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Teaching English in Cuenca, Ecuador: Alumni Q&A with Angela Bailey
Written By: Angela Bailey | Updated: June 29, 2023
Written By: Angela Bailey
Updated: June 29, 2023
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Master's degree or Higher
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, England, Ireland, The Caribbean, Canada
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I've always loved to travel and had not gotten to do any extended traveling since my early 20s. I wanted a way to live in other parts of the world, not just take short trips and play tourist. I was also interested in teaching in general, as I had a new education related Master's degree and was trying to transition into a new career. So teaching English abroad was the perfect next for me.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I had a few minor concerns, like living somewhere where I didn't speak the language and figuring out how to fit everything I needed into a carry-on size backpack, since we weren't sure where we would be going after our TEFL. But since my partner and I were getting TEFL certified and traveling together, I was most concerned with understanding what challenges we would face as a same-sex couple. We did a lot of research about LGBT rights and treatment in all of the countries we considered.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
All of my friends and family were very supportive and excited for me.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I knew that I needed a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA in order to be really marketable as an English teacher in different parts of the world, and when I started doing research, ITA popped up with answers to all of my questions. When I requested information, I was connected with Lindsay, who was extremely helpful and conferenced with us several times to help us decide where we wanted to do our TEFL.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Costa Rica - Heredia
How did you like the course?
The course was great. It was really intensive and strenuous, but the instructors and our class as a whole were fantastic. The experience and feedback from the practicum were extremely helpful, and they had a really amazing group of students who we were happy to get to know. ITA Costa Rica did a great job of making us feel comfortable, and the staff and instructors were always available to answer any questions and help us with whatever we needed.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Well, I wouldn't have been able to get my current job without a TEFL certification and practicum teaching experience, so it was instrumental in that respect. It also gave me not only tools to use in my classroom, but the confidence to step into a position and teach. While my school has its own curriculum and lesson format, the skills and experience I gained in my TEFL training are always applicable.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Ecuador in the city of Cuenca. After spending a couple of months in Costa Rica, I was really looking for a more mild climate and an attractive, walkable city. I sent out some inquiries to different schools in Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru, and CEDEI was the most organized and quick to respond. I was very impressed with the school and administration, so that made up my mind about where to go. Cuenca ended up being a great fit.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Cuenca for eleven months and plan to stay for a total of two years.
During which months does your school typically hire?
They do the bulk of their hiring June-August for the beginning of the school year in September, but they do hire year-round.
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.
Most teachers at CEDEI apply for their visa before coming to Ecuador, but since we were in Costa Rica and not planning to go back to the US, we entered on a tourist visa and then started the process to get a cultural exchange visa. The school helped with the process and reimbursed a portion of the visa fee throughout the year. They also helped us set up our tax and bank accounts, so we are here and working legally. The visa just changed, so we will have a slightly different process to go through this summer.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
CEDEI is a nonprofit organization with an English program, International program, a high school, and a grade school. English teachers work for the English program, which has its own locations.
A typical schedule at my school is 20 hours per week of teaching time, which generally works out to be three or four classes at a time. There's also the opportunity to pick up additional tutorial hours. Students range in age from 8 years old through adult, but the majority of students are teenagers. Pay is around $7 per hour, but the cost of living is low. You can't really save money here, but you can have enough to live on and even to travel if you're frugal and/or pick up extra hours. CEDEI has three locations, so you are assigned to a location and teach there, rather than having to go to different places around town.
There is one month break during December, and a week or so between terms, depending on what kinds of classes you have. It's also possible to take mid-June through mid-September off if you're staying for multiple years, but classes are available for teachers who want to stay.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
There's a very active group of mostly retired expats in Cuenca, and they have some English-language resources we were able to use. We found a realtor who had been recommended and contacted him before we got into town. We found our apartment on our second day here. We opted for a nice two-bedroom apartment, so we do have a roommate in order to afford it. Many of the teachers live in shared-living spaces with more people (and cheaper rent), but that's not really my scene. The school also has a housing list available that many of the teachers utilized.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cuenca is small, so there's less nightlife than in a big city like Quito, but there are still places to go out drinking and dancing. There's also a small international food scene; so while there are things we definitely can't get here, we've found a number of places that we enjoy. You can shop at the local mercados very inexpensively, and there are supermarkets frequented by gringos. I have been told the bus system is very easy and comprehensive, but I generally walk everywhere and occasionally take taxies (which don't generally cost more than $1.50, unless you're going way across town).
We have a good group of teachers, so there's always someone to hang out with. There's also some great hiking in the Cajas National Park, which is about an hour away by bus, and there are other, smaller towns you can visit just a few hours away. In five or six hours, you can be at the beach. Many of the local expats are retired, but we know other people in their 20s-40s who aren't teachers and have come here for other reasons. I can't really speak to the dating scene, but I know several teachers who are either dating or married to someone from Cuenca.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent/utilities: I pay a little over $200 for rent and utilities, but the teachers in shared housing usually pay closer to $160, from what I hear.
Food: You can eat very inexpensively here if you buy your fruits and vegetables at the mercado and cook at home. You can also get cheap local meals ($2.50 for lunch, for example). I spend most of my disposable income on eating out at more expensive, international restaurants, where a meal might cost closer to $8.
Internet/phone: We're paying $23 per month for basic internet and around $35 per month for unlimited data on two phones.
Transportation: I probably spend around $7 on taxis per week, but that would be much less if I took the bus.
Travel: I don't really travel during the school year and have so far gone home in December and am planning a big trip to Peru this summer. You can travel very inexpensively if you take buses within the region.
How would you describe your standard of living?
Well, our place is in a nice neighborhood in the new part of town, has 24 hour security and a small gym, and comes with a storage unit and a parking spot we don't use. I take taxis instead of the bus, and I can afford to eat out a lot more than I did at home. If I didn't have a little bit of income from other sources, I would probably eat at home more to save money. But overall, I'm very happy with our standard of living, and I worry about money a lot less than I did in the US.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
With about $600 per month, you can be pretty comfortable. But it's possible to live on less.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
If you're considering teaching abroad, you should totally do it. Life's too short. Go out and live your life, experience other places, and broaden your perspective. We need more of that in the world. I would absolutely recommend teaching English in Ecuador. I'm really happy to be here.
Angela is originally from Portland, Oregon and studied abroad in Germany before taking the plunge to teach overseas in Ecuador. Angela took her ITA TEFL course in Costa Rica before going on to teach in Cuenca, Ecuador.
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