Sara French

Last May I graduated college with a large diploma in hand and very little in my bank account. I did not know exactly what or where I wanted to land next but the one thing I was sure about was avoiding the mundane 9-5 behind a computer screen routine. I reflected upon my experiences during college and could not shake this feeling that I belonged abroad challenging myself each day. In Spring 2014 I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and left the beautiful country fascinated with Argentine culture, the Spanish/Castellano language, and curious about the US-Latin American relationship I realized I knew very little about. As many readers may be able to relate, the “travel bug” is highly contagious and once caught it does not simply go away. I spent the summer after graduation working my usual summer job dedicating hours each week to searching the internet for opportunities to live and work abroad. Eventually, I found Connecting Worlds Latin America (CW) and reached out to the organization about the English Teaching Fellowship Program in Colombia, South America. Within a few hours I received a very detailed and friendly email from Cristina, the director of CW. The rest is history.

 

My name is Sara French and I am an English Teaching Fellow in Cali, Colombia. I arrived in January 2016 and will be here until the end of this year. I am incredibly grateful to have found CW and their incredible staff. Since last September they have guided me through every part of the application process, my transition into Colombia, and continue to provide support during my time here. The English Teaching Fellowship Program is a PAID internship funded through the Colombian Ministry of Education and is completely FREE to apply.

 

Fellows choose from six month (with the possibility to renew) to year long contracts and are placed throughout Colombia with the major cities being Medellin, Cali, Santa Marta, Baranquilla, and Cartagena. Fellows teach twenty-four hours a week in public high schools and serve as co-teachers working alongside Colombian English teachers. During my employment searches last year I realized there were many opportunities teaching abroad, however I lacked experience and confidence to teach completely alone in a classroom of children. 

 

Thus, the thought of co-teaching eased my mind and I have formed a bond with my Colombian co-teacher, she is essentially like my mother here in Colombia! Last year I would have never imagined myself working abroad full-time especially as a teacher, however I have learned that with lots of effort, patience, and a little luck I can create engaging and fun English lessons. While I am still not sure I will pursue teaching as a full-time profession following my contract here in Colombia, I have cultivated many skills I will take to my next endeavour, wherever or whenever that may be!

 

I truly have to thank Connecting Worlds for their continued support during my year-long adventure here in Colombia. Cris and the entire CW team truly care about their candidates as people and not just as names of applicants on sheets of paper. Traveling and actually living abroad is scary and not a small task for anyone as it entails a large list of “news”: new language, new environment, and a completely new culture. After discussing a few different options with Cris last September I decided to officially apply for the English Teaching Fellowship in Colombia. After completely the relatively brief application I had a series of two hour-long interviews. Within a week after the interviews I received the great news that would change my life, I was going to Colombia! CW helped with all the logistics from the paperwork to applying for a visa via Colombian government. I talk with Cristina often here in Colombia sharing my  experiences and travels with her. A well-traveled woman herself, I consider Cristina a dear friend now. I would highly recommend traveling with Connecting Worlds! They offer a variety of programs throughout South America and assist every kind of traveler in each step of the way.Thank you CW for making my abroad dreams a reality!

 

As I sit here writing this in a corner cafe sipping on a rather strong cafe con leche I cannot help but smile when thinking about all the great memories I have made here just in the past six months. From learning Colombian Spanish to engaging with my students every class, each day truly is an unpredictable adventure that I would not trade for the world. Perhaps the best part of the program, while there are many, is the large number of people I have met during my time here. Fellows come from all over the world to teach English in Colombia which makes this program a true cultural exchange. While I am a native English speaker every day I am learning new English words from my British and Australian friends… did you know Aussies call bathing suits “togs?” After this year I will have friends in all parts of the word, I guess it is time to start planning my next adventure! ~Sarita