A Day in the Life of an English Teaching Fellow in Colombia

dsc_0934By Sara French

Hey, my name is Sara and I am an English Teaching Fellow in Cali, Colombia. Maybe you have already applied to the program (great decision) or you’re just curious about living abroad; either way I hope I can paint a small picture about my daily life here in Colombia. It is difficult to write about a “typical” day here simply because every day is different filled with its own surprises and challenges.

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One thing remains consistent throughout each day here: breakfast. I work in the afternoon which is quite accommodating to the whole eight hours of sleep every night recommendation. Further, the morning shifts usually begin around 6:30am and as the furthest thing from a morning person it is better for me alongside everyone at the school that I am not working during the morning. Back to breakfast…one of the many great things about Colombia is their firm belief in a hearty breakfast that usually consists of scrambled eggs, rice, arepa(s) with the help of cafe con leche/ un tinto (depending on your coffee preferences) to wash it all down. Around 10:45am I am off to catch the bus, affectionately known as the Mio here in Cali. Like most public transportation systems there are both good and bad days. I account for forty-five minutes in transit although sometimes I arrive much earlier and sometimes later. After nine months in Cali I am still trying to conquer the timing of the Mio. I am honestly not sure even Colombians can achieve this miraculous feat.

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I arrive to Colegio Simon Rodriguez usually just in time for class at 11:30. I’ve easily adapted to the Colombian custom of arriving just in time or fashionably late. Today is Wednesday so I teach one section of eighth graders for two hours, then the other section of eighth graders for an hour, during the break I hold a conversation club (my favorite part of the day), and I finish the day around six o’clock with two hours of tenth graders. Arriving at 11:30am and leaving around 6/6:15pm comes down to about seven hours at school. Wednesday is the busiest day for me however I find that because I am constantly on-the-go the time flies by. My schedule during the rest of the week is a bit more relaxed, for example, I will teach one-two hours then have a break before another class.

Colombia is an amazing country full of beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and loving people, however the classroom is full of interruptions. There have been times I arrived at school to find out there are no classes due to a variety of reasons: no water, no electricity, a school meeting, or a school-wide activity. For example, this Friday instead of classes there will be presentations celebrating the month of love and friendship (that’s September people). To be honest I rarely work a five day week. While initially I was loving the accumulating number of days off this makes it difficult to build on lessons, schedule assessments, and plan for future classes. Ultimately it depends on your school in regards to your schedule, teaching space, and working hours.

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After my final class I am accompanied to the Mio station by a group of students and fellow teachers to take the E37 bus back to my place. Today I got a seat! A true miracle. Usually around this time in the evening the whole world seems to be on the Mio making it a rather close ride. I’ll just say I really get to know my neighbors on the bus.

 

If I am not tempted to buy an early evening coffee at Dunkin Donuts, strategically placed on my walk home, I arrive in my house around 7/7:15pm. Once home this usually means you will find me changing out of pants and laying on top of my bed under my fan on full blast. While my school is blessed with more resources than others air conditioning in the English classroom is not one of those luxuries. After I cool down from the cramped bus ride home, I am heading to Museo La Tertulia to watch a movie with a few friends. This museum boasts a variety of art exhibits, cultural events, and nightly international film screenings. After the movie we will probably walk over to one of the many bars in the area for a beer or two before heading home for the night. Most of my friends have to set their alarms quite a bit earlier than mine as they work in the morning.

So there you have it readers. Welcome to my Wednesday! Happy “hump day” from Colombia! Cali is a great placement city because there are so many activities going on during both the weekdays and weekends. Many fellows fill their free time during the weeks with salsa lessons, Spanish classes, and soccer leagues. While I technically have a set schedule I truly never know what my day is going to bring, welcome to Colombia my friends. One thing I can assure you is that every day you will arrive to your school with hundreds of teenagers smiling and yelling, “Hello teacher!!!.” I’ve taken more selfies with my students this calendar year than I ever have in my entire life.

Chao parceros!

Abrazo de Cali,

Sarita

 

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