Teaching Traveling: Considering teaching English abroad? Intrigued by Colombia?
Check out this inspiring story by Ana Karina. Ana, tell us about yourself.
Ana: Hi, I’m Ana, a 27 year old born and raised by Colombian parents in New Jersey. I’ve been teaching foreign languages (Spanish and English) since 2009 in both the USA and in Colombia. Originally, I went to school and got a Bachelors degree in Spanish and a K-12 teaching certificate. After teaching Spanish for a few years in the states I started to lose my passion for teaching. My students didn’t value learning a second language and I wasn’t really valued as a teacher because I was a special area teacher. With all of the changes taking place on teacher evaluations and the focus being more than ever on standardized testing… I wanted out.
I’m currently living and teaching abroad in Medellin, Colombia where I work at a bilingual private school as a 1st grade English teacher.
TT: Interesting! Tell us what paved the way to teach in Colombia.
A: I got my passion for traveling from my mother at a very young age. Growing up, our yearly summer vacation was sacred and we would spend it either visiting family in Colombia or traveling to other Spanish speaking countries. In college I decided to take that love for travel and use it to further my education so I did a semester abroad in Spain.
Studying abroad opened up my eyes to the world of teaching while traveling because many of my professors where doing just that. That trip to Spain changed my life… in a sense it actually changed my perspective as to what type of life I wanted to live.
TT: How did you transition into teaching English in Colombia?
A: Like I mentioned above, I found out that teachers could travel the world while working through some of the amazing professors I had while studying abroad in Spain. As to how I landed my current position in Medellin, Colombia… well that was pretty much chance. In 2010 I decided to move to Medellin, Colombia… jobless.
I traveled around Colombia for a bit and then decided to start looking for work. I asked around for bilingual and international schools and then just sent out a few resumes. Within a week or so I got called in to interview for the position I have now.
TT: Wow! Tell us one moment from your time teaching in Colombia that was powerful.
A: I was once walking through the Santo Domingo barrio, one of the tougher more poverty stricken areas of Medellin. I was headed to see “La Biblioteca de España” (the Library of Spain), which was built as a part of the city’s education development program and also built to try to pull in some tourism. A group of children walked over to give me a quick background on the barrio and on the history behind the library.
They asked me about myself and I told them that I was an English teacher. Their eyes lit up and they started calling over some of their others friends in the area. All of a sudden I had a group of 25-30 kids walking me over to the library. They kept asking me how to say this and that… and then I heard a kid say, “I’m so happy I’m learning English!”
This was such a powerful moment for me as a teacher and as a human being. Let me explain a bit… children in these types of areas are raised in homes where education has little to no value. Children are taught at a young age that they have to work and hustle in order to get by in life.
So… to have these children jumping for joy at the chance to learn a few words in another language was a sight to see! It was amazing to witness how much value and excitement they were placing on this brief and spontaneous English lesson.
TT: Such a powerful story. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
A: Traveling has definitely opened my eyes to the importance of learning foreign languages and about foreign cultures. It’s great to be able to share some experiences with my students… to explain to them how I’ve gotten through some situations because I am bilingual. Having some fun yet useful travel stories is just what a teacher needs in her bag of tricks!
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
A: The best advice I can give traveling teacher hopefuls is… JUST DO IT! Don’t over think things… I did this and it almost ate me alive! I thought about how much I would miss my family and friends… then I realized I could Skype and Face time daily. I thought about how my pay decrease would impact my lifestyle… then I realized that there were people all over the world living great with half of what I’d be making. I even considered how this decision would impact my someday future children… then I realized I was just jumping too far ahead!
My biggest and best realization was one that my mother helped me see… life is meant to be lived to the fullest and if someone is dreaming of teaching and traveling then they are the only ones that can make that dream come true.
Reach out to other teachers who are currently traveling… we are all usually willing to help someone in need! Feel free to contact me if you’re thinking of teaching abroad in Colombia or anywhere else in the world!