Emily Zaye - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

As a foreign language teacher, languages and travel are my passion. I try to travel as often as possible to improve my language skills and create new experiences I can share in my classroom.

Visitors at the salt mines in Maras, Peru
With my ATV guide, Joel, at the salt mines

Why did you choose Maximo Nivel?

I wanted to get my TEFL certification to learn new teaching skills I could utilize at home. I found Maximo Nivel online and their program seemed very thorough and comprehensive. They also had plenty of excellent reviews from former students.

What was your favorite part about your program?

Living with my host family made my trip the experience that it was. Our host mom was an amazing cook and so friendly and helpful. Her house was large and hosted about 15 people, so I was always meeting new people of all ages from around the world. I always had housemates to travel with on the weekends or to grab lunch with during the week.

What made your experience in Peru unique?

My experience was unique in that I was able to do so much during my four weeks with Maximo Nivel. I traveled to Vinicna, Moray, and the Sacred Valley on the weekends, and during the week I was learning and teaching real English learners. I was able to learn so much through my variety of experiences.

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff was incredible. I received pick up from the airport on my first day and they brought me directly to Maximo Nivel, where I was given a packet with so much helpful information: maps, calendars of events, emergency contact information, etc. During my courses, there were always different staff members stopping in to introduce themselves and let us know they were there if we needed anything. Unfortunately, I did get sick during my trip. But the staff at Maximo Nivel was so incredibly helpful in arranging my doctor's visit that being sick didn't even seem so bad!

Girls taking a break from an ATV ride in Peru
Covered in dirt after ATVing

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Because I teach Spanish in the United States, I had no trouble at all communicating with locals. However, I had some housemates that did not speak Spanish and they were able to get by alright. Since Cusco is such a tourist-friendly city, there are many locals that do speak at least a little English. Maximo Nivel also offers tandem conversation partners and Spanish classes if you need to start learning or just brush up on your Spanish.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

I wish I brought more sweatpants! Honestly, the only complaint I have was not being completely prepared for the climate. Everything else was wonderful.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Peru?

Pack warm! It may get into the 70s during the afternoons, but mornings and evenings can be VERY chilly. I ended up buying some sweaters while I was there. Luckily, there are plenty of places to stock up if you didn't pack well, like me.

What surprised you most about Peru?

What surprised me most about Peru was how incredibly beautiful the country was. I saw plenty of pictures online, but they never do it justice. My favorite thing was my walk to school. I was walking through a city, but every time I looked up there were huge mountains and perfectly blue skies. At night, standing in the Plaza de Armas you can see the whole city and the Cristo Blanco lit up all around you.

Girls at the top of Rainbow Mountain in Peru
At the top of Rainbow Mountain with my housemate

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

On a weekday, I had class from 9 a.m. to noon, and then had lunch with my friends. We had class again from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. After that, I would study or go to a cafe. I had dinner at my host family's house and sat up talking to my housemates until about 10 p.m. Some days I taught 20 minute mini lessons to English students.

The last week of the program was the practical teaching week. I still had class in the morning, but taught an hour long class in the afternoon; that was my favorite part of the program. It really gave me the chance to put what I had learned into action.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time I met with friends, explored the city, or went on excursions into the area around Cusco. My favorite day trip was an ATV tour to the salt mines! I also had the opportunity to hike the Inca Trail at the end of the program; it was absolutely beautiful.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived with a host family in a very large house. It was always full of interesting people from around the world. Dinner time was my favorite. The food was delicious and we would stay up talking until very late every night. Getting to meet so many new people was such a valuable experience.

Father and daughter hiking the Inca Trail in Peru
Hiking the Inca Trail with my Dad

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program? 

It will be fun, but it is definitely not a vacation! Even sitting in class all day was fun because our instructor Claudia was wonderful, but there is a lot of work to do it.

It is absolutely worth it, but don't come expecting to relax all the time!

What was the hardest part about earning TEFL certification abroad?

The hardest part about earning my TEFL certification abroad was balancing my time. The course work was intensive and required a good amount of in-class and out-of-class time; but, I also wanted to see as much of Cusco and the surrounding area as possible. I was always very busy, but I was able to do both.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before taking TEFL courses in Peru?

I was provided with a good amount of information prior to beginning my course, so I felt very confident and well-informed when I arrived. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I really learned though. From the research that I did concerning other programs, Maximo Nivel's curriculum seemed (and certainly turned out to be) much more thorough. I learned techniques for teaching ESL, but I also learned general planning and classroom management techniques that will impact my teaching here at home.

Now that you're home, how has your time in Peru impacted your life?

I appreciate so many little things now because I have seen how other people live. Having hot water all the time actually feels like a luxury, not an expectation.

Would you recommend Maximo Nivel to others? Why?

Absolutely. This program taught me so much, and not just in class. Seeing a new culture, meeting people from all over the world, and teaching all change you as a person. This experience helped me to grow in ways I didn't realize I needed to. Everyone should experience Peru, and there is no better way to do it than traveling with Maximo Nivel.