Teaching Traveling: Ever wondered what it’s like to teach abroad in Mexico as a British citizen? Please welcome Phil Charter who will share his experience on just that! Phil, tell us a bit about your background.
Phil: I’m a 30 year old teacher from Portsmouth England and I currently work in Oaxaca, Mexico. I worked in advertising in London for a few years but decided that I wanted to travel more so I quit my job.
I had travelled quite a bit in Europe and Asia so I wanted to go to South America and took some Spanish courses before leaving. I took a teaching course in order to fund my travels and ended up enjoying the job and changing careers.
TT: Nice! Tell us more about your travels.
P: When I was teaching in Buenos Aires I took some time to travel in South America. One trip I did was for a month around Patagonia which was fantastic.
I went hiking around Bariloche, lived the simple life on a farm in El Bolson, and saw seals and penguins in Puerto Madryn. It was nice to get out of the city and see some of the country’s beautiful natural spots. Be prepared for some long bus journeys though!
TT: Good advice. How did you find your Mexico teaching job?
P: I found my current job in Mexico online. The university where I work is part of the SUNEO system which has several campuses in the state. There are also several accounts on forums and blogs where previous teachers have shared their experiences.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travel to Mexico?
P: I used savings to get set up in Mexico. I needed around US$2,000 for flights, deposits, rent, living expenses and for my work visa. I always make sure to save before leaving a country so I don’t have to borrow tons of money on arrival.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny.
P: I’ve had so many funny moments travelling. My students always make me laugh. They say things like “come on baby!” instead of “come here please” and upon entering the 10 a.m. class one of them shouted “Good Night!” like he was doing an encore at a concert!
And who doesn’t like some comedically bad use of English? In Argentina I saw shops called “Prune”, “Señor. Cock’s Chicken” and even a clothes shop simply called “Tits”!
TT: So hilarious! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your career?
P: I think travelling and working in Oaxaca has really made me appreciate my education. Many of the students have very low study skills levels and struggle to learn effectively.
The find so many things I take for granted difficult. It has affected my teaching in that you have to find more successful methods for their learning style, even if that means just joking around in class. I wouldn’t go back to my career in advertising because I feel that I have a tangible impact on the students’ lives here.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
P: British people (myself included) can be pretty pessimistic and negative. I think travelling helps people appreciate and celebrate what they have and what they’ve experienced. Travelling has definitely made me more patient and tolerant too. Getting angry rarely helps the situation so you have to learn to take it easy and not let the little things bother you.
TT: Well said. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
P: With English teaching, you often have to choose between a good location, or a good job. You have to figure out which one is more important to you before jumping into anything.
Also, do your research! Ask questions on forums like Dave’s ESL Cafe, Reddit, or Expat sites and try to find real accounts and pictures of other teachers’ experiences.
When you arrive, be patient. Getting jobs and clients and making friends can take time.
TT: Thanks so much, Phil! Readers, what questions or comments do you have? You can read more about Phil’s travels and teaching experiences on his blog, Tall Travels.