I had never considered teaching, nor did I feel capable of pursuing something so out of my comfort zone until a few years ago. It was my sophomore year in college and I had just completed a semester abroad in Costa Rica. I always had a passion for traveling and learning about other cultures, but it was my first time being abroad for a longer period of time and I had the experience of a lifetime. I wasn’t ready to go home after four months and knew that I wanted to go abroad the next chance I got. Being the extreme planner that I am, I immediately started to research extensively for the best ways to live abroad, and teaching English was always one of the first things to come up in my searches. It seemed to have great benefits. Teaching English is a way to get paid while living abroad and with its high demand all over the globe, it’s almost impossible to not get a job if you’re a native speaker with a teaching certification.
However, I always wanted to disregard it as an option for various reasons. I had a lot of fears and doubts. Teaching? I had never been interested in teaching as a career! What if I wouldn’t like it? What if I wasn’t good at it? A million questions and what-ifs were in my head. I had no experience or background in teaching (I was a double major in International Business and Spanish), and it would be something completely new to me. Those doubts became lessened after reading blogs online about other teachers abroad. They had originally felt the same things as me but decided to take the leap and hadn’t regretted it. They were now doing exactly what I wanted to be doing with my life. In addition, I knew getting TEFL certified would give me the opportunity to go almost anywhere while giving me a real experience of the country’s culture through interacting with students, two things I found very appealing.
So I began to look at different TEFL programs more seriously, and decided on where I wanted to go. How did I choose Chile? One of my reasons for going abroad after graduation was to improve my Spanish fluency, and I really wanted to go to South America as I hadn't been there yet. I also talked to my favorite college professor (basically life mentor), who encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and teach abroad! She had previous students who had gone abroad to teach English, some specifically in Chile, and had amazing experiences. Chile seemed like a great choice for two main reasons:
1.) In South America, Chile is considered the most developed country and with the best education system, which was important if I was going to teach. It is also one of the safest and most stable.
2.) The travel aspect: Chile has everything! The driest desert in the world to the north, beaches on the coast, the Andes mountains, and incredible green landscapes, volcanoes and lakes to the south.
I was interested in CIEE and a top TEFL certification program but was going to opt for a cheaper option as I simply did not have the funds. However, one day in October 2017 I received an email saying I won the CIEE TEFL course giveaway and was able to take the 150-hour certification course for free! If that isn't a sign I was doing the right thing, I don't know what is! I have teaching friends here that say their own TEFL courses did not prepare them adequately, but I am very lucky to say the complete opposite. I am so thankful to have won the giveaway, because it was a very thorough, demanding course and made me feel so much more confident and prepared to teach. I learned in-depth about grammar (not the most fun but very necessary), various methods for lesson planning, intercultural factors to consider when teaching abroad, and so much more. Although online, it was very interactive with video meetings and discussion posts, and I was able to meet a couple of my online classmates here in Chile! I also loved the flexibility factor, as I was able to do the coursework and complete the practicum hours on my own time. Another important factor is that it greatly helps you secure teaching jobs when employers see you have a 150-hour TEFL certification (as opposed to one with less hours) from a reputable and well-known company like CIEE.
In the end, coming to Chile to teach English came down to just doing it. It’s normal to be scared about getting out of your comfort zone and making a decision while there are still a lot of unknowns. However, I knew the rewards would be beyond worth it. It’s always worse to regret not doing something than going for it and saying you at least tried! I graduated from college in December 2017, completed my TEFL course and hopped on a plane to Santiago, Chile. Now seven months into my Chilean adventures, I have already had countless experiences I would have never had living back home in the States or had I come abroad not to teach. Thinking about how I almost chose starting at a regular 9-5 office job after graduation over what I am doing now is crazy to think about, and I wouldn’t change it for the world! I already feel levels more comfortable and confident teaching, and yes, I enjoy it. Although it definitely has its ups and downs, making relationships with students and seeing them learn is extremely rewarding and always worth it in the end.
If you’re where I was one year ago, scourging the internet for information about teaching abroad, I was just there. Maybe you’re scared like I was, maybe you’re not completely sure if you want to do it or not. The best advice I have for you:
I have made a lot of teaching friends here in Chile, and not one has ever said they regretted it. In fact, the response is usually the complete opposite. I’m so happy I decided to take that leap of faith. Fear holds far too many people back from living life, and don’t let it be a factor for you when deciding to get TEFL certified or not.