There are many hardships in teaching English abroad, but there are even more things you´ll fall in love with when you adjust to the rhythm of living and teaching in Colombia. While many people think teaching English abroad is just a way to survive, I am here to convince you there is a lot more to it than sticking to a textbook.
If you love languages, interact with people easily and have a little courage, here are seven reasons why you will likely love teaching English in Colombia:
7. People in Colombia love foreigners…
This will affect your daily life a lot. Your students and colleagues will make you feel welcome very quickly by showing their interest in you as a person and your life back home at the same time. Since Colombia is just starting to open up to international tourism, Colombians are not used to, let alone annoyed by, the constant stream of tourists and expats that you might have seen in other parts of the world. Quite the opposite, they are very eager to get to know you better!
6. …and their friendliness is heartwarming!
I was surprised to see how polite Colombians are! While in my own culture people are sometimes more direct than you might wish, Colombians will always start a conversation by having a little chat with you. They´ll ask about your weekend or your plans for the upcoming vacations and share little tidbits from their own lives. They will never been too busy to ask! This is a great “friendship booster” as it makes it a lot easier to discover the people you connect with a lot quicker than you would otherwise. Also, if you are one of those people who is always running late…Colombia is the right place for you.
This needs no explaining. Colombian school year is guided by different schedules depending on what kind of school you work at – there are Calendario A, B and C and each of them has different vacation dates. While language schools often don´t offer this kind of holidays, if you manage to secure a job in a regular school, you will be able to enjoy more than three months of free time per year. It goes without saying that this kind of a job is a perfect fit for an avid traveler. Besides, Colombia being a primarily Catholic country means you will have many free days due to the sheer amount of Saints Days. Bonus point: the “día festivo” always falls on Monday so you won´t loose a single one. How does that sound to you?
4. The cost of living is low
This reason is pretty self-explanatory, don´t you think? While the amount of pesos you earn as a teacher in Colombia might not seem astonishing counting in dollars, the daily costs of living are likely much less than what you’re used to. We love this website for calculating comparisons for everything from food to accommodation and more!
3. You will discover a fascinating mix of cultures
Due to its turbulent history, there were all races and many nationalities living and influencing each other in Colombia over the centuries. This creates an incredibly interesting cultural space – the music, the street art, the literature, even the food, whatever you wish. You will be surrounded by people of all kinds when teaching; the classroom being a place of many discussions, this is the perfect chance to enrich your knowledge by interacting with a completely new way of life and thinking. Besides, what I find truly inspiring is that the color of your skin doesn´t matter as there is no racism present within Colombian culture. Oh, and by the way – your Duolingo Spanish will get so much more than basic!
2. Natural wonders that take your breath away
Living and working in Colombia is a perfect opportunity to travel around this amazing country. I have heard countless travelers declare Colombia their absolute South American favorite – it does sound inviting, doesn´t it? From the stunning heights of Andes mountains to the incredibly clear waters of the Caribbean coast and from the history of San Agustín to the richness of the Amazonian rainforest, Colombia has it all. Wherever you go, you can enjoy the gorgeous nature along with sipping one of the world´s most beloved coffees that grows right here.
1. Grow along with your students
Teaching english (and languages in general) is a very demanding job. It requires a lot of energy, dedication and creativity and even then things don´t always work out the way you had hoped they would. That is the right time to improvise.
You might feel exhausted after hours spent trying to convey your knowledge, you might even be desperate at times – but still, working with people to help them achieve their goals and see them succeed, hear them talk in a foreign language and watch how they gradually improve their skills is something so rewarding that you might even realize it is your new vocation.
Teaching makes you develop new abilities quicker than you would expect. Interacting with your students will make you grow as a teacher and as a person and discover what hidden talents you have that you might have never thought of otherwise. All in all, it is an amazing experience and you will never regret taking the chance. More likely, you could inspire half of your friends to do the same!
Words and images from Karin Ardila who taught English in Colombia for one year.