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Teaching English in Sao Paulo, Brazil: Alumni Q&A with Ben Penner

What is your citizenship?        
United States

What city and state are you from?
Frazier Park, California

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Associates Degree

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? 
Germany, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, Brazil.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I love to be in a working environment that involves people, and I love to travel. Teaching abroad combines the two. Not only are you working with people from another culture, you are submerged within an entirely new culture and environment.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Safety and job security

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? Were they supportive, apprehensive, excited, concerned, etc?             
Supportive and a little concerned. 

Teach English in BrazilWhy did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
After graduating from school I learned about the International TEFL Academy. I became very interested after further researching the programs available. For me personally, I was looking for a program that allowed me to immerse myself into a culture, while taking my TEFL certification, and International TEFL Academy fit everything I was looking for.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Without the solid foundation that I gained from the TEFL course, I would be lost. The program gives you all the essential tools you need to be a teacher, you learn all the basics and everything you need to be in the classroom. It was more than necessary for me, and without it I would not have a clue of how to create lesson plans, control the classroom, and teach in general. It is much harder than everyone thinks to teach, but with the assistance of this class it becomes clear and easy with practice. 

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I taught English in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?    
6 Months - Forever.

How did you secure your English teaching job?             
I had all my job interviews in person after finishing the TEFL class.  That's just the way Brazil works.  

How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
In Brazil it is very difficult to find a school willing to help you with you visa, however there are a few schools who will help you. But the process is not easy, I personally went through it with the Ministry of Foreign Job Affairs in Brazil. It is a long long process and takes a lot of patience.

I personally would recommend working under the table. In Latin America everything is much more relaxed and you don't have to worry about working illegally like you would in America. 99% of the schools in Brazil will ask you to work on your tourist visa, without any hesitation. You don't have to worry at all about it, it is common and safe.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I worked for a school that offered me close to 20 hours a week to begin, eventually I was working close to 45 hours a week with private lessons and in the classroom. The pay was great, I was able to survive and do everything I wanted to do, but saving was difficult. You make enough money to live and enjoy your stay.

I would not recommend trying to save because you will miss out on the fun activities in Brazil. I worked for a private English Institution, that taught all ages and businesses as well.

Vacation time for me was never a big issue because I was in Brazil, and they have holidays almost every month, creating 4-5 days weekends, and living in Brazil is a vacation in itself.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I met my roommates through my school here in America so I was lucky to have some friends to stay with, but through the home stay you can easily find roommates, simply going out at night and meeting new people creates a window of opportunity. There are a lot of options and it is easy to find if you look for it. My first living arrangement was with a friend and his family for the first 2 months, and that was amazing, I learned the culture of the family and was shown all around the city, then I moved into a house with 8 other guys, kind of like a fraternity. It was an amazing experience, living with 4 Brazilians, 1 Mexican, and two Argentinians. 

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Brazil is the most amazing place I have ever been in my life. The food is amazing! The public transportation is great, there is always something to do, the nightlife here tops everywhere else I have been in the world. If you like to have a good time Brazil is definitely a good choice for you. The people here are all friendly and love to talk and meet foreigners, never once did I feel in danger or unsafe.

TEFL Brazil

What are your monthly expenses?            
For me personally my month to month expenses are about 700-850 US dollars, and that includes my rent, utilities, social activities, and phone bill.

The transportation for me was not a problem because I can walk to my work, gym, and jujitsu classes.

If you plan on traveling around in Brazil, I would recommend saving a little bit of money to have to travel before coming. I would recommend coming down with at least $2500 to get situated and then have a little financial cushion for going out or traveling.

How would you describe your standard of living?        

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? 
$650-900 USD per month.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
If you plan on teaching abroad there are a few tips:

1. Be open minded

2. Don't be afraid to try new things

3. Always be positive

4. Do it while you can, these are once and a life time opportunities

I would recommend Brazil for everyone, it is a huge teaching market and has everything you can dream of, it is amazing!


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