non native english speaker

Teaching English in Santiago, Chile: Alumni Q&A with Mikael Worku

What is your citizenship?

What city and state are you from?

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Master's Degree or Higher

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Studied abroad.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
I have visited 53 countries to date, many of which I visited while working for Royal Caribbean International at sea, but traveling for learning, experiencing new cultures, food, and people, has always been a big passion of mine.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I completed my TEFL certification in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December, 2012.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
After I finished my career at sea after 3 years duty, I knew I wanted to see more cultures, countries, and ways of living, but closer up than only visiting the paradises around the world for a short time while either working or traveling around with my back pack. My dear friend from the Netherlands inspired me and told me about the fabulous opportunity to teach the English language that I had been speaking every day for the last three years, and it lit my interest. After investigation and communication with the International TEFL Academy I decided to jump on the opportunity and I can today say I am happy living and teaching English in Santiago, Chile, since late last year (2013).

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Accommodations, becoming part of the social culture, the language, and whether or not I would like living in a totally different environment where everything is new.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends and family have always supported me in my decisions, much because they know that they cannot change my mind once I have settled to do something. Although I'm living abroad, I keep tight contact with them all, which today is easy through social media.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
It was recommended by a friend that had other friends with positive experiences. I also found the organization very well organized and all, and any inquiry I had was always answered in a detailed and timely manner.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Argentina - Buenos Aire

How did you like the course?
My teacher Kandice Klumb was a very professional young lady with personal experience in teaching in a totally new environment when she was teaching in Vietnam for two years. Because the dates were close to Christmas, we had a very small class of only two people, but this worked in our favor because we would get very personalized guidance throughout the course. We had classes every weekday Monday to Friday and even if some of the days were rather short, you still had to work a few hours on your own, completing the numerous tasks that were given, rated and evaluated. I also found the teaching practice with the set up and lesson planning that was required very helpful.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training has helped me a lot, especially with the planning of the classes. I also liked how the theory was practiced in class and one supplemented the other. It is easy to assume that students understand more than they actually do, and forget the fear a student might have in showing their weaknesses. We were taught how to get the best out of our students and how to effectively teach the English language to them with various methods. All in all, it was a very useful course, and not only for teaching English.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
Santiago de Chile, because of the organized city it is, and because of my local Chilean girlfriend.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Santiago for 7 months and plan to stay until further notice.

How did you secure your English teaching job?
I was very proactive and used Internet and local contacts for networking to find the most suitable work environment for me.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
Sam Marsalli.

How did you get your work visa?
I was offered a work contract with Sam Marsalli, which was a necessity to have to begin the working visa application. After several visits to the local authorities ( and completion of paperwork, including photos, contract, passport and tourist visa with stamps, the process slowly but surely was completed and after approximately 4 months, I was granted the 1 year (subjected to country) open working Visa for Chile.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I will refer to the teaching job at Sam Marsalli below.

  • WORK HOURS: Full-time includes mornings and evenings in between the office hours of 8:00-22:00 with usually no teaching mid-day. I chose to start with part-time teaching and was teaching every evening between 18:00 - 22:00 which gave me plenty of time to enjoy social life as the new person I was in the city. You have the option to choose your work load because the demand of teachers is high. One Saturday morning per month is also required. They also offered training, which was very detailed and good.
  • PAY: The pay is not good per hour, but you can gather a nice salary with many hours. The hourly salary is though only 3232 CHP / hour before tax (10%).
  • ABILITY TO SAVE: You can save money with more teaching.
  • TYPE OF SCHOOL: The institute had mostly business people and therefore classes offered as per their demand
  • VACATION TIME: Vacation time was not really offered, but during the low season (summer), many classes are suspended and that gives you off time, even though not paid for. 

If you are proactive, you can find many private clients that want to learn English and if you are ready to travel around the city to their offices and home with your knowledge, you can have a busy schedule teaching.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
I had the luxury to come down to Chile to live with my local girlfriend so that part was taken care of for me by her and her family. However there are many useful sites to find accommodation with, for example (, which offers furnished apartments for short or long time stay.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...  

  • CULTURAL: Chile is the most organized country in South America, and I say that with the experience of traveling and living in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and Bolivia.  People are nice but a bit closed and can seem cold until you get to know them and after that, you will make friends for life. Safe to live in.
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: When you have a BIP card (for trans Santiago), you can get from basically anywhere to everywhere in Santiago without a problem. The only problem is sometimes the traffic jam and crowd in the Metro, especially during peak hours. One ride cost about $1.30 USD and you can use three different rides within 2 hours (of which only one can be a metro).
  • NIGHTLIFE: Everywhere and every day and night for all tastes.
  • SOCIAL ACTIVITIES: There are many expat organizations that offer all kinds of different events. Also there are many gyms and restaurants where you can meet both foreigners and local people. 
  • FOOD: Food is usually made of local and rather basic ingredients that are not so expensive, such as rice, potatoes, beans and bread! I have been told that Chile is the second highest consumer of bread per capita, and therefore also love their "completos" and "italianos" that get their name from a hot dog with ingredients like tomatoes, palta (avocado) and mayonnaise, all that are part of the basic food culture. There are also a lot of fish, fruits and vegetables that are sold everywhere for very reasonable prices.
  • EXPAT COMMUNITY: Internations, Couch Surfing, and many many more on Facebook. 
  • DATING SCENE: No experience but dating to the left and right just for the fun of it seems to be popular.
  • TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES: Chile is amazing for traveling. It is one of the longest countries in the world with a great diversity of nature, from the desert in the North to the archipelago in the South. Argentina is a close neighbor, only 8 hours by bus from Santiago. Also the coast of the Pacific is easy to access and is reached in one hour by bus for a cheap fare.

What are your monthly expenses?

  • RENT: Rent for two in a one bedroom apartment is approximately 400 USD. Utilities for two people is about 150 USD / month.
  • FOOD: A lunch with soup, salad, main course, and drink, can be found everywhere for between 5-7 USD. Dinner is about 8-12 USD and a bottle of wine is the same price. Groceries are cheap for milk, bread, rice and coffee, and I would estimate a one person total spends about 100 USD / month for basic items.
  • SOCIAL ACTIVITIES: Social Activities like gym are quite expensive, around 50/USD/month all classes included.
  • TRANSPORTATION: $1.30 USD / ride with bus or metro. Taxi start fare $0.50 USD + $0.50 USD/250 meters.
  • PHONE/COMMUNICATION: A lot of WiFi found in many bars and restaurants. Internet cafes in many places. Pre paid cellular use for 4 cents /minute and a SMS for 10 cents / message (Virgin Mobile)
  • TRAVEL: Santiago to the coast, e.g. Valparaiso, is approximately 15 USD/return. Santiago to Mendoza (Argentina) is 100 USD/return, but all prices are affected by the time and season.

How would you describe your standard of living?
I think that you can live a good and safe mid-class life with a normal working salary, and especially as a teacher. I am renting a nice place together with my girlfriend and even though I'm not teaching full days, I can afford to enjoy the weekends and eat out often.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
700-800 USD /month

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I love Chile and all it has to offer. I ended up here after seeing and living in many parts of the world. I love the Latin culture mixed with a very westernized ambience. Chile is rather safe, and you can earn a good living teaching English in a country that is growing fast at the moment. The beauty in nature combined with learning Spanish while enjoying the rich culture in food, people, and music, is a perfect challenge and adventure for anyone.


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