Chile is the westernmost country in South America. Virtually spanning the entire continent, from the northern border with Bolivia and Ecuador to the lowest point near Antarctica, any international teacher is bound to find the teaching job they’ve been searching for in rural Chile. Since the government made learning English a top priority, teaching opportunities have opened up on a grandiose scale, so it’s just a matter of finding the specific teaching placement that suits you. When you arrive, prepare to meet friendly locals who are de piel (aka very touchy-feely); if you’re an approachable, hug-loving (who isn’t?), people person, rural Chile is the place for you to teach English abroad.
Teaching in rural areas of Chile will take research (so you’re off to a good start reading this article). But, there are many far-flung schools and towns to discover outside of Chile’s beaten path. Skip Valparaiso and Santiago in lieu of a more traditional view of Chilean lifestyle and the beauty of the countryside.
Zona Centro Sur (Central South Zone) is a valley between the Chilean Coast Range and the Andes. Its capital and largest city, Concepción, is known as "the university city" thanks to the numerous universities present there. The climate is dry, but its proximity to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean make for year-round mild temperatures. Are you ready to rock n’ roll when you’re not preparing your next ESL lesson? You’re in luck. Concepción is one of Chile’s most active music cities, with many famous Chilean rock groups starting their garage bands here.
Araucanía Region is one of Chile's 15 first order administrative regions. Its capital and largest city is Temuco, which is home to The Ñielol Hill. This hill is special in Chilean cultural history, as it represents the original forest of the whole southern Chile area as it was before the Spanish people colonised it. The region as a whole focuses heavily on agriculture, gaining the nickname "granary of Chile". Curly-haired teachers be warned: the weather in this region can be quite humid.
Los Ríos Region lies in the southern temperate zone and in a tectonically active milieu. Its largest city, Valdivia, is located at the confluence of the Calle-Calle, Valdivia, and Cau-Cau Rivers. In 1960, the region was severely damaged by the Great Chilean earthquake (the most powerful earthquake ever recorded at a magnitude 9.5). But don’t worry, earthquakes will be the last thing on your mind as you try to brainstorm new ways to explain past-participles to your Chilean students.
Teaching Jobs in Chile
Chile is a country still coming out of years of dictatorship and terror, but don’t think they aren’t aware of the ways required to move forward. There are a vast array of language programs, governmental and external, aimed at bringing English language skills to Chile, and thus, there are no shortage of English teaching jobs at any level (especially for those who have TEFL certification).
Whilst TEFL certification is widely recognized and appreciated, it isn’t always required to teach in rural Chile (whereas a good attitude and obvious/demonstrated commitment to children and the job is infinitely valuable!). Having a degree in a related area is even better than teaching certification. If you want to work officially as a teacher in rural Chile, there are ways of “converting” your degree into a Chilean one too.
There is a government-run program that places volunteers with host families, and trains them to teach at municipal schools, some in rural areas, for a stipend. Most teaching programs in Chile aren’t free; however, they will give you the opportunity to teach in the rural areas of Chile. While you may pay for this type of teaching job in Chile, it’s nice to use a trusted provider versus doing all the legwork to contact schools in the Chilean boonies on your own.
There are 13 public holidays in Chile, and they are pretty concentrated on the latter side of the Western summer. Be prepared, to work la jornada completa (a full day) by the most extensive notion of the word, or a minimum of six hours a day. Don’t count on “overtime” unless clearly offered. Formal teachers may work incessantly, but still only from March to December, and have January and February completely OFF (and, in some cases, paid).
Salary & Costs
Teachers are not generally well-paid in Chile, especially in rural areas, making an average of CLP 350,000 or CLP 450,000 per month, or $500. However, English teaching jobs in rural Chile typically pay a bit better, with some providing up to and over CLP 25,000 per hour.
Thankfully, regardless of your salary, Chile is not an expensive place to live and you can generally live well on CLP 100,000 a week. Transport is particularly cheap, country-wide and even to other countries in South America, and the quality is excellent, whether you grab the next collectivo (a taxi that takes anyone that will fit, going in the same direction) or a bus, which are reliable and extremely comfortable. The metro, or subway, is equally efficient, but do get a metrocard, as soon as possible, to decrease costs.
Clothes are expensive in Chile, unless you buy them from the tiendas off the street (perfectly acceptable). A weekly supermarket run won’t cost much more than CLP 10,000 or 15,000, and a beer will be around CLP 1,200 at the liquor shop around the corner, but twice that at a pub. A meal at a restaurant won’t be much more than CLP 2,000.
Accommodation & Visas
Chilean authorities operate on an impressively bureaucratic scale, so it is important to ensure that you are up-to-date on every requirement for your visa. The initial visa process may take a long time (a minimum of a month). In order to do it well and ONCE, carefully read all of the requirements and equip yourself with a copy of every document before applying. Contact a Chilean embassy or consulate if you feel confused at any stage, and they will be happy to help in any way they can.
Once you arrive at your stated destination, you will be required to register at the PDI (Chilean FBI). If you intend to stay longer than three months, you should proceed to the local Registro Civil, to obtain your Carnet, or National Identification Card, with your especially allocated number on it, called a RUT or a RUN. You will frequently be required to quote this. These processes are unexpectedly easy and straightforward, and everyone is happy to help, so please never hesitate to ask for assistance, even in the most broken up Spanish.
Rent is the most pressing cost and, because it is pricey, most Chileans count on apartment-sharing. While teaching in rural areas, finding a place to live may be more difficult, especially if you have not enquired previously; however, word-of-mouth is an excellent way to find somewhere to settle.
Independent of a pre-paid program, count on spending a minimum of CLP 200,000 for a room with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and living areas, and a deposit of the same may be required when initiating your contract. Additional costs may include a fee for “enjoying the communal areas and/or garden”, as well as your post-departure “cleaning services”. Laundry may have to be done at a laundry outside your apartment. Beware too, that apartment-hunting is best done in the summer months of December, January, and February, as the school/working year begins in March, whereupon prices increase with demand. Still, the key is to keep the word out that you are looking, and something will turn up.
Benefits & Challenges
There is no shortage of teaching jobs in rural Chile, even online, and English teachers are extremely unlikely to lack work opportunities. Teaching jobs are available up and down this gorgeous country, allowing teachers to work and enjoy the country as much as desired. Foreign teachers will most definitely enjoy teaching in Chile, as Chileans are friendly to strangers and extremely warm and accommodating to visitors.
The Chilean education system is still in the midst of various reforms, and you will have to take time to understand and accept “how they do things.” Your students, especially if you are teaching at a municipal school, will be an extremely challenging lot, discipline-wise. They will likely be chatty and easily distracted, and incessantly glued to their cell phones, which they cannot help using (and charging) whilst in class. You must be a strong-willed, firm person and able to command respect.
From employers, friends, colleagues and students in Chile, be prepared for an onslaught of personal questions; it is simply the way. You may chose to respond openly, but if you are a private person, be firm about your need for privacy, but remain as kind and positive as possible. You students will look-up to you, too.
Chile is thirsty for English and as an ESL teacher, the rewards of watching your students improve are invaluable, especially in the rural areas, where they may never have had the opportunity even to interact with a native English speaker. Your students will welcome you to the very heart of Chilean life and culture, and you will hear many, priceless stories of what families and the country have been through. There are infinite moments of joy to be had, and moments to be immortalized while teaching in rural Chile.