By Patrick McCorkle
While I was in college, I did not have time to study abroad. I had a lot of things going on: classes, work, sports, a social life, etc.. Also, I didn't think I needed to have the experience, so I was not particularly devastated. I thought: “No big deal. I can always have a vacation abroad or something.”
Flash forward to graduation. My desire to at least have one 'study abroad' experience was growing. “Now is the time,” I thought. “I have no wife or children and I am still quite young. If I don't do this now, I may never have the opportunity again!”
I was a Spanish major, and really wanted to improve my language skills. I thought the best way to do this was live in a Spanish speaking country. Additionally, I had never been abroad before, and I needed to leave the country for an extended period of time, at least once.
But I had a lot of student debt and was worried how I could make teaching English abroad a worthy addition to my resume. What to do?! I never thought I would be able to have this experience to my situation.
However, I found the International TEFL Academy and I felt an enormous sense of relief. I could live abroad after college! The Academy was incredibly professional answering my questions. Although there was a gap of about a year between first contact and when I enrolled in my online TEFL course, I never forgot the experience I had with my advisor and the excellent website, full of great advice.
Furthermore, the online course fit into my busy schedule. I worked in a call center, and sometimes I would have double shifts. Thanks to the flexibility provided by the course, I could still work in my hometown and get my assignments done whenever I had time, mostly late at night. I was paying my student loans and getting TEFL certified at the same time!
Both of my maternal grandparents, an uncle, and an aunt, were teachers. Consequently, I was exposed to teaching from an early age. During my educational career, many people said I had a “knack” for teaching. Despite all this experience, the course really helped me understand how to teach English in a fun and efficient way. I was exposed to different teaching and learning strategies, while honing my writing and listening skills.
Where to teach?
With the course completed and my student loans paid in 2016, it was time to select a country. Due to my Spanish major and desire to improve my Spanish, I was originally thinking about Spain. Being able to see some of the famous buildings, things I had read about in Spain while being close to other parts of Europe seemed like a dream.
After doing more research, I decided Spain was not for me. All of a sudden, I thought: why not Mexico? The largest Spanish speaking country in the world shares a border with the USA, and I had not even thought of it. I suppose you couldn't blame me- the media constantly has negative stories about Mexico, which is painted as a poor, poverty and crime stricken neighbor to the glorious United States of America.
The more I read about Mexico, the more I wanted to teach English there. I have always been fascinated by the ancient civilizations of Mexico, such as the Aztec and Maya, and I wanted to see the famous ruins. But Mexico offers much more than its rich history. It is a rapidly modernizing nation that is close to home but has its own unique culture with a different language and identity. Since Mexico is a neighbor, it is much easier to go home if I must, which was a important part of my decision.
Being the political enthusiast that I am, I also thought it would be fascinating to live in Mexico during the Trump Administration. Some may consider me crazy, but it is essential to learn about other peoples' perspectives and viewpoints. We live in an interesting time and why not see the US from a different country's perspective, a country that has been continually criticized by the current President?
Making it a Reality
My mind was set, but I needed to convince my parents. My father was mostly ambivalent, but did not understand why I wanted to live in a foreign country teaching English. This relatively laid back approach was the exact opposite of my mother, who did not like the idea one bit initially.
Slowly but surely, she changed her mind. I showed her the professionalism of the TEFL academy, my process for getting a job and how I was preparing for the 'culture shock.' She still didn't like the idea, but she accepted it. She knew that I needed the experience and I was being responsible.
I started applying for positions in October of 2016. Mexico can move quite slowly, so I was fairly worried for awhile. I started getting tons of offers from Chinese schools since I posted my resume on Dave's ESL Cafe. I was tempted to abandon my dream of teaching in Mexico.
Suddenly, I saw an opportunity to teach in Metepec, Mexico, at Pangea Idiomas. The city is close to Mexico City, but isn't Mexico City. As a person from a smaller town, I was not too excited about living in a big city. I still wanted to visit Mexico City a lot, so the location was perfect. Moreover, Pangea is a language school and offers free Spanish lessons for its teachers as well as discounts on other languages. For a language learner like myself, this is an amazing perk.
I accepted the job and I have been here for five months as of May 2017. I am very glad I am here. Without the International TEFL Academy, I don't think I would be.
A Word of Advice
Three years ago, I was a recent college graduate terrified of his student loans and the prospect of finding a job in the struggling US economy. If you are like me, and wish to teach abroad, don't lose hope! Make concrete goals, be patient, persistent and smart. You will be able to teach English abroad, regardless of how worried you may be.
Finally, don't let anyone or anything change your mind about where you want to teach. Mexico certainly has a bad reputation in US media and sometimes, scary stuff happens here. But if you listen to the fear, hysteria and inaccurate reporting, you may miss out on an incredible experience. Do what you want to do and leave your regrets at the door! I did, and have not looked back.
Perhaps you will want to have a sorta loca vida here in Mexico too- come on down, the more the merrier!
Patrick McCorkle is a 26 year old graduate with a 2015 degree in History, Political Science and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Before teaching English in Mexico, he worked in customer service for two years and had never been abroad before. You can read his (sometimes amusing) thoughts on politics at theprimacyofpolitics.blogspot.com