Friday, March 29, 2013

My Teaching Experience in Colombia

The city of Bogotá on a beautiful day
Even though I'm currently in Korea, I still feel drawn to Latin America. I, along with a group of people are contemplating going to a Latin club this weekend. It reminded me of my 7 month stint in Colombia.

After being in Korea the first time, I knew I needed a break from the culture, which is very different from my own. I decided to go to Colombia to teach.

I had done all of this research, and one day, I just booked my flight to the South American country. My goal was originally to stay there for a couple of years and get my teacher's license when I was there. I arrived in April.
The institute where I completed my CELTA

The first thing I did was that I signed up for a CELTA course. It's a month long course that teaches mostly native speakers how to teach English. Since the CELTA carries a lot of weight in Colombia, I wanted to make sure I had that. I decided to do it at an institute in Bogotá. While it was a tough and extremely time-consuming course, I made it through and got the best marks of the class.

After getting that certificate, I went job hunting. Due to the timing issues with my university program, I decided against teaching at a high school, or colegio. Getting a university job was possible, but difficult since I had few connections. I did some interviews and took up a job at an institute. This time, I was teaching adults, latino adults, which was very different that what I was used to. Asian adults and South American adults have different needs, and come from wildly different cultures. So, I had to get used to teaching Colombians.

I also took up some private classes on the side, which was an interesting experience. Unlike in Korea, this is legal in Colombia. It was also a rather dynamic experience altogether because students and classes were always coming and going. This came with its own complications.

On a typical day, I worked on split shifts. I would wake up early in the morning to teach classes as early as 7:00 am. I would probably teach again around lunch time and finally teach for the last time in the evening. It involved using public transport to travel all around the great city of Bogota.

I stayed in a residencia with mostly Colombian students during my time in Bogota. Oh, that was its own adventure all by itself.
One of my Colombian students invited me over for a party

Overall, I was really able to enjoy myself and relax for the most part. While Bogota wasn't a very exciting city in my opinion, it was still within reach of other cities in Colombia, and traveling was a blast since the country was so diverse. I was able to get to know some really warm people. I got the chance to travel to Colombia's coffee region, Cartagena, Villa de Leyva, Medellin and a bit of Ecuador too.

Are you interested in teaching in Colombia too? Follow this link to find out how to make it happen.

Looking back on my experience, there were some negatives which caused me to ultimately leave. I decided that returning to Korea would be the best decision in achieving my short-term goals. There are also some things I would have done differently. I'll talk about these in a later post.

Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching English in Colombia

  1. Can I find a job from abroad? Probably not. Unlike in Asia, in Colombia (and just about all of Latin America), one would need to go to the country and then search for positions. Employers prefer to interview potential teachers in person. They don't need to hire from abroad because there are plenty of qualified teachers on the ground. It's also good to note -- don't pay a recruiter! That's rarely legit.The exception for these would be positions in international schools. These teachers are usually recruited from abroad.
  2. What qualifications do I need? To get any job, just being a native speaker is fine. However, to get a decent job at a higher-paying institute, colegio or University, a teacher needs to have a bachelor's degree and it's highly preferred that they have a CELTA certificate or the equivalent.
  3. What types of jobs are available? There are jobs available at institutes (adults), colegios (high school aged children) and Universities (adults). 
    A night out with some students!
  4. How much money can you earn? Is it possible to save? This question is tricky because it depends on many different factors, such as the type of school you work for, where you work and your working hours. Teachers can earn anything from $0 (volunteer teacher) up to about $2,500 per month (high end). At a good institute, a teacher can make up to $12 an hour. At a good colegio, a teacher can earn about $1,700 a month. Teachers can make more than that at a university and have fewer working hours. The good thing is that in Colombia, teachers typically earn more compared to much lower paying Latin American countries. But the cost of living is also higher. Teachers are also welcome to supplement with private students. It wouldn't be wise to depend on private students, though. It's not really reliable income. It is possible for some established teachers to save money. This can be quite the challenge for new teachers though, since they deal with high start up costs and earn less while working their way into the better jobs.
  5. Is it possible to stay longer than six months? A tourist visa lasts for 3 months, and a day trip to immigration will allow you to extend this for 3 more months, for a total of 6 months. However, if a teacher finds an employer who will sponsor them, they can apply for a work visa. Good colegios and intitutes will sponsor your visa. However, most institutes will make you pay all of the costs to obtain the visa (about $300 plus cost of travel) with the exception of just two -- International House and the British Council. With that work visa, you can stay up to a year or more.

1 comment:

  1. Nice teaching experience for you and I'm happy that you are thinking to help children by teaching them. Nowadays tutoring is necessary for every students as we look around, every students needs an external support for moving ahead in academic life to improve grades. I think that you have done a great job by choosing your career in teaching others.
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