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Teaching English in Kuwait City, Kuwait: Alumni Q&A with Ali Pacheco
Written by: Ali Pacheco
Last Updated: February 16, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Boise, Idaho, USA
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
I studied abroad on London, England, and have traveled to Wales, Scotland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Mexico, South Korea, Norway, and Portugal.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I decided to teach English abroad so that I could continue exploring the world.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My main concern before teaching abroad was a feeling of being unprepared. However, I had loads of help from ITA, not only with finding a position but teaching styles and preparation.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family is used to me traveling. There were only the usual concerns of safety as a single woman traveling alone and financial concerns. I simply put them at ease by really involving them in my final decision. Family is very important to me. I did help them understand that teaching abroad, and really helping people who are not as fortunate to have the vast freedoms that are present at home, is something important to me.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
Getting TEFL certified was the easiest way to jump start my teaching career, whilst living abroad. ITA was very informative through the set up process and very understanding of any financial situations I came across. They definitely were the best choice, and if you are considering them, I highly suggest you get in touch. The teachers at ITA are amazing and full of great wisdom, and they want you to go and really get out there and teach!
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I took the part-time Online TEFL class as I was working full time (pre-pandemic).
How did you like the course?
I loved the course. It was so informative and my teachers were encouraging throughout. If I had any questions I could email or attend office hours and get a straight answer quickly. I started my practicum as the pandemic set in, so it was quite nerve- wrecking. As you can imagine many schools and volunteering were shut down. I opted for the online-platform teaching, and reached out to family and friends abroad. I was lucky to get in touch with a family member who owns an English school in Mexico. I did most of my practicum with the students there. I was a wonderful experience that most definitely prepared me for putting all my coursework into practice. The course tasks and homework were very much relevant.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training has helped me in my teaching position greatly. I felt very prepared in creating lesson plans. And having performed the cultural report for the course, I was much more prepared to face my students. I found the culture shock section very informative and extremely helpful. Certainly has helped in settling into life in Kuwait and recognizing that my anxieties will soon pass.
How long have you been in Kuwait and how long do you plan to stay?
I have lived and taught in Kuwait since November 2020. I plan to stay for as long as Kuwait will allow. Currently I am on a 2 year contract.
Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
I decided to teach English in Kuwait because I have friends that are from here, as well as the fact that I have not been here before. Simply: I haven't been there, I must go.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I currently work for the American International University in Kuwait.
During which months does your school typically hire?
The university hires year-round.
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
I secured my position prior to arriving. It is very important to have all your documents attested by the appropriate consulates prior to arrival.
How did you interview for this position?
Online via a video/phone interview.
What kind of visa did you enter on?
Due to the pandemic my hiring procedure was (and continues to be for anyone at this moment due to COVID) different than it normally would be. I entered the country through a commercial visa. I had to obtain clearance from the Kuwaiti government to enter the country. Only doctors, nurses and teachers are allowed to obtain entry visas at the moment due to the pandemic. The situation changes daily, even as I write this, the policies are changing.
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The visa process was somewhat fast, though my employer expedited everything, as in non-pandemic times it normally takes 4 months. After receiving my offer from the university, I sent all copies of my degrees, transcripts, passport, and ITA certifications to the HR team. They then vouched for me at the Private Universities Commission, and Ministry of Higher Education. Once these two government agencies approved my credential (took about 2 or 3 weeks) I was given the go-ahead to purchase my ticket. I had to print out all the documents that were sent to me prior to getting on the plane.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree/PhD (Master's only sometimes required depending on your nationality).
What is the best way to apply?
Online applications are best, but I did apply via e-mail as there was not an open vacancy when I applied.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
At the university I teach 20 hours, the rest is prep-time. In total I work 40 hours per week. The pay really depends on experience and credentials. I get paid 1,100 KD a month. Roughly $3,500 USD per month. I am very much able to save, though things can get a bit pricey here as most things are imported and I have private student loans I must pay. I roughly save 400 KD a month. In US dollars this is about $1,300. As mentioned previously, I teach at a university.
The students range from 18-40 years old. Most are 18-26 though, and the English Foundation Program is considered to be more of a 13th grade. Many of them come from government schools that do not have computer skills or English as part of their curriculum. I do take some time from the actual lesson (or during office hours) to teach them bits of computer skills, so patience is very much required.
I get all of summer off, normally June-August, and thank goodness because I am not looking forward to the heat! The summer months are paid, of course. There are vacation days and sick days, but as I have not had to use them (mashala) I do not recall the exact amount.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Kuwait is a Muslim country which tolerates Christianity, other religions cannot be practiced here. The nightlife is not really something that I would encourage here. As a dry country, alcohol is illegal, therefore any clubs are illegal and as an expat you could be deported and never allowed in the country again. Social activities however are wide. I enjoy the occasional escape room, bowling session, karaoke restaurants, strolls through the park, hangouts by the pool, salon visits with friends, rooftop chill sessions, a new restaurant everyday? why not, etc. The food here, honestly, is amazing. You can find anything from Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, to American. I have many favorite restaurants, and if you find yourself in Kuwait, do let me know and I will make recommendations.
Dating in Kuwait is not difficult but meeting someone to date is very difficult. Dating is frowned upon though, so if you do date someone here you must be careful, especially if you date a Kuwaiti.
Travel due to the pandemic (for expats) is hard, the airport is currently closed. It may open up for the summer, but this is not certain. Driving in Kuwait is one thing I will mention here because it is a concern for many who wish to come and work here. It is a very interesting experience, to say the least. The speed limits are not adhered to, the emergency lanes are actually used as regular lanes (honestly, it is lawful to do this here), there is no use of turn signals, I could go on. I am a defensive driver so I have had to adjust very little. I was considered a reckless driver in the states, but here I am the furthest thing from it.
What are your monthly expenses?
My utilities include: phone $17 per month, car rental $877 per month, food $80 per month, gas $23 per month, socializing such as restaurants and salon visits, and outings $300... no shame.
How did you find somewhere to live?
The university does provide accommodation which is halfway between the city and the university, I do not have roommates, though some teachers do. It depends on where in the city the university places you. I enjoy my apartment very much, even with the occasional issue. The area where I live is very small and has many small shops where you can buy anything you may need. I am a four-minute- drive from the most amazing shopping center in the country, which is not great for my savings.
I do look forward to moving out of the apartment that was provided, but rent is expensive and the more affordable places are far from work or the city. So I stay put for now.
How would you describe your standard of living?
My standard of living has been very comfortable,
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
In my opinion, you need about $3,000 USD per month to live comfortably. I do believe I may have a bit more of an extravagant lifestyle compared to my fellow expats and coworkers. But still, things in Kuwait do get a bit expensive, and the expectations are high if you manage to make friends with locals.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would very much recommend teaching in Kuwait. The advice I would give is to have patience and save money prior to arriving. Start up costs can be a bit high. Also do more research on the culture, and do not arrive expecting it to be like the media portrays it in the US. As an American, you will be asked if living in the US is like they see in the movies. Be prepared to face some judgement from both locals and other expat communities.
Ali Pacheco is a 26-year-old from Boise, Idaho with a BA in World History. Ali studied in London for four years and has traveled around Europe extensively. She worked as an administrative assistant while living in London and when returning home to Boise, worked as an executive assistant for a variety of businesses. Ali decided to move abroad to fulfill her wish of becoming a teacher and making a difference in the world via education. She currently teaches English in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
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