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Teaching English in Cuenca, Ecuador - Alumni Q&A with Drew Randall
Written by: Drew Randall
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
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?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Mexico, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Europe, Vietnam, Thailand
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
Teaching English abroad sparked my interested because it was the best way to travel abroad, learn about a different culture and language, while making money to break even. In my profession as an engineer, it was the most feasible way to remain economically solvent and travel abroad for a year or two.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I don't think I had too many concerns before moving abroad since I have traveled abroad before. The main concern I did have was the likelihood of finding a position as an English teacher abroad. This was the first time I had to find a job while traveling which was a bit concerning because I thought it was going to be tough to do.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My wife's family, who has traveled much more throughout their lives, was supportive of our sabbatical from our professional careers. They thought it was a unique experience that was worth doing before we wanted to start a family. However, my parents, who have not really traveled outside the comfort zone of many Americans, were a bit apprehensive because they couldn't understand how I could leave such a good job as an engineer to become a teacher.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decide to get TEFL certified because I needed to obtain this certification before teaching English in South America. It is a requirement in practically every school. I chose ITA because I lived in Chicago and it was the one way to continue working as an engineer and complete my TEFL certification at the same time.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
USA - Chicago
How did you like the course?
It has been more than a year since I took my TEFL certification course; however I think the course content was great. The information provided helped me understand the requirements and expectations for teaching. I felt the instructor was a bit passive; the grading was pretty flat. My wife and I consistently would get the same comments or criticisms even though we didn't consult each other on the homework assignments. The requirement classroom practicum is essential and helps prepare you for the real thing.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The grammar information and the teaching approach provided by ITA was essential in making my job a bit easier. However, the development of lesson plans based on a book is a bit overwhelming at first and was something you get a handle on, over time.
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. I decided to teach English because the original job my wife and I had fell through. We were supposed to teach English in Colombia for 2018, however the Colombian government cancelled Green Heart Travels contract for ESL teachers. Therefore we were without a job and traveling up the coast of Peru. We contacted CEDEI and took the job, because it was an easy option that we could apply for ahead of time without going door-to-door to find a job.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living in Cuenca, Ecuador, since January 2018, roughly five months. Our contract lasts 9-months and we plan to stay in Cuenca, Ecuador until our contract ends in September.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
During which months does your school typically hire?
January and September
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Voluntary Temporary Work Visa
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The visa process has recently changed in Ecuador within the past year. The process has since become more convoluted and time intensive. The process requires the teacher to obtain a federal and state background check from the US, as well as having these documents apostilled, translated, and notarized. If you are completing this process from Ecuador, it is nearly impossible to complete with the 3-month tourist visa initially given to you upon entrance into the country. Therefore if this can be done while living in the US, it is more time and financially effective. It you can't complete the process in three months, then you have to pay an additional $128.67 to extend your visa another 3-months. Besides the background check, you will need to obtain several documents from within the country. There is a person at CEDEI who is dedicated to helping you through the Visa process at this time.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Native English speaker
- TEFL Certification
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
Hours: Working at CEDEI is like working for any other school in South America, in the sense that, the first month or two is tough to get into the rhythm of teaching. As a teacher at CEDEI, you will be given roughly three classes during the week and maybe a class on the weekend. Depending on the type of class that you get--regular, intensive, or Saturday--you may work: four days a week (ninos) for one hour, four days a week (regular) for one hour and fifteen minutes, five days a week (intensive) for two hours, or once a week on the weekend (Saturday) for four hours.
Pay: The pay at the school is just enough to survive. You make roughly $7 per hour, which enough to cover rent, food, and cellphone bill. You do not make enough money to go out an explore the city too. In order to do this you need to pick up private students or additional classes at the school.
Students: In the four classes mentioned above, the teacher can be expected to kids in Ninos class, and the other three the age range is 12 and up.
Vacation time: The nice thing about this school is that you are often given two weeks of vacation after each 10-week teaching cycle.
Other: It is important to note that the most important piece of information that every student should know is that the Visa process is no joke. If teachers plan to teach in Ecuador, they need to do their best to obtain the Visa in the USA to save money, time, and frustration.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Finding somewhere to live in Cuenca wasn't too bad. There are several websites that I looked at such as: OLX, Craigslist, and the newspaper. The school administrators will also help you find a place as needed. The place my wife and I found is 2 bedroom and 1.5 baths near the city center and within 10-15 minutes from the two main school branches.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cultural aspects: Cuenca, Ecuador is one of the highest rated placed for ex-pats to retire for a number of reasons. In Cuenca, the cost of living on foreign currency is quite cheap and the city has drinkable water. Therefore, this city is known for its ex-pat presence, where it is a good thing or bad thing.
Public transportation is fairly easy as the city has recently changed to a refillable fair pass, and their is an APP that can help you plan your trips throughout the city.
Nightlife in Cuenca is focused in a couple areas in the city; however I do not have a good handle on the night life as it costs money to do those things which are expensive. The people in the City are very hospitable and welcoming which makes the city nice.
Social activities: Their is a large community of young English and Spanish speakers who often meet up for intercambios (language exchanges), which is a good way to meet friends. The city also has a professional soccer team (Deportivo Cuenca). Among other things, Cuenca has easy access to hiking, fishing, biking, and running. The Cajas National Park is only an hour away with several different hikes to choose from. The hikes range in distance and difficulty.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
In our apartment, the monthly expenses are mainly rent, food, transportation, cell phone bill, and social activities.
Monthly rent is roughly $320
Food costs roughly $400 ($200 per person, cooking at home and not eating at restaurants)
Transportation is fairly cheap $0.25 per ride (total cost depends on how much you take them since the city is very walkable)
Cellphone bill cost depends on user (we pay $16 per month, but you can pay as little as $12)
Social Activities are hard to estimate because the type of social activity can exponentially change the amount (i.e., going to bars or clubs versus' free events hosted by the city).
How would you describe your standard of living?
Our standard of living in Cuenca, Ecuador, is similar to the USA because you have drinkable water, electricity, internet, and gas. All utilities commonly available throughout the USA.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I would say $500 a month to live comfortably or in a break-even lifestyle.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would recommend teaching English abroad to anyone. However, depending on the person's motivation for traveling abroad, I may give them different pieces of advice. For example, if you want to learn a language while living abroad, it is truly difficult and I would say to teach English online is a better route for that. The preparation is minimal and the potential exposure to the foreign language of interest is higher. If you want the travel experience then teaching for a school is great because you will make a bunch of friends who you can easily communicate with and befriend. I would recommend people to teach in Ecuador because it is a beautiful country with a lot to offer; however they should only come to the country once they have obtained the voluntary work visa because it is an intensive process to complete in the country.
Drew is from Chicago and took the In-Person Chicago TEFL Course at the ITA headquarters. Then he and his wife went to teach English in Cuenca, Ecuador.
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