Teaching English in Arequipa, Peru: Alumni Q&A with Eric Svensson

What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Cincinnati, Ohio

How old are you?

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

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Studied abroad

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and China.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
Costa Rica

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I finished college and decided I wasn't ready to enter the working world of the United States. I decided to take some time to travel and needed a way to support myself, so I decided to teach English.

Teach English in PeruWhat were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Adjusting to living long term in another country. Adapting to using the native language (Spanish in this case). Being a good enough teacher. If my personality would work with the job.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
They were supportive but some a little concerned. Friends were somewhat upset and confused but still supportive.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I wanted to be able to travel abroad and get to know more of the world while still making money to be able to support myself.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Peru - Arequipa.

How did you like the course?
I found the course interesting and fun, but challenging. The practicum was helpful and taught me new things about the English language that I hadn't really thought about before. The instructor was very knowledgeable although we had our disagreements.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
It has helped a lot. Without the TEFL training I would definitely be learning on the fly, and not as comfortable as I am now. It definitely set a solid background for what was expected of me.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Peru in the city of Arequipa. It was down to a choice between Peru and Colombia. Peru offered the TEFL course in Arequipa. I came and I fell in love with the city. I also wanted to practice my Spanish and experience living long term in a Latin American country.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I arrived originally in July 2015, so almost two years, minus a summer spent back in the US. I'd like to stay another year or so.

During which months does your school typically hire?
Throughout the year.

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.
Peru typically hands out 90-day tourist visas, and I have been able to work as a "paid intern" by renewing that by doing border hops every few months. Most people spend a long weekend in Chile or Bolivia then come back with a new tourist visa.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
- College degree preferred, but not required

What is the best way to apply?
Recruiter. Through Facebook you can write a message, but I signed up through ITA's job search resources.

TEFL PeruTell us about your English teaching job!
I work around 30-40 hours a week, depending on the month, for about 18-20 school days. Week days are adults classes, where students can range from age 14-50 something. The average age is probably around 20 - college students. I make about 15 soles an hour, which is about $5 US. It's difficult to save money, but here you can break even with a salary like that, as the cost of living is pretty cheap. At the end of each month, we typically get a weekend plus two or three extra days for a break before the next cycle starts.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
At first I stayed in a backpackers' hostel while I got settled in. I then checked the local newspaper for available rooms and settled in in a nice house in the historical San Lazaro district. You can expect to pay about 500 soles (a little less than $200) per month for rent here.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
The old culture is still very much alive in Arequipa and Peru as a whole. You'll see lots of parades, dancing in the streets, traditional clothing, etc. The nightlife is great; there are a couple areas where there will be live music on weekends. Plenty of places to go have a drink or go dancing with friends; from smaller bars to bigger clubs.

The expat community is nice, although the majority of foreigners only stay for 3-6 months. The food is great! Arequipa is known as the food capital of Peru, which itself is an up-and-coming cuisine country. Arequipa offers over 200 traditional dishes including delicious rocoto relleno, adobo, and ceviche.

The dating scene is good; I've seen several other foreign teachers end up dating a local, including myself!

Public transportation is fine. You can take the "combi" buses anywhere in town for 1 sol, or take a taxi, which are abundant and relatively cheap.

What are your monthly expenses?
$175 rent
$75 food
$75 social activities
$10 phone line
$10 transportation (Approximate)

How would you describe your standard of living?
Middle to middle upper class. Comfortable.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
You could live comfortably on about $600 USD a month or so.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would say to take the jump! It's a hugely rewarding experience. One of the best of my life. It'll look great on a resume too. And come to Peru before it gets to be to discovered! You'll love it!

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