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Teaching English in Cali, Colombia: Alumni Q&A with Kaitlin Sherman

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Madison, WI

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Associate's degree

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I wanted to experience a new culture, get out of the community I was comfortable with. I wanted to challenge myself; you always hear about people traveling and teaching English abroad and I wanted to know what that experience was like.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Not speaking the local language, trying to get to work and back, how to communicate with the kids, not having any experiencing teaching, etc.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most were very supportive, I think there is always an underlying feeling of concern for anyone who is trying something new and different!

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I had heard really positive reviews and did a LOT of research online of which schools were well known.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course.

How did you like the course?
I really liked it! I learned a lot and definitely took a lot of what I learned into the classroom. My instructor was very laid back yet interesting and challenged me. My practicum was done at a school near me, if I hadn't known the teacher that was working there, I think it would have been very difficult to find a place to do my practicum. The tasks were relatively simple, you just needed to make sure you stayed on top of your work.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I used a lot of what I learned in my online course in the classroom. It also helped me get a job! I needed a certificate for all of my jobs.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Colombia in the city of Cali because I met a Colombian man in the states and decided to go back with him to Colombia. I met a lot of other foreigners who were teaching English as well there.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
About one year and a few months, and I plan on staying for a while!

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?
Work visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I found a job working in public schools before I moved, and the visa process was exhausting but it ended up working out perfectly fine. I switched jobs to a private school, and the process was a lot easier when working for a smaller private school and not for a large company that places people.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Native English speaker
- Some sort of college degree

Teach English in ColombiaWhat is the best way to apply?
- Email
- I emailed and called a ton of schools

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I found a job working in public schools before I moved, and the visa process was exhausting, but it ended up working out perfectly fine. I switched jobs to a private school, and the process was a lot easier when working for a smaller private school and not for a large company that places people.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I luckily was living with the man I met in the United States. From my experience of my foreign friends that were also trying to find a home, it was somewhat easy. It was difficult when they tried to rent a home all on their own, but when they found a place that someone had already been living in and were looking for roommates, it was much easier.

On a scale of 1 - 10 please rate your experience with this school.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
Cali is still a very dangerous city in my eyes. I felt very unsafe a lot and had to get used to living in fear from being robbed. Beyond that though, I had a wonderful time. We went out salsa dancing all the time; I took salsa dancing lessons for a year! The public transportation was god awful, I had to take three buses to work and three buses home. Eventually I found someone from my work to pay for rides. The food was fantastic and cheap. I met a lot of foreigners, and we would go out to nightclubs every weekend. There were a lot of travel opportunities, Colombia is very small and you can travel easily and cheaply around the country.

What are your monthly expenses?
- For rent I paid about $150 US a month
- Food... $100 US a month
- Social activities... $50 US a month
- Transportation... $30 US a month
- Phone.. $7 US a month
- Travel... $100 US a month

How would you describe your standard of living?
It was great!! I got used to taking cold showers...but other than that, I was living just like I lived at the states!

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
In Colombia...about 3,000,000 a month (in pesos - about $1,000 USD).

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would totally recommend Colombia. The people are fantastic; the music and dancing are superb. I would tell someone to just take it all in, try not to be judgmental, and try not to think too much about what kind of experience you will have. Go the extra mile to meet new friends and travel with them. Take deep breaths when you get frustrated. Try to make sure you have behavior management skills for when there is a huge language barrier.

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