Teaching English in Tehuacán, Mexico: Q&A with Caroline Cassard

What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Baltimore, Maryland

How old are you?

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

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Colombia, and I studied abroad in Argentina.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I loved my Spanish teachers when I studied abroad in Argentina. I wanted to do what they were doing: helping students connect with other cultures through language learning. And I wanted a practical job that would allow me to travel the world.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was concerned about work-life balance. I worried that I would have to work long hours just to cover start-up costs. I wanted to have enough free time to really explore another country and culture.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family and friends continue to be very supportive. Some expressed apprehension about "dangerous countries" in the beginning. This was especially the case when I first traveled as a solo lady and moved to Colombia
. But with the awareness that every country and city has its dangers, they are open-minded about my travels. I'm lucky to have a supportive family that encourages me to see the world.

Teach English in Mexico

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I wanted the certification and practical training that would help me to find a job abroad.

I chose International TEFL Academy because they offer a longer course with a practicum that is more competitive than competing TEFL schools' programs. I liked International TEFL Academy's online course because it allowed me to complete the certification at a pace that worked for me. I was also blown away by positive reviews from alumni. And the job assistance has proven invaluable. I love that International TEFL Academy offers so many resources, manuals, and webinars that make the job search process a lot less scary after you've completed the certificate.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course

How did you like the course?
I liked the course because it allowed for flexibility in my schedule. I was taking my last semester of a full college course load and working part-time in a restaurant at the same time. The online course allowed me to manage my time and complete the course at a rate that worked for me.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training prepared me with lesson planning. Through writing practice lesson plans, I was able to find a wealth of online resources including EFL sites that continue to provide endless ideas and materials that I can use in my classroom.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Mexico in the city of Tehuacán. I wanted to continue teaching in a Spanish-speaking country. I was attracted to a "Paid Volunteer" program in a school in Central Mexico. Tehuacán is a small city, and I came here solely for the local program. It seemed like a resume-builder, and I was eager for more structured teaching experience.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Mexico since January 2017, and I plan to stay until mid-August. This program is typically four months, but I decided to stay for an additional semester.

During which months does your school typically hire?
Semesters begin in January, May, and August.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
Skype/Phone Interview.

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Tourist Visa.

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I am a paid volunteer. This means that I do not have a work visa. Housing is provided by the school free of charge, and teachers are given a weekly living stipend.

TEFL Mexico

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
TEFL Certification.

What is the best way to apply?
Apply to my school online.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I am teaching at a private secondary school in the mornings and a private language academy in the afternoons and evenings. (The language academy offers classes for all ages, ranging from age four to adults).

Hours: I have 25 contact hours a week, so it is definitely full-time work.

Savings: I am not touching my savings account, but I'm also not saving money. I'm breaking even.

Vacation: The spring semester allows for a one-week Spring Break vacation (during Semana Santa). There are also a handful of three-day weekends for travel. The school also sets up free Spanish language classes for teachers, three times a week.

This is not the type of job you do for the money. But I have really built my resume here. In the past year, I've taught to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, a TOEFL preparatory course, IELTS prep tutoring, and creative conversation workshops alongside more structures textbook-based classes. I have gained incredible professional experience here while enjoying the laid-back Mexican lifestyle and exploring Central and Southern Mexico. It has been an incredibly social job, and I have enjoyed working with and getting to know the group of teachers at the school.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
The school provides two options: home-stays and a teacher's apartment. I lived with another teacher and a host family for the first four months, which allowed me to practice my Spanish even more and learn about the local culture. Now, I've moved to the teacher's apartment, where I have four roommates.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    

Food is almost always cheap. And it's spicy if you want it to be. Street food is abundant and market meals are the most economic. If you come to Central Mexico, you'll be eating a lot of tacos, tlayudas, huaraches, memelas, and quesadillas. Tortillas in every form.

Public transportation in Tehuacán is a combi system. These are small van-sized buses that run all around town. They only cost about 5 pesos a ride, which is about 25 cents. It's very affordable. It's also easy to walk here.

Tehuacán may be a city, but it feels like a small town where everyone knows everyone. So running into my secondary school students at a club on a Friday night is a scary possibility. And gossip here travels quickly. People are eager to know foreigners, and it's impossible to blend in here unless you are Mexican. The only foreigners in town are those who work for this school. There is not much of an expat community.

Traveling to Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca is easy. Bus routes are direct and not pricey. I was able to travel through beautiful Chiapas for 9 days during Spring Break. It was one of my favorite trips.

Get TEFL Certified and teach English in Mexico

What are your monthly expenses?
My rent and utilities are covered by the school. My transportation to work is also covered by the school. I pay roughly 100 pesos (5 US dollars) a month for data and calls for my phone. Cell phone data is so cheap here. I spend about 50 pesos a day for food, between eating lunch out and cooking dinner at home.

Teachers spend time outside of work with their host families, with other teachers, and with locals. Socially, there is not a lot to do in Tehuacán. There are a handful of bars and small clubs. Weekends are a good time to take day trips or over-night trips to nearby cities.

How would you describe your standard of living?
My standard of living is comfortable. I have access to hot water. I use public transportation, like most locals. I can buy fresh produce at corner markets and cook my own food when I need a break from the fried market meals.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
The pay here is very limited. However, it's manageable and possible to live here on the living stipend alone as long as you don't fall into any shopping habits.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
If I weren't teaching abroad right now, I don't know what I'd be doing. I don't regret this decision at all. I'm learning something new every day. I love teaching in Mexico for the opportunity to practice Spanish and enjoy such dramatic variations of local cuisine. I enjoy the laid-back culture. Stress levels feel so much lower here than in the U.S.


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