give. Very Happy

I know that's a lot, but if you can answer any part of my post I'd appreciate it.

- Lori
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:28 pm    Post subject: Follow up Reply with quote

Just a follow up - I am actually in Valdivia right now for EOD, so if anyone does ever have any questions about the program, please feel free to send me a message!
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:15 pm    Post subject: Email Conversation Reply with quote

Someone emailed me about my experience a few days ago and generally, I think the information might be helpful to some, so I am just going to post it here too:

I read your post about the English Open Doors program (which no-one replied to!) and see that, according to your message, you should be there now. Is that right? If so how is it? where did you end up?

Yes, I am actually in Valdivia right now working for English Opens Doors/ a school called Inmaculada Concepción. Generally everything has been really smooth. The program changes every year and last year it was shut down (something to do with the funding managed by the U.N. and the Chilean government) but the program reopened this year. Right now only a few (not sure of the numbers but around 60 I'd say? Maybe less) volunteers were accepted for the first half of the school year in 2014. In previous years it sounds like they've accepted between 100-200 volunteers.

Because the program is under scrutiny (as in, "someone" in the government/funders/etc are trying to measure the success of volunteer teachers) all of the volunteers have been put in relatively "good" schools for this year. Previously volunteers were placed all over, even in places with very limited resources, and more rural areas. That's not to say volunteers aren't in "rural" areas - two of my friends are in Río Bueno, and in La Union. These are really small towns, but the school still has many resources, and the student's behavior and level of English are higher this year than in the past. As I've been informed, this is so that there is more of an even distribution, because the students we work with will be tested later to see if the volunteers have made a difference in English comprehension/speaking abilities. To be honest the study doesn't sound very organized right now.

I just finished my first week of teaching, and I can tell you that the children at my school are very well behaved, for the most part. I work with a variety of ages (from about 11 to 16). The older children are fantastic! The 7th graders are a little more difficult to work with. The way the classes are set up, at least in my school, teachers teach for 90 minutes with one class. During this time, I take one half of the class for the first 45 minutes, then the second half. Class sizes, even at better schools are around 40 students, so splitting the class up really improves learning and classroom management for both me, and the teacher I am working with. I teach about 20 students at a time, and I teach completely by myself - so I come up with my own lessons. The program requires I teach 24 pedagogical hours a week (that's 24 45 minute classes) and I also have to have 4 hours of after-school activities, one of which has to be a debate team. Actually I haven't started these activities yet because it takes a while to get organized and into a routine with the school, and to coordinate a schedule with several English teachers.

Anyway, if you have any other questions let me know! I'd be happy to help. I also have a blog (although right now it is mostly about my personal experience with my host family - which has been nothing but fantastic!). This is the link in case you are interested:

I'd recommend the program right now to anyone, although from what I've heard, in the past it has been kind of hit or miss. But for the next three years, with this study, it sounds like volunteers will be placed into nicer schools. Also, if you had any questions about a specific region/experience in one region, I can put you in touch with one of the other volunteers I've met!

My situation is that I have previously taught in Madrid, and more recently in Hong Kong. I got a bit fed up with teaching, and wanted to work on developing a career in a new direction. I came back to England 6 months ago and sent out a load of applications, finally securing a place on a summer internship programme here with a big Energy Company - this hopefully will lead to a job offer, but the position may not start till Sept 2015. If that's the case, I will have 12 months to do what I want, which is why I ended up finding out about EOD Smile .

I've never been to S America and it's really high up my list. This scheme sounds like a really great opportunity because it would allow us to settle there and then travel a bit after wards. I find when travelling you meet some people who are able to go backpacking somewhere for 2-3 months which is great for them, but in order to do that you have to have a lot of savings and/or a job lined up back home, or a skill set that allows you to return home and easily slip back into a job! I really like settling into a country and learning about it and the culture, the people and the language which you don't really get on a whistle stop tour.

I have read a bit about the English Opens Doors program from people who have done it previously, and like most things you get people who say good and bad things. To be honest I find with Teaching English Abroad there are always people who are unlucky with their jobs or simply aren't cut out for living abroad and experiencing, and enjoying, a foreign culture. You kind of wonder why they bothered leaving home in the first place because they clearly weren't going to enjoy it! Like you say, the majority of people said EOD was a fantastic thing to do.

Anyway sounds like you're having a wicked time. It's interesting they have changed it/improved it for this year; I hadn't realised the scheme had shut down last year. I did have a couple more questions for you btw:

In terms of money, how are you coping? I dunno how much I will be able to save up before going - I'm assuming the cost of your airplane ticket isn't covered by the scheme? What's the cost of things in general, I mean you get about $100 a month right - does that cover going out and doing cool things at the weekend? (I have never been to S America so have no idea of the cost of things!)

How long does your contract last - do you sign up for 4 or 6 months? Did you express a preference for Valdivia? and do you have friends nearby? I read that someone previously had to take a 3 hour bus journey to the nearest town; that sounds pretty remote!

This is really long, so take your time, but I think it'll be helpful.

My budget here is $3,500 (so far I haven’t really spent any of it!). That doesn’t include the plane ticket to and from Santiago though, so all in all you can add another $1,700 (Yes, it was not covered by EOD). Chile is mixed. It’s actually quite expensive, but not to travel necessarily. If you want to travel outside of Chile it might be expensive depending on where you are placed. When the program ends, you can either choose to stay in your location, or EOD will pay to get you back to Santiago, which might help you if you are planning on taking a flight to Peru for instance. Some of the other volunteers actually flew into Peru for a while, then into Santiago, which didn’t seem to complicate anything with their Visas. It seems like a plane ticket from Lima to Santiago would cost around $1000 though. If that’s your thing, maybe it’s worth it.

(One thing about the Temporary Resident Visa you would be applying for – All of us applied for the full year, but were only granted the duration of the program, so around 140 days in Chile. Kind of shitty, but it isn’t such a big deal, because once it expires, if you still want to travel within Chile you can stop over in Argentina for a bit, then come back on a 30 day tourist visa, etc. )
In terms of traveling within Chile, it’s pretty cheap and most people travel by bus. The buses are actually incredibly nice, and the seats almost always recline far back, and have an adjustable footrest, and if you want to splurge, or are going from Santiago to a really northern city (which might be a 20 hour bus ride) you can get a seat that turns into a bed. Kind of like first class on an airplane, or something like that. However, if you want to go to southern Chile, (anything past Puerto Montt) you’ll probably need to purchase a plane ticket, which can get expensive. Here are some prices I’ve been looking into myself (CLP exchange rate is about 550 CLP per US dollar on the low end, and 570 on the high end):
Compare Plane Tickets:
Compare Bus Tickets in Chile:

Bus ride from Valdivia to Santiago (one way) $ 8.100, $17.100, $25.800 (CLP)
Bus ride Valdivia to Puerto Montt (one way) $ 5.000, $6.800 (CLP)
Bus ride Valdivia to Rancagua (one way) $ 14.200, $ 22.500 (CLP)
Bus ride Santiago to Antofagasta (one way) $ 18.900, $ 29.800, $ 66.300 (CLP)
Bus ride Santiago to Valparaiso (one way) $ 2.200 2.800 (CLP)
Flight from Santiago to Iquique (One Way) 477 US $
Flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas (One Way) 543 US $
Flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas (One Way) 543 US $
Round Trip from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas 1000 US $ give or take
flight from Santiago to Easter island round trip 605 US $
Flight from Lima Peru to Santiago (One Way) US$ 1.092

I signed up for basically a 4 -5 month contract. You can “rank” your preferences. There are two (or three) “rankings” you/they consider. 1. Urban/suburban/rural 2. North/Central/South 3. Special preference – aka you are very allergic to dogs, and can’t live with a host family who owns one. Or you express a certain religion, or gender identity and strongly prefer to be placed with a family base on their understanding of your particular belief/situation. The directors do try to place you in your preference. Obviously though the regions are enormous so your idea of “south” might be punta arenas (at the southern tip) and get placed in Valdivia, which is obviously much much farther north within the south. Personally, I’m extremely happy with my placement, and it’s almost exactly what I wanted, because I requested to be put in the south as my top preference, then in a city. If you request rural, you’ll definitely get it, though! Generally there are hardly any positions in the central region of Chile, and especially not in "top choice" areas like Valpo, Viña del Mar, Santiago, etc.

When you hear about 3 hour bus rides, I think it's important to understand that Chile is really still developing, so their “cities” aren’t like New York or London for instance. Valdivia only has about 140,934 people. London would be 8.17 mil, Chicago (which I’m used to) is 2.715 mil…. Santiago is big. It’s about 6 mil, but in general, most “cities” aren’t going to get much over 200,000. So you might need to adjust your idea of what a city and what someplace remote means in the context of Chile. A 2 or 3 hour bus ride is nothing, really. My bus ride from Santiago to Valdivia was maybe 10-11 hours (?). It's a huge, sprawling country. Taking a bus here is super easy, very common, very comfortable, and actually pretty cheap. I have friends about an hour or 2 bus ride away in Rio Bueno (pop 32,627) and La Union (pop 39,447). Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to living in such small towns. I think there is less to do, but Chile is great because everything is so unique here. All the restaurants and bars are different, there are hardly any chains, (although of course, McDonalds is ubiquitous so you can always run into one of those). And there are a lot of outdoor activities, or the potential for them no matter where you are.

My money is going to go far, because I am mostly interested in traveling within Chile, and a bit in Argentina. For now, I really just want to get to know the country I’m staying in, and might look for an actual teaching job after my contract is up. I’d say the monthly stipend is pretty…minimal. Some people are able to walk to their school every day but I live kind of far from mine, so I need to take a bus (micro) to my school. It’s super cheep, less than 1 US dollar to ride, but if I do it 2 times a day for a month, it adds up and sucks up about half of the monthly stipend. And the rest probably goes toward eating out with friends, or doing something on the weekend, or buying a prize for the kids at school. I wouldn’t count on it at all, except to honestly cover the expenses necessary for your job. I mean, if you can walk to school, then obviously you can depend on a bit more. But I can’t. Really though, there aren’t too many expenses once you get to your placement (and the travel from Santiago to your placement is paid for) because the host families are super great about feeding you and taking care of you. Families eat lunch together here every day at around 2 until 3 or so. And I’m a vegetarian, and my family has been extremely accommodating.

Also, you basically get a free week in Santiago once you fly in. On Monday at the orientation (which you, having teaching experience, will find incredibly boring and like a huge waste of time, but just play along) get food vouchers, which are accepted at most restaurants, and the hotel/hostel is paid for. Although you’ll likely be sharing a room with several other people for that week. It kind of helps you get to know other volunteers, which is good, because then you can travel to see them, and stay with them. Most host families actually welcome other volunteers, so if you want to travel on the weekends, you can save money that way, too!

The week you are in Santiago, you can easily take an hour or so bus ride to Valparaiso one day/weekend if you come early. I wish I had done it!
Also, at the end of the program we do winter camps, which may give you an opportunity to have some more free travel. The camps are about 2 weeks long and you may get to go to two different cities (obviously paid for) depending on where you are placed. I think one of my camps IS in Valdivia, so too bad for me, but good for the other volunteers in my region.
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