Cuenca, Ecuador! Have you ever heard of it? Probably not! Do you even know how it’s pronounced? Don’t worry; I didn’t either until I actually arrived. I arrived with the intent of staying a couple weeks before moving on to Colombia and I ended up staying a year. Why? Well, let’s start with number one:
1. Eternal Spring
Yes, the weather is paradise! In Cuenca, Ecuador, the temperature remains extremely consistent because you're right on the equator. You’ll experience 60–70 degree days daily. The sun is strong enough to catch some rays, although the weather is mild, the sun can still give you that summer glow. The trees and flowers are always green and blooming. The two rivers outside the city routinely have locals picnicking on the shores amongst the weeping willow trees. Every weekend you’ll want to be outdoors.
2. The Food
Because of this eternal spring, there's constantly fresh local fruits and vegetables in season and for sale on every street corner. The restaurants in Cuenca are amazing too because they cook all their dishes with local produce.
Groceries and dining out is extremely affordable on a teacher’s salary. You can go to Feria Libre, an open market that goes on for blocks and you can buy everything from fresh clams from the Pacific to homemade peanut butter or a guinea pig to eat! There are also close to 20,000 expats living in Cuenca that have set up NY pizza places as well as sushi spots and local craft breweries.
3. Job Opportunities
Ecuador is unique for a Latin American country. This is mostly because it's one of the very few places that you can get a job in advance in this part of the world. Unlike a lot of Ecuador's neighbors like Brazil, Argentina, and Peru, where you have to interview face-to-face, Ecuador does have some options where TEFL Certified English teachers can get hired in-advance.
There are numerous language schools in Cuenca that have hired ITA teachers in advanced and set them up with a cultural exchange visa. Past ITA graduates have had great experiences in Cuenca and great success finding sustainable work. This makes Ecuador a very unique and sustainable option for ITA Grads who want to live in Latin America but are nervous about in-person interviews.
4. Learn Spanish, For Real.
Ecuador is a fantastic country to learn Spanish, arguably one of the easiest in the world. Cuenca has a relaxed vibe that comes through in conversations. Cuencanas tend to speak slowly, so if you want to work on your Spanish, this could very well be the city for you.
Cuencanas are also extremely accommodating and polite. If you are having trouble communicating, a Cuencana will typically assist and help you with your Spanish. Spanish classes are extremely affordable here since it’s the educational capital of Ecuador, so if learning Spanish is a priority, Ecuador is a very realistic to place to do so.
As you're looking at your options for teaching English abroad in Latin America, definitely consider Cuenca, the hidden gem in the Andes! You can get a job in advance, a visa, and experience life in an extremely amazing geographic location.