International TEFL Academy Admissions Advisor, Lindsay Campher Krasinski, recently returned from a visit to Uruguay. During her journey, Lindsay traveled to Montevideo to meet with language school directors and an International TEFL Academy graduate currently teaching English in Uruguay.
We're glad that she was able to take some time to report on her trip and share her observations.
Lindsay, Uruguay is not as well-known as its larger neighbors Argentina and Brazil - what were your first thoughts upon your arrival the country?
My first impression of the country as I sat on the bus gazing at the landscape was that this country is full of palm trees and horses – a strange combination! Upon arriving in Montevideo I felt at ease, it was a beautiful, clean city and not as populated or congested as Buenos Aires.
I took a one-hour ferry to Colonia, Uruguay from Buenos Aires, Argentina. If you are headed to Uruguay from the U.S. or some other distant location, you’ll typically find the airfare to Buenos Aires is more affordable than Montevideo. In addition, staying a night in Buenos Aires before you reach Uruguay is quite fun! From Colonia I had a 2 hour bus ride to Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
One of my main concerns was that the city itself would not be “international” enough to provide a thriving job market or a livable city for potential English teachers.
My concern was quickly voided as I took a cab through the city. Montevideo, although small and cozy also offers the common perks of any cosmopolitan international city, including cabs, buses, cafes, great nightlife, colorful neighborhoods, ethnic restaurants, modern super markets, etc. You can even find McDonald's, KFC and Burger King if you get a craving for American-style fast food.
You want pizza? It has plenty of that too (many locals have Italian roots). Montevideo also has parillos with great steak and tango shows that highlight it’s common cultural heritage with its neighbor, Argentina.
I also found the political set-up in Uruguay very interesting. The president, José Mujica, works in an office right in the center of the city, and the man drives his car to work everyday! He also donates his yearly salary to charity. I found it all very interesting. Gay marriage and marijuana are also legal in Uruguay, which makes this small nation highly progressive compared to it’s counterparts throughout the Americas.
How would you describe Montevideo?
It has lots of colonial charm and beautiful 19th century European architecture, cobblestone streets, and parks full of palm trees and birds! I actually spotted wild green parrots in one of the parks, which was a huge surprise. It’s quite lovely! And Montevideo is right on the ocean so it has an incredible beach culture during the summer time. I asked locals the top 3 things about their city and each and everyone stated: "THE BEACH"!
Were you surprised by how many how many language schools there are in Montevideo looking to hire English teachers with a TEFL Certification?
I knew that Uruguay had a teaching market but I did not know that they were so in need of NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS with a TEFL certification.
I visited just 3 of the close to twenty language schools that populate Montevideo and the surrounding suburbs and each language school I went to told me the same thing, “If they are a NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER we’ll hire them right away.” In Uruguay the English teachers are mainly Uruguayan, Argentinian, sometimes Brazilian, but there are hardly any native English speakers venturing to this small unknown country so the job market is not so competitive. The language schools said they specifically need native English speaking teachers to work with the international businesses in the city. They are commonly requested as freelancers to go directly to businesses and teach English. In a language school in the city working hours for teachers are typically between 8 am and 11 am and again between 6pm and 9pm, which gives great flexibility to spend days exploring or relaxing at the beach.
You met with Adria Baebler, an International TEFL Academy graduate who is teaching English in Uruguay – does she seem to be enjoying her experience and has she adjusted well to life teaching English in Uruguay?
Yes, I met with Adria, our International TEFL Academy graduate and she was really enjoying herself. She had a very different story than many of our alumni. After getting TEFL certified she received a Fulbright Scholarship and was placed in Uruguay. She was really hoping for Spain but she knew little about the country and wanted to continue to work on her Spanish so she went with the scholarship! It can take a few weeks to a few months to adjust to a new culture and country, and she only has 8 months in the country March-October so she totally misses out on the 4 greatest months in Uruguay - the summer months!
All in all she has loved her time in Uruguay. She loves the friendliness and kindness of the people, all the teaching and Spanish experience she has gained, and is appreciative to have lived in a country that is so unknown. Her favorite experience was the 2014 World Cup and the huge celebrations and national camaraderie experienced throughout the country.
Based on your discussions with English schools in Uruguay, as well as school directors, what sort of salaries and benefits can TEFL certified teachers expect to receive and based on the local cost of living?
- English teachers in Uruguay can do well financially. The salaries and benefits in Uruguay are some of the highest in South America BUT it is also the country with the highest cost of living in all of South America.
- English teachers can interview in advance and set everything up ahead of time with a school but they have to move to Uruguay and do the face to face interview before ever getting a contract solidified.
- A huge perk to teaching in Uruguay is that you can get a work permit once you have a job with a school and you will be able to access Uruguay’s public healthcare. This makes it possible to stay, work, and not have to worry about your visa expiring.
- Salaries in Uruguay range anywhere from $5-$15 USD an hour, depending on the school and the clientele. To live comfortably in Uruguay a monthly income of $1,100-$1,400 USD is needed.
What about fun – travel opportunities, nightlife, and so forth?
Uruguay is a fun, fun, fun location! There are endless beach opportunities, gorgeous cabanas to rent up the coast, cheap transportation throughout the country, and it’s small enough to thoroughly explore if you plan on living there for only 6 months or a year. Nightlife includes dancing and lots of it - this is Latin America, so put on your dancing shoes! In this rarely touristed place you will be a local celebrity and have your English speaking colleagues accompany you in traveling throughout the country.
In conclusion, Lindsay, if somebody wants to teach English in Uruguay, what steps do they need to take?
Start researching teaching English in Uruguay on websites like Lonely Planet and just surfing the internet, contact an Advisor and see if it will be a good fit for you, and go! It's also critical to earn a TEFL certification to gain the skills and qualifications you need to get hired. It will be an amazing adventure!