Top Tips for Living and Teaching English in Colombia
Author: Jane Packer
Excerpt: English Teaching Fellow, Jane Packer, goes through her top five tips for survival on the MEN Program.
1. Be Patient
When living and working in Colombia patience is an important quality to have. I am not the most patient person, but my time in Colombia has forced me to become more patient with others, certain situations , and even myself. My patience is most frequently tested in the classroom. When my students are being loud, I must wait patiently until they are quiet, although my first reaction would normally be to raise my voice and become frustrated. In order to be successful in Colombia, you must remember to take a few breaths and be patient with the situation at hand.
2. Get out and explore the area On a weekend trip in Barichara
Try and get to know your city and the surrounding areas. I had a lot of time to explore on the various three day weekends throughout the semester. I got to visit lots of waterfalls, go on some great hikes, and eat yummy empanadas in colonial pueblos. I also got to camp in some beautiful places in Santander. If you budget for it, travelling can be pretty cheap, and it’s really nice to get out of your placement city and relax after a long week of classes. Inviting other fellows to travel is a good way to get to know them!
3. Eat almuerzos
Almuerzos ejecutivos are set lunches that cost about 7,000-10,000 pesos (2-3$). It comes with a soup, juice, meat, salad, and rice and beans. I eat one almost every day because I’m cheap and it is way better than what I could cook. I love almuerzos!
4. Include various activities in lessons My cultural event was about music in the United States
I found that my students like it when I vary types of activities within a lesson. For example, I try to include videos or music related to the lesson at least once a week. It is good to find out what your students like, and to include their interests in lessons. My students love to sing, so I try to bring in simple songs for them to sing. I find them singing them to each other, and they always ask if we can sing during class. They may think singing is silly at first, but if you get into it, they will too ( eventually). The Beatles are really good for teaching English in class, and students may be familiar with some of the songs!
5. Keep an open mind
Things will probably be different than what you are used to at home – schools, pace of life, social interactions etc. At first, it will take some time to adjust, and there may even be some things you can not adjust to ( that’s OK too, as long as you’re respectful!) Keep an open mind and try new things. This is a unique opportunity to reflect on and analyze values or beliefs you may not know you had. In short, make the most of your time here as you learn and grow!
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