Looking to start teaching English in Colombia? I interviewed Haley, who taught in a small town in Colombia for 6 months! She has traveled all over the world, especially in different parts of Latin America.
The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel, and you guessed it – teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. So often, we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find opportunities?
There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share a story about becoming a language assistant in Spain with you.
If you plan to be a traveling teacher, a TESOL certification is a great way to start. I got mine through International Open Academy for just $19! Highly recommend this as a first step in your traveling teacher journey.
This week I am excited to bring you a story about Haley’s experience in short term teaching English position in Colombia! She has traveled to 70 countries on 6 continents and all of the 50 US states. She now runs a travel website with her mom focused on health issues, food allergies, active lifestyles, adventurous hearts, sports lovers (especially futbol), and an enormous desire to travel the world called Fernweh Foreigner.
What inspired you to start teaching?
My love of history and desire to travel for longer than a vacation is what inspired me to teach English. I studied history in college with a lot of focus on Latin American history and particularly Colombian history. I was interested in taking a trip to Colombia once I graduated but there was so much I wanted to see that a typical two week vacation wasn't going to give me enough time to see everything. When I found an English teaching program that would allow me to live in Colombia for 6 months, I knew that was the perfect way for me to really experience Colombia.
How long did you teach and where?
I taught for 6 months in the Coffee Region of Colombia, specifically the town of Santa Rosa de Cabal.
How did you find the opportunity to start teaching English in Colombia?
I found the teaching opportunity after days of google research. The Colombian teaching program was through the organization Heart for Change, but the company that connected me to them was Green Heart Travel. I am a very cautious person, so I did a lot of research into Green Heart Travel before deciding to apply for their program.
Were any of your expenses covered by the teaching experience?
The two week accommodation and orientation in Bogota were fully covered (food, room, etc.) as well as the flight from Bogota to Pereira and then ground transportation to Santa Rosa de Cabal. I was also paid a monthly stipend during my time teaching which at the time equaled around $400 and I also received a completion bonus at the end of my 6 months.
Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?
I spent so much time traveling and exploring the country during my time there. Colombia has a lot of holidays, so I was able to visit a lot of cities and towns on the three day weekends and Semana Santa week (spring break). Towards the end of my time there, one of the teachers' unions went on strike, so school actually got canceled a lot so I took advantage of that extra time off.
What were interactions with students like?
The first week was a bit terrifying, I was basically at an all guys high school, but as soon as I got comfortable and got to know the kids, I absolutely loved all of them. My school went from 6th grade to 11th grade, so there were a lot of tweens and teens, but they were all so sweet and amazing.
I am a sporty and athletic girl, so this school was a perfect match for me. I brought an American football with me to show the kids, and that was their favorite thing to play with me, but I also got to play a little soccer and basketball with them as well. Not many of them had very high levels of English, but I had a great time with all of them, even when there wasn't much communication.
What is your favorite part of your teaching experiences?
The people (students and teachers) and the experience of immersing themselves in their culture were my favorite parts of teaching. I'm a pretty introverted person, but the interactions I had with everyone at my school made this experience so amazing.
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
My best piece of advice is if you're feeling homesick, stick with it at least through the first two to three weeks. When I arrived to Bogota for my two week orientation, I had a snoring roommate that literally kept me up all night for 14 days and an unpleasant experience with some "mean girls" that almost had me packing up and going home. I decided to wait until I went to my school, but I was pretty sure I would still want to go home.
The first day I was supposed to go to my school, I spent the morning very sick, passed out on the bathroom floor, and then got woken up by an earthquake. Again, I thought I was ready to go home. But once I finally made it to my school, it took about 48 hours for me to fall in love with Colombia and the people. It took another week or so to find an apartment and get settled in, but once I did, I no longer wanted to leave Colombia.
I think it's pretty normal to get homesick and wants to give up when you're in such a new and uncomfortable situation, but my advice is to give it a little bit of time and get to know the people before deciding whether or not you want to go home. If you do that, I think you'll want to stay.
You can find more specific advice and information on becoming an English teacher in Colombia, traveling the world, and more by reaching out to Haley on Instagram! Find more about other traveling teachers on my resource page.