Jacqui Romero has been a family friend for as long as I can remember; I’ve been fortunate enough to become closer to her this past year. Mutual interest/zeal surfaced. Jacqui was always so cool, the kind of cool that wasn’t forced or painted on. Relaxed cool. It was fascinating to me. I was a different little girl; I was weird (some things don’t fade). She was always an inspiration to my young, colorful mind. She let me know, without knowing, that I didn’t necessarily have to fit into a certain mold or group of people. I was my own group of people and that was okay. Jacqui recently moved to Santiago, Chile to teach English; when I heard the news I had to know more! I will be living vicariously through her over the next year…
When did you decide to teach English overseas?
My interest in teaching abroad started in 2010. In 2011, I started to research options online and attended a free seminar that February, held by Oxford Seminars, to learn more about the process. Once the pamphlet was in my hands with all the countries looking for teachers, I was ready to go!
What inspired you to make this step?
My inspiration to make this step in life came from a love and fascination of different peoples and cultures. Beyond travel, I have a deep desire to immerse myself in a culture and understand the human experience from a completely different perspective. I love to talk with people about their lives, see how they live, what they listen to, how they interact with their surroundings, what they eat, drink and do for fun. We have so much to learn from each other! Funny, when I look back on things/occurrences in my life that truly moved me, one thing that clearly stands out is my favorite class during my studies at Texas A&M - Anthropology 205: People and Cultures of the World. Oh the books I read for that class! The people that I learned of! It was all so fascinating to me and has never left me. To this day, a couple of my favorite books are those that were required reading for the course…Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women along with Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa.
Why teach English?
In my experience, the common vacation time allotted for travel was not sufficient for me. In one or two weeks I had barely scratched the surface! It got me thinking about what I could do so that I could turn my travel into a long-term stay/experience. In my research, I found opportunities to teach English abroad. I could hardly believe I could actually get paid to see the world through my native language! For some time, I had mixed feelings about teaching English. For example, why is it that I should be so "lucky" to know this language that it would allow me to see parts of the world that others may not be able to explore? Shouldn't I be the one learning another language? How do people in other places feel about me coming into their land to teach English? Ultimately, after a lot of thinking it over and the overall desire (that would not stop nudging me) to experience the world, I obtained my teaching certificate to teach abroad and worked out a timeline to leave and find a place to teach. I decided on Santiago, Chile so that while teaching English, I will learn how to speak Spanish. As a Mexican-American with very little Spanish speaking skills and a deep desire to learn how to speak the language, I came here as a student myself. In my short time here in Santiago, I have been frustrated! I have been tired from trying to think of how to say what I want to say in Spanish for what feels like an hour when it's only been minutes. I have been silent when I would otherwise talk only because I cannot communicate. I have felt lonely not having anyone to talk with. I hear people talking in Spanish with ease and I ache to do the same! Oh how much my world would open up if I only spoke Spanish! How many people and places would I suddenly have access to through language? Then it hit me; this is exactly why people want to speak English! Now, after four days in Santiago, I truly see what a gift it is to share your language with another person! I have dropped the unnecessary burden of speaking a language that other people desire to know. This has created a space of joy, fun and excitement. I now understand what that opens up for others, as it opens up for me.
Have you taken any other trips for a similar purpose?
This is my very first trip abroad as a teacher of the English language! There have been so many emotions mixed in with preparation for the trip and getting here! I am creating the possibility that this is the first of many trips across the globe for me.
What are your plans for living quarters?
I checked into a hostel and will be staying here for at least two weeks until I find a room to rent.
What will be the duration of your stay?
I will be staying in Chile for the minimum of a year. After that, we shall see.
What school or academy will you be teaching at?
I will be teaching English with English First of Education First. English First teaches a majority of their classes online with their morning students signing in from China, Vietnam and Taiwan. The majority of the afternoon students sign in from Brazil. EF also offers local classes in Santiago.
What are you most excited for?
I have been the most excited about my surroundings and giving my family and friends an opportunity to visit me while I'm in Chile! This is the first time I have been in South America. I am so excited about exploring the diverse landscape of Chile! From the Atacama Desert in the North, the wine region of the Central Valley, the Andes at my doorstep down to the beautiful fjords and glaciers in the Southern Patagonia!
How was preparation before your departure? What’s your current status?
Preparation ranged from hectic anxiety to pure enjoyment. There always seems to be some hesitation or stress involved in planning for a trip, especially one of this length of time. In the final days leading up to my departure, I forced myself to stop, take a moment to smile and remember what a beautiful/life changing adventure I would soon embark upon!
I landed in Santiago on Thursday morning with most of my tasks completed before departing from Texas. Some things I have left to do are getting my cell phone unlocked and obtaining a SIM card to use here while out and about (thank goodness for Wi-Fi in the hostel!).
What do you want most out of this journey?
I want to invest in the creation of a world that is more understood, appreciated, loving and kind. Language, the ability to communicate with one another, makes this possible.
As I stated earlier, we have so much to learn from each other as human beings. One of my favorite moments that put this into perspective was a podcast from The Nerdist with astronaut, Chris Hadfield. He said that one of the best things about traveling in space is that when you're in space looking back at the earth, there is no "them" or "us", there are just people. He followed this up by saying that now, because of this, on earth he feels like he's constantly meeting neighbors. There are no more strangers. That moved me. Especially in current times when it’s evident that fights of all multitudes erupt from a “them” or “us” style of thinking.
Why do you need funding?
I had not thought of asking for donations/funding for my trip until a friend asked me where they could send a donation for my travels! As I was not going on a mission trip or anything along those lines, the thought had not crossed my mind. Now that I have begun my Chilean adventure in Santiago, I realize just how much a donation of any amount would be very helpful! I have saved a little money for my trip, however, I plan to stay in Chile for at least one year. With an average monthly salary of $400-$1000 and the average cost of living at $800-$1000, I will be breaking even at best for the duration of my stay. In addition to this, your donation will help me with the cost incurred for settling into a new home:
Spanish Classes - The company I work for does not offer Spanish lessons with employment. Even with the opportunities available to speak/practice my Spanish, taking classes will help ensure I am learning proper form, grammar, pronunciation and similar.
Hostel Stay - Typically $18-25 a night.
Meals - I'm eating out more currently as cooking is not as convenient until I find a place to live.
Toiletries – Some were not easy to pack and I will soon run out of my travel size portions (contact solution, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, face & body wash, etc.).
Bedding - Sheets, blanket, pillow, etc. will be needed once I find a place to live.
Travel/Excursion Items - Items that were not feasible to pack: sleeping bag, tent, hiking boots, etc.
Toastmasters Dues - I will be attending a Bi-Lingual Toastmasters club to further my Spanish speaking skills.
Additional Conversation Clubs/Spanish Speaking Events - Santiago offers several opportunities to connect with others who want to learn English. You can meet for lunch/dinner, over coffee, etc.
It is hard to describe my gratitude for being able to make this bold step and leave my home, friends, family and comforts to enter another world. God has granted me with the gift of connecting with others easily and freely. I am grateful to use this gift to share my language while learning another. I really appreciate you taking the time to learn more about me and the specifics behind this adventure. Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments in regards to my travels or to find out more information on how to teach abroad!