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Teaching English in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Alumni Q&A with Todd Ritz
Written by: Todd Ritz
Last Updated: February 18, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Los Angeles, CA
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I love traveling and immersing myself in different cultures. I enjoy learning languages, meeting people, and the 'being present in the moment' philosophy I have when I'm abroad. Originally, I had the idea to apply for an artist grant, because I paint and thought it would be a great way to travel. When I was searching for potential grants, I came across the ITA website.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My main concern was that I wouldn't be able to find a well-paying job and a centrally-located apartment. A lot of things were undecided when I first moved to Buenos Aires; nothing was lined up. I had to trust that it would all work out and that my savings would last until it did.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
People fell into two different camps of thinking when I told them of my plans to teach abroad in Argentina. The majority admired me for taking the opportunity and were excited that I was truly living life--to go out into the unknown. The second camp thought I was crazy, that it was too dangerous, and I should rethink it. I noticed people who have never traveled outside of the United States were the ones most critical and fearful for me.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
Before being TEFL certified, teaching improvisation was the only teaching experience I had. I knew to succeed that I would need TEFL certification and training in how to teach English as a foreign language. I researched several institutions and no other place had as many positive reviews and the willingness to answer all my questions. ITA provided me with huge amounts of information so I would have a good idea of what to expect before I started.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course. The course was an excellent introduction to teaching; explaining the different techniques, methods and approaches of teaching. I originally thought we were going to be taught a very structured, step-by-step way to teach; instead we were given the tools and different creative techniques that enabled us to develop our own lessons. I absolutely loved task-based learning. It was easy to get into a work flow during the course because each week’s chapters were formatted similarly.
I really like the use of comic strips, YouTube videos, online resources, and other multimedia. The homework tasks were helpful in furthering comprehension because we needed to utilize what was learned. My instructor provided constructive feedback throughout. The practicum was an important step in gaining confidence. I was able to see how the theories worked in real life. The experience made me realize how much I loved teaching. I found myself really caring about the process of my students. I was always looking for ways to make English easier to understand and fun at the same time.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training has caused me to be proactive; to not be afraid of using my creativity and design lessons from scratch. The training constantly demanded of us to design and put together lessons. I have created Powerpoint presentations, Photoshop documents, worksheets, edited videos, recorded students, and created games for my classroom. The training has been wonderful in sparking ideas and many of my classroom activity fillers are from the online resources.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Argentina in the city of Buenos Aires. I fell in love with Buenos Aires the first time I visited four years ago. I love the blend of different cultures. At times things feel familiar as if I was in New York City and other times things feel so unique and different from anything I have ever experienced. I enjoy the dichotomy.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I lived in Argentina for a year and two months. Next week I am going to teach English in Italy. I will miss the city and the good people I met.
During which months does your school typically hire?
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I entered with a 90-day tourist visa. I actually love this because I have to exit the country every 90 days. What a wonderful way to ensure that I travel around South America. I've traveled to Peru, Chile and Brazil to renew my visa.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
When I first arrived, I hustled. I walked around the city with resume in hand and would go into different schools. I searched online and asked friends if they had any leads. I currently have four jobs; teaching online, working at brewery, working at a language institute, and private classes. I started teaching English online before arriving to Buenos Aires (BA).
I would highly recommend teaching English online. You can have some income coming in while you search for a job that will pay well instead of any job because you need the money. I found the brewery job through Craigslist. I found the language institute through a friend who lives in BA, and I found my private students by living in the city. I had a friendly conversation on the bus with a woman and she asked me, “What do you do?” and I told her I was an English teacher. She told me that she needed classes. Now, every Tuesday, I teach her and her roommates. Another student was my waiter when I went out to eat. I never pitched myself as a teacher. My funny Spanish accent would prompt people to ask me where I was from and then ask what I was doing here. The rest is history.
I work every Tuesday and Thursday at CCU. The brewery is located in Lujan (about 40 minutes outside of Buenos Aires) I teach Business English to some of the employees. I teach four classes consecutively with an hour lunch break in between. The classroom sizes are small, normally around five students. Each class is an hour and half. I have a classroom with a projector and whiteboard and the employees meet me there.
Every month there is a happy hour after work where we enjoy a free pint of beer- not too shabby. At the language institute, my class times vary. I normally teach between four to six classes a week. Most classes are individual but from time to time, I teach children or teenagers in groups of two. The class level ranges from beginner to advance, from young learners to Business English. Tuesday evenings, I teach private classes and I go to their apartment. On Wednesday afternoons, I meet a student at a local coffee shop and teach private lessons. Online, I have around ten students. It may seem like a lot of work which at times is, but normally my online students are more irregular. Some weeks I will only have two or three online classes, but other times I’m working ten or twelve classes.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I met a guy who connected me up with an Argentinian family and I stayed with them for four months. It was a wonderful experience; I had a private room, I was constantly practicing Spanish (their English was limited) and rent included breakfast and dinner every day (my host father knows how to cook!) I wasn’t allowed to bring anyone over and at times felt like a child because of the house rules. But all in all, it was wonderful experience. I later moved into an apartment with two roommates. I found my place on CompartoDepto – it’s a great resource to find a place to live . My apartment is perfect for me. I really get along with my roommates; there is no doubt that they will be life-long friends. It is reasonable price, centrally located, and a block away from a subway stop.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cultural aspects: Argentina is a wonderful mix of European cultures. The country has a certain familiarity about it, but at the same time, feels very different; almost like walking into an alternative universe. There is a saying that goes, “Argentina is a nation of Italians who speak Spanish, dress as though they’re French and like to think they’re British.”
Public transportation: The public transportation is excellent. The subways and buses run frequently and are cheap. But my favorite mode of transportation are the Eco bikes -- free bike rentals, available 24 hours a day.
Nightlife: Buenos Aires knows how to party. The nightlife starts at 2 A.M. and goes until sunrise. I have taken many incredible photos on my way home from a night of dancing. It is also possible to go out any day of the week.
Social activities: Drinking ‘mate’ in the park and having asados on Sunday is very Argentine. I love the art in Buenos Aires. There are many things to do. I would highly recommend checking out the following: TICKETEK (purchase tickets for various shows and events), and Teatro Ciego.
Food: A lot of good food here is delicious--steaks, pizza, empanadas, and the asados. My favorite dish is ‘milanesa napolitana.’ Spicy does not exist here; a woman once told me to be careful with a ‘spicy’ plate because it had cinnamon in it. Desserts are really rich (be sure to try ‘dulce de leche’ and ‘alfajores’)
Expat community: There is a big Expat community, but I would suggest making a strong effort to have Argentine friends. It can be easy to surround yourself with all expat friends and speak nothing but English. Of course, if you need help or are seeking advice this is a great resource: Buenos Aires Expat Hub Facebook Group.
Dating scene: B.A. is very gay-friendly and there are tons of places to go from clubs to the gay tango (Tango Queer).
Travel opportunities: Long-distance buses are commonly used to travel. The buses are cheap and comfortable. Air flights are normally very expensive. I would recommend asking an Argentine friend to use their D.N.I. to buy your ticket (it’s cheaper for them) or plan more than one trip and use the ‘multi-designations’ option on the airline sites.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent/utilities – 5,000 ARS ($290 USD) a month
Food – 1,500- 2,000 ($85 - $115 USD) ARS a month
Social activities – 1,000 -1,500 ARS ($60 - $90 USD) a month
Transportation – 300 ARS ($17.50 USD) a month
Phone/communication – I don’t spend any money on communication. I use Whatsapp to talk to all my friends. I moved my cellphone number to Google voice for a one-time fee of twenty dollars which allows me to send and receive text through wifi and call using my gmail account for free.
Travel – Travel is my biggest expense. How much you need depends on what you would like to do. I would say to set aside a couple thousand to traveling. After all, how many times will you visit South America in your life? Might as well live it up.
How would you describe your standard of living?
Like any place there are pros and cons. Overall, the standard of living in Buenos Aires is great. People may not have a lot of money, but their lives are richer. Relationships are closer. The parks are filled with people anytime of the day; it is easy to get around without having a car and ART is everywhere. Whether it is the murals on the walls, art museums, the musicians playing on the streets or the theater shows – you can’t escape the art
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
12,000 ARS ($700 USD) would be ideal to live comfortably and to enjoy the things to do in the city.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I think as soon as we receive our TEFL certification, we are extremely ecstatic to make the move and start our new venture. I know for myself it was difficult to wait, but I spent ten months teaching and saving money before going to Argentina. I am glad I did. I met many teachers that earn enough to survive but had no money to travel. It’s kind of shame not to be able to experience all that is here.
It is easier to make money in the United States – so take advantage. Also, the time teaching gave me confidence and time to build up material that I could reuse with my students here.
A native of California, 35-year-old Todd Ritz appreciates how his online TEFL class prepared him for the rigors of teaching English in Argentina and teaching English online. A fan of the arts and music, Todd loved living in Buenos Aires but is now eyeing a move to teach English abroad in Italy.
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