Americas

Finding a Job in South America

I wish I had useful tips on how to find a job in South America, like websites to use, a phone number to attempt to call, or strange buildings to show up in.  Don’t worry, I tried all of the above.  They failed.  I came to Colombia with my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate and a bit of teaching experience under my belt with hopes of finding a decent teaching gig.  I tried the traditional routes of job searching, as mentioned above to no avail.  Similar to my search for a yoga studio, most phone numbers were extinct, website “contact” pages directed you to another planet, and buildings had moved.

Currently, I am making $15 a day teaching private English classes.  If all of the above tactics failed, how did I do it? Student One: Random contact through TEFL that I kept in touch with for a few months before arriving.  Student Two: Met while out dancing to reggaeton.  Student Three: Introduced by a friend of a friend.  Student Four: Speaking English in the aquarium with Student Three, I was propositioned by an aquarium employee wondering the word for “eel.”

And, last but not least, Student Five:  I walked into their apartment.  On accident.  I was meeting Student Three at her apartment for the first time and somehow misunderstood her (very clear) directions and was greeted warmly by Beatriz and Bill, an older couple with a perfect kitten (that looks just like my even more perfect kitten in Michigan).  Not only were they not angry I walked into their apartment speaking awful Spanish, they were thrilled.  After a cup of coffee, a cookie, and a walk to the correct apartment, I found two new students.  I meet them once a week for English basics, coffee, and kitten time.

I can only hope this will be my paycheck one day!

Aside from the fact I have five students I thoroughly enjoy teaching and spending time with, it is obviously great to be getting paid after a few weeks of solely spending money.  It was a bit surreal for me to receive my first “paycheck” (i.e. handed money and a cookie) because foreign currency always feels strangely like Monopoly money to me for the first couple of weeks in a new country.  In Australia, it took me months to treat their beautifully colored (and waterproof!) bills as real currency.  Colombian pesos are starting to feel real now that I am paid everyday (or when my students feel like paying me) which is probably for the best.  My rent is covered and I can start budgeting for upcoming trips.

Advice on finding work?  Talk to everyone you can — and dance to reggaeton often!  I don’t think I can safely recommend walking into random apartments, but I guess it’s worth a try.  Worked for me.

nicole
A self-proclaimed people-watcher, Nicole has been searching the world for the best spots to do just that. Her love of observing people (ideally with a cup of coffee and book in hand) has brought her to Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, and a couple of other places. After finishing her undergraduate degree in June from DePaul University, she decided to uproot her life and try out the people-watching (and coffee) in Colombia. She’s currently trying to make a home in Medellín studying/struggling with Spanish, practicing yoga, job-hunting, and having a daily battle with getting lost.

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    1. I love this.

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