Kent State graduates open doors in Chile

Kyle Roerink

Two Kent State graduates are teaching eager students, eating for free and experiencing all the wonders that Chile has to offer for the price of a plane ticket.

Bronson Ebaugh and Daniel Brown – both Kent State alumni – are two of 600 Americans teaching English in Chile to first through 12th-grade students as part of a program called “English Opens Doors.”

The only cost for the entire trip is the price of airfare. Teachers get paid $125 a month and have the option of staying in Chile for four months or one year.

Luis Hermosilla, coordinator for Latin American Studies, encourages students to participate.

“I did not want to force them (the graduates) to go to Chile because I am from Chile,” Hermosilla said. “I just know the advantages.”

The Chilean government, in coordination with the United Nations, wanted to give its young students a chance to learn English from those who speak it fluently, giving the students a bilingual advantage in a global world, Hermosilla said.

The Chilean Ministry of Education hires teachers, pays for the living expenses and places the them with families that provide room and board.

“The best part is that students have access to a different culture practically on the other side of the world,” Hermosilla said. “They can certainly appreciate that culture and their own a little more, and they have an excellent opportunity to learn Spanish interacting with the people themselves.”

Brown said he had a rude awakening when he arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile.

“Chileans speak at a very rapid pace,” said Brown, who graduated with a Spanish degree. “They simply don’t pronounce some letters or sounds, and they use innumerable idioms. Half of the words spoken to me I hadn’t even heard of before.”

Brown said challenges, such as the language barrier, are what make his day interesting.

“The school system and culture in Chile is entirely different from the United States,” Brown said. “Children tend to misbehave … some of them act like hellions at times.”

Brown recalled an instance when a young student stood up during the middle of class, walked to the other side of the room and smacked another student on the back of the head. A fight started, notebooks flew and children screamed. He said that without the strenuous times, he would be bored teaching.

Ebaugh said his average day is three to four hours long and he focuses on teaching pronunciation and listening skills pertinent to the English language. Throughout his time in Chile, he has taught first through 12th-grade students in a rural area called Pupuya.

“It has been a wonderful, eye-opening experience to see how people live without all of the modern day conveniences we take for granted in the U.S.,” he said. “My students relish the chance to share their culture and language with me, as well as learning about my language and culture.”

Ebaugh said his students are excited to learn from him, and they behave especially well. His 12th-grade class enjoyed him so much they threw him a party and bought him presents.

“This was really touching because I have seen where these kids are coming from, and they do not have much to give, but they all gave what they could,” he said. “That experience really made me feel special, like I had done something good in these kids’ lives.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].