If you’re considering teaching English in Medellin, this page will help you get there. Decades on from the violence of the drug trade that once gripped this city, Medellin is one of the most innovative, exciting, and beautiful cities in Latin America. Cradled by high hills, Medellin’s red roofs blend with greenery and steep slopes, a visually spectacular town. It might once have been famous for a man called Escobar, but the Medellin of today is famous for its beauty, success, and quality of life. The exuberant spirit of Medellin is catching, and anyone who chooses to teach abroad here will have an unforgettable experience.
Teaching Jobs in Medellin
Teaching English in Medellin means that your job will fall into one of three categories: private language institutes, public schools, or universities. Each placement has its own brand of challenges and rewards for aspiring teachers.
Private language schools offer the most comfortable working conditions. Often modern, well-resourced establishments, you can expect small class sizes or even individual lessons, a flexible and friendly schedule, and good remuneration. Placements in public schools, in contrast, are often in poorer neighborhoods, meaning large classes, few resources, and a lack of the kind of organization you may be used to. You will be working with more vulnerable students however, so your efforts will have greater impact on the community. Universities typically require candidates to have a degree and/or a TEFL qualification before teaching English in Medellin. Classes might be big but students at this level are generally dedicated and willing to learn, making your job easier.
The kind of placement you get depends on your prior experience, preference in terms of age group, and the length of time you can commit to a role. Speaking some Spanish is beneficial, as most students outside of private schools only have a basic grasp of English, but it is not strictly necessary.
Life in Medellin
Medellin is the most popular city in Colombia among expats, and for good reason. Medellin enjoys a pleasant climate all year round, earning it the nickname City of Eternal Spring. The people are as friendly as the weather, and when you add spectacular natural beauty and a never-ending list of things to do to the mix, you have a city that it’s impossible to hate.
Sprawling over hillsides, there are many barrios to explore. While slums still line the upper reaches of the hills, many formerly dangerous neighborhoods have been transformed into open-air galleries. Murals are splashed over countless walls, the bright colors telling the story of Medellin. Cable cars connect the valley floor to areas that were once forgotten, ferrying people up to dramatic lookout points, and on to parks and hiking spots.
Medellin is famous for its nightlife, with lively bars, live music venues, and discos all over the city. There is a strong reggaeton scene in the city (if you haven’t heard of Maluma already, you should probably familiarize yourself), but you will also find yourself dancing to salsa, vallenato, bachata, and many other rhythms. Colombian culture is strongly tied to dance and music, so if you go out you should be prepared to put your best foot forward and shimmy a little. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t any good: the most important part is giving it a go.
With an international airport, Medellin is well-connected with dozens of domestic and international destinations. It makes a great base for exploring all corners of Colombia, and surrounding countries.
Salaries & Costs
Salaries for teachers in Medellin vary between $500 and $1000 a month, rarely exceeding that. This may not seem like a lot, but it goes a long way in Medellin, and foreign teachers can usually enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
Living costs add up to around $500 a month while teaching English in Medellin. You can expect to budget around $300 for rent and utilities, another $100 for groceries and transportation, and then there are entertainment and recreation costs. The amount you spend obvious;y depends on your lifestyle, but you can easily factor in nights out and meals in restaurants. A beer costs as little as $1, a meal in a nice restaurant around $8, and a taxi home $3-4. If you prefer to save money, you can live like a local: eat almuerzos, set menu lunches, and drink your beers at tiendas, local corner shops that have plastic chairs outside. For entertainment, just watch football games at the same tiendas, and dance in the streets: it won’t cost you a thing.
Accommodation & Visas
Teachers in Medellin will usually have to find their own accommodation, although program providers will be able to help by pointing you in the right direction. You will usually have to choose between living in a homestay, or getting a room in a shared apartment. Homestays can be cozy, with a nice familial atmosphere, but as you will be in a family you will need to respect their rules in regards to visitors, partying, curfews, and so on. Living in an apartment will give you less exposure to paisa culture, but comes with more independence.
Getting a work visa for teaching jobs in Medellin, Colombia can be tricky. You will need your employer to sponsor you and basically apply on your behalf. Be sure to stipulate in your contract that you would like visa help to be included in the deal. This usually isn’t a problem with reputable language schools, or with government sponsored programs. If you are unable to obtain a visa officially, you can enter Colombia as a tourist and stay for up to six months, but you will have to leave the country after this time or face hefty fines. For more details, consult the GoAbroad Embassy Directory and contact the embassy nearest you.
Benefits & Challenges
You can teach in Medellin and simultaneously improve your Spanish. Colombians are known for their warm and friendly nature, and while there is a hefty dose of local slang mixed into their Spanish, their accent is widely recognised as being clear and easy to understand.
Medellin is also an exciting city to live in, as it sees more and more advancements every year. It is an exemplary city in terms of development, with numerous successful social projects. Having recently emerged from a decades long civil war, Colombia is starting to thrive, and Medellin is right at the center of that growth. Living there you will benefit from the public-works projects, cultural activities, and ample entertainment Medellin is now famous for.
What are you waiting for? The time for teaching English in Medellin is now. Not yesterday, not last year, but now. ¡Vamos!