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Teaching English in Guadalajara, Mexico: Q&A with Jacob Poulos
Written by: Jacob Poulos
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?
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I decided to teach abroad because I wanted to learn a new language, to experience a new culture, and to see the world. I have always been a wanderer so this field was perfect for me.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried about finding housing, a bank, and friends when I was not fluent in Spanish quite yet. Thankfully, the school where I teach offered to help me with all of these things, including free Spanish lessons for the entire year!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most of my friends were supportive, while my family was a bit concerned. I live in Mexico, and many Americans think of the country as unsafe. However, I have not had a problem since I've been here. I never feel threatened or in danger; you have to use the same street smarts you would use in New York City.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to become certified because while it's possible to find work teaching abroad without, there are less opportunities and the pay is typically lower. I chose International TEFL Academy since they offer online classes and I was also finishing my Masters at the time.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course since I had no prior experience teaching. The instructors were prompt and helpful, and the tasks were exactly the kind of work that I currently do daily in class preparation. My practicum (live practice teaching) gave me the opportunity to put this to work before actually going abroad. I believe that practicum is harder than my job now. In my current job, all of my students are from Mexico so the accent is similar, but my practicum had students from all over the world!
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
TEFL training taught me most importantly what to expect coming abroad, because it can seem scary. I also learned how to plan a productive class tying grammar, vocabulary, and a topic together.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Mexico in the city of Guadalajara because I had no money to go to some of the countries further south. My school also hired me via Skype while I was in the USA. I studied Spanish in the past so I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been here for a year. Currently I'm planning to go home for the summer, and to return in September.
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.
My school did the visa process for me. I went to a Mexican consulate in the US before arriving for an interview. Once I entered Mexico, you have 30 days to go to immigration to complete the process. I paid for it myself; the school doesn't help. Immigration can be frustrating, but know that each time you go, they might ask for something else. Stay calm and bring anything they could possibly ask for.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I teach about 30-hours a week, and the schedule varies. Monday through Thursday, I teach at companies through my school and on Saturdays, I teach at the school. The schedule is a little bit tough. My classes are early in the morning and late at night because people have jobs and school. My pay is enough to save a little bit, and I have been able to travel throughout Mexico. I teach all levels, from complete beginner teenagers to adults in companies. Vacation is available after six months with the company, but it is unpaid. My hourly pay is about 120 pesos (~$6.45 USD) an hour.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I used the website segundamano.mx which is like the Mexican craigslist. I rent a furnished room in a house, and I live with a young Mexican family. It's close to my work and everything is included.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Mexicans are extremely friendly and warm, but knowing a little bit of Spanish is key. Not many people speak English, especially at food stands, restaurants, stores, etc. I take the bus everyday and have never had a problem. They are also extending the metro here, but now, it is a bit limited as it doesn't go to much of the city. There is a transportation discount for teachers also.
The nightlife is incredible, and Mexicans will party all night, with tacos afterwards. It's not uncommon for me to pass people walking home from the club while I'm going to work in the morning.
The food is cheap and incredible. While the internet says to avoid food stands, I eat at food stands every day and have never gotten sick. In general, eat where there are crowds. This means the food is good and safe.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I have had a great experience here in Guadalajara, though you should be a little bit more careful than in the USA with PDA. The country is very Catholic and a bit behind the times.
I did get a chance to go to the beach and to Mexico City, by taking buses. These are safe and very comfortable. I recommend Primera Plus.
What are your monthly expenses?
My monthly expenses breakdown like this:
- Rent/utilities: 3500 pesos (~$188 USD)
- Food: 1500 pesos (~$80 USD)
- Social activities: 600 pesos (~$32 USD)
- Transportation: 300 pesos (~$16 USD)
- Phone: 300 pesos (~$16 USD)
How would you describe your standard of living?
The standard of the living is not much different than in the USA. Mexicans lead simpler lives though and it is much more relaxing here. Mexicans are notoriously hard workers though, and jobs can expect a lot from you.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I think that for Guadalajara, 10,000 pesos (~$537 USD) a month is more than enough to live comfortably.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would recommend teaching to someone who wants to experience culture. When you embrace the culture, you become family here. I think that if you are in doubt, you should take the leap of faith. No one regrets travel.
With an aim of learning a new language, experiencing a new culture, and seeing the world, Jacob knew what he had to do. He had always been a wanderer, so teaching English abroad was the perfect fit. After taking ITA's Online TEFL Course, Jacob moved to Guadalajara, Mexico to teach English to students of varying ages - from teenagers at beginner level all the way through to teaching adults business English.
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