After graduating from University in 2015 with little idea of what I wanted to do and even slimmer desire to join the “real working world”, I sought out my first international adventure to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. Most people thought I was crazy after booking a one-way ticket. After all, I had a bad history of homesickness. I was doing it for adventure, to challenge myself, and to prove to myself (and others) that I could do it. And I did, but I returned home after a short three months with no money, and a plan to work in the US for a year, and then travel again.
I lasted three months stateside, before deciding I wanted to go abroad again. After weeks of research, I decided pursuing my TEFL would be the perfect thing for me to afford my travels, make a difference, and build my resume. I started taking the ITA online TEFL course in April, while working full-time at a preschool. I completed it, finished my practicum [live practice teaching], and had secured a job all within two months. I was set to move to Cuenca, Ecuador, in August.
Luckily, I was able to secure a job before heading off. I had decided on South America for a couple of different reasons – it was close enough for family and friends to visit, and I could practice my Spanish. Then I chose Ecuador for its compact size and somewhat easy access to the rainforest, coast, mountains, and Galapagos islands. I found Cuenca after discovering it was the number one expat destination in the world. I decided this would add a little bit of comfort into my first big move.
Securing the job ahead of time was a breeze, but required a lot of patience and flexibility. Things I should have expected to experience when I arrived here: First, after seeing a post on ESLCafe.com for CEDEI School, I reached out via email with my resume and cover letter. I heard back within a week and was immediately identified as a potential prospect. Over the next few weeks, I chatted via email with the international coordinator about my interests and experience as well as about the culture of the school and what to expect on their end. After several attempted Skype interviews we managed to have a very casual one. Again, within a few days, the coordinator had written me and informed me that I had been offered a job! After clarifying the pay, accommodations, and basics – I accepted!
The next step was acquiring our visa, which can also be done once you arrive in Cuenca. About a month before I left, CEDEI had sent me a package with all the forms I needed to apply. Everything was there, but THEY WERE ALL IN SPANISH. This made the task of matching documents to an online form more difficult, but manageable because I had a Spanish-speaking friend assist me. The process entailed receiving the package, scanning all documents onto your computer, accessing the Ecuador immigration website, creating an account, attaching all the documents to a visa request form, and waiting for their reply. CEDEI sponsors you on a Visa-12 XIII intercambio exchange visa. Here’s the worst part, it costs 450 USD. Thankfully, CEDEI will pay you back 250 USD installments as you complete your contract. After the government reviews your application, they will ask you to either mail your passport or if there is a consulate nearby, visit them. After visiting the consulate in Atlanta for about an hour, I had a freshly laminated, Ecuadorean visa in my passport. I was ready to go and would be leaving within a week.
With two suitcases in hand and a backpack, I made my way from Atlanta to Miami to Quito to Cuenca. On August 17, I arrived at my new home. The school had reserved rooms for us in a hostel, but I opted to rent an Airbnb, while I looked at smaller apartments in the city. I found one shortly and rented a nice 2 bed room 1.5 bath for $550! A bargain – but not on a $410/month salary. I make it work though! And there are plenty of other nice, much cheaper places around! Everything in Ecuador is within our reach: 25 cent bus rides, 2.50 almuerzos, cheap fresh fruits and vegetables.
After arriving and getting settled in, there were a few more tasks to be done. We had to register our visa, apply for a tax number (CEDEI pays this), and open a bank account. Meanwhile, we were also meeting other international teachers, setting up our classrooms, and getting to know our co-teachers.
CEDEI school is different from most the schools we know with the United States. It is operated on the idea that it is a democratic dual-language school. The kids take common-core classes in both Spanish and English. This supports their idea that we are teaching English as a native language and not like a second language. I love the idea, but it definitely requires some extra output on the teacher side of things. Another differing aspect is that they believe in total inclusion of the students with special needs. Again, an amazing idea, but requires a great need of training on expectations and adaptations.
The administrative side of things can get quite crazy, trying to find a happy medium between the international teachers’ ideas, national teachers’ ideas, and the governments’ ideas. You have to be flexible, patient, and have a “go with the flow” mentality while also being able to advocate for the your needs and the needs of your students. As with everything in life, its not always sunshine and flowers, but I look forward to going to work everyday. I have a job I love (for the most par), students I care about deeply, and I live admidst the Andes mountains. And, I have the ability to travel (We only work 4 days a week). What more could you want?