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A man on top of a mountain A man on top of a mountain

Paid Teach in Colombia

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    9

  • Teacher Support

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

The greatest challenge you will face is never wanting to leave

When I first came to Colombia with API's Teach Abroad program I had a few expectations, but I had no idea just how incredible and valuable my time here would be. I have been in Colombia for about 7 months now, since arriving I have felt the ups and the downs, I have seen breath-taking landscapes, and walked through old colonial towns, I have hiked to find a lost Indigenous city, and I have connected on a deep level with a new culture. Among all of these wonderful things, I have also experienced extreme poverty, corruption and far too many stray animals, but the greatest challenge that I have had to face so far is making the decision to stay or to go. What did I do? I stayed. I couldn't get away from the warm people, the empanadas, and the way everyone seemed to be super relaxed despite the hardships they are facing. I have truly fallen in love with this country and the people who inhabit it. My students especially, they light up my day, every day. I didn't know what teaching would be like when I first arrived, I was an advertising major with a desire to travel the world. Little did I know that teachings would be such a rewarding and challenging experience! I feel that I have grown immensely since coming here 7 months ago, and I have so much more growing to do! Who knows if I will ever return to the US! I didn't believe everyone when they first told me, " The biggest challenge is not wanting to leave," but now it's true. I'm sold, thank you Colombia and API Abroad for this amazing life experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Pay and Benefits

    7

  • Teacher Support

    7

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    10

One-of-a-kind Opportunity

I'm just about to wrap up my 10-month teaching contract here – I arrived in February and will be leaving in December 2015. I was looking for an experience in a Latin American country that would challenge me; I had never formally taught before and I wanted to throw myself into a new situation. Colombia seemed like the perfect opportunity, and after having almost completed the program, I can say that it really has been! I'd recommend teaching in Colombia to those willing to be flexible, adapt and thrive in a beautifully chaotic place.

Since the beginning, API has been supportive and helpful – the application process was easy, too. Once I filled out my city placement survey, I found out that I'd be teaching in Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, which is what I wanted! Once you are in country, logistical and regional support is provided by an organization called Volunteers Colombia, which collaborates with the governmental programs you’ll be teaching at. My Regional Coordinator was amazing and super helpful in navigating coastal craziness as well as coordinating group events to bring us all together. One of my absolute favorite parts of teaching here has been the network of inspirational teachers/travelers with whom I’ve become close. Our coastal group feels like a family.

When I arrived, I had a two-week orientation in Bogotá filled with long workshops for TEFL training and Colombian culture, as well as figuring out logistics (phones, ID cards, bank accounts, etc.). As a brand new teacher, the TEFL training was useful for me, but I think the most beneficial part of orientation was building relationships. You have access to people that are from vastly different places and have had experiences all over the world. I felt I learned the most from experienced teachers who have taught in several countries, and I was inspired by others’ stories.

I arrived to Barranquilla right before Carnival and the city was in a state of fiesta, so it took a bit of time for things to start up. I taught at SENA, a governmental institution that provides vocational training for students ages 16 and up. Working at SENA was a challenge at first: Communication isn’t as direct, scheduling takes time and things happen as they happen (especially on the coast!). It is disorganized to say the least. There isn’t a strict curriculum and there aren’t materials, so I had free reign of creativity to plan and carry out my classes. I was lucky enough to teach a majority of my classes in the English lab that had a Smartboard and computers, but technology has its pros and cons in the classroom. Overall, it has definitely been a learning experience for me, but the students really made my experience great. They are full of energy and enthusiasm, curious about me and where I’m from, and eager to share their culture. I loved getting to know them and developing relationships with my students!

I came here looking for a challenge in a Spanish-speaking country and it has exceeded my expectations. Colombia’s landscape is gorgeous and impressive, and I was able to travel relatively cheaply and safely. I have grown as a person, a traveler and a teacher, and I have absolutely loved my time here. Colombians are friendly, generous and excited to hear about how your experience has been in their country. For those who are open-minded, positive and ready to go with the Colombian flow, I’d say go for it because it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    5

  • Living Situation

    4

  • Pay and Benefits

    7

  • Teacher Support

    4

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Life-changing

Teaching in Colombia changed my life. I not only learned how to teach, but also my worldview was broadened tremendously. It was my first time teaching so I was a bit nervous, but API/Cultural Embrace was very helpful throughout the whole process. The partner organization they worked with in Colombia ehh not so much. I think they now work with a different organization in Colombia. It was a pilot program in 2014 though so there was some disorganization and kinks to be worked out as to be expected.

The two week orientation in Bogota was excellent, somewhat disorganized, but overall I think it was valuable. We met all of the other teachers on the program who were going to be dispersed to different cities, attended teacher training, had cultural sessions, had blood taken for our ID cards, opened bank accounts, bought phones, met with the President of Colombia, did some sight-seeing, etc. The coordinators did their best to ensure that we were equipped with the knowledge and skills we needed to go out and teach English in our respective cities.

After Orientation, I was placed at one of the SENA centers in Medellin. The administrators weren't completely prepared for us it seemed. We also had no curriculum, no books and no real guidance which was both a blessing and a curse. It allowed us to be creative and have fun with our lesson plans, but sometimes it was challenging to ensure we were teaching things in the correct order at an appropriate pace. Communication in Colombia is somewhat roundabout so prepare yourself for some confusion in the workplace. You tend to have to follow up with people frequently to get an answer, but don't be discouraged! Everyone is very friendly and the majority of the students are amazing! The students are truly the best part of teaching. They will appreciate you and are genuinely interested in learning. You will see very quickly what an impact you are having on their lives.

Colombia is an incredibly beautiful country. Again the people are amazing, the culture is lively and it is easy, inexpensive and pretty safe to travel around to see everything that it has to offer! I highly highly recommend considering this program. Despite the challenges I faced, I grew and learned so much and do not regret a thing!

  • Academic Programs International responded to this review November 20, 2015 at 6:14 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Emily! We value your feedback to be able to make constant tweaks and improvements to the program, and hope that others find it as valuable as you did!