All roads lead to Medellín

My very first blog post on TEFL in Colombia is called Everybody wants to live in Medellín. Its main aim was to motivate teachers, especially newly-qualified ones, to look beyond this amazing city and consider working in other parts of Colombia. In addition, I mentioned some disadvantages of working as an English teacher in the capital of Antioquia. And now I’m sure you can guess where this is heading: A year and a half after writing the blog post, I moved to Medellín.

All roads lead to Medellín

To be precise, I decided to move to Envigado, which means that technically I live outside the city of Medellín. It’s just two metro stops away from Aguacatala, though, so it feels very close. I chose this location because I wanted to avoid the noise of the city centre and the high prices of El Poblado. My experience in Envigado has been very positive so far.

Does this mean that the original blog post was just a load of nonsense? I don’t think so. I still recommend exploring the country and looking for opportunities away from major cities. After deciding to leave Medellín in 2017, my work took me to three different regions of Colombia, so I had a chance to visit some really cool places. I’ll never forget living in a town in Boyacá during my first teaching role, which was a brilliant experience. My two years in Manizales allowed me to explore the beautiful coffee region. The stint in Bucaramanga was affected by the pandemic, but there were still some positives.

The main reason for moving back to Antioquia is that I feel ready for it. While I was away, I managed to get a Delta and became a Colombian resident, which makes language institutes see me in a completely different light than four and a half years ago. Back then I was just a random tourist with no teaching experience. I’m sure that I can avoid the pitfalls of working in ELT in the second biggest city in Colombia.

Moving to a new place also gave me an impetus to make changes in my professional life, and I’m not an employee anymore. The process of registering as a freelancer caused me a bit of a headache in terms of dealing with local institutions, but I believe that I’m going to benefit from it in the long term. In addition to being more flexible when it comes to my work schedule, I hope that this will give me an opportunity to gain experience in a variety of areas related to ELT.

Since I moved to Envigado, I’ve done some interesting work as an independent contractor with International House, which has offices in Bogotá and Medellín. One of my main reasons for collaborating with this institute is that it takes professional development seriously. In fact, I did my Delta Module Two with IH Mexico and took the Train the Trainer course with IH Lima, and I hope to get a chance to develop professionally here in Colombia. I’ve already received Delta-style feedback on a lesson, which is exactly what I need in order to improve as a teacher.

It seems my 2022 is going be about learning useful skills and using them in new teaching contexts. For example, I currently teach one-to-one classes, which is something I’d had very little experience with. Creating personalised lessons from scratch and designing my own materials is a lot of fun! Even though it could mean that I won’t have much time for updating this blog in the next few months, I feel that I need to focus on making the most of this new opportunity. Leaving the comfort of employment is a little risky, but the only way to find out if this is the right step for me is to give it a go and see what happens.

Back to work

I try to keep this blog regularly updated, but there was a good reason for the distinct lack of activity on this website in the past few weeks: I took a short break from TEFL. Right after my last lesson of the year in the first half of December, I travelled to Europe and spent an eventful month there. The most important part of the trip was seeing my family again after a very long time on another continent, and I hope I won’t need to wait so long for my next visit. In addition, it was nice to go to some amazing places in the Czech Republic and Spain.

Prague

I have to say that it’s important to unwind from time to time. It was very pleasant to get away from teaching English classes and my own professional development for a while, especially after the previous two crazy years. I didn’t have much time to follow what was happening in the ELT world, but that’s fine. The blog managed to survive without my intervention as well, and I’m very happy to see that there are readers accessing old posts through search engines. It also seems that spammers never go on holiday because I found some annoying messages that slipped through the WordPress filter.

Another reason for my radio silence was the fact that I spent three weeks trying to get my Colombian resident visa. Providing live updates related to the process would have been entertaining for the audience, but I didn’t want to harm my chances of obtaining the residency. To be honest, it was quite a stressful period with a few sleepless nights. Fortunately, I was granted the visa, so everything turned out to be fine. It was a big deal for me because I’m pretty sure that if my application had been rejected, I would be looking for work in another country right now.

Barcelona

Did I consider staying in Europe and not coming back? Not really. I’m happy to be in Colombia and still feel that I can achieve my career goals here. My residency gives me more flexibility in case of interesting offers from abroad, but for now I plan to focus on having a career in ELT here. In practical terms, it means putting my Delta to a good use, and that’s what I’m going to focus on this year.

Of course, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. I was supposed to attend an intensive training course for teachers right after returning to Colombia, but the sessions were postponed because of the virus, which threw a spanner into the works in terms of my work schedule. It’s far from ideal, but that’s something we have to live with now.

I finally taught my first post-holiday lesson yesterday, which made me feel great. It reminded me of my first few lessons on the CELTA course, when I quickly realised how much I love teaching English. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of talking to students because each of them brings their unique personality to the class. Having advanced qualifications and knowing how to use the latest technology can be very helpful, but the main principles of teaching aren’t that complicated: The students should have a good time in your lessons while learning English in a meaningful way. I can’t wait for the next class!