Six Weeks Teaching & Living in Colombia

So, I’ve still not broken from the routine of being utterly dreadful at updated the blog.

I’ve now been living in Manizales, Colombia, teaching English, since the middle of March; so around six weeks. And I’ve got to say I’m enjoying this change of pace to travelling. I enjoy being in once place, getting to know it better, having a bit of routine to things and having my own place with a kitchen where I can cook. If we look back at this post…. Manic March Making it in Manizales

I mentioned three reasons for why I decided to do the teaching and put my travel on hold, let’s see how they’ve faired up so far:

1) “Earn some money, meaning I can put the travelling “on hold” and stay in Colombia for a while without burning through my travel fund.”

SUCCESSES: Well I get paid at the end of each month; sort of… in true Colombian style, this month the Ministry of Education are paying us a week late – a tad inconvenient. But living somewhere like Manizales, things are cheaper and so my small salary goes a long way here and I don’t feel like I’m “wasting my money” staying in one location for a long period of time.

FAILURES: Hmmmmm. So here lies the problem. Living in Manizales, it would be totally possible to survive on the modest salary we are paid for the teaching, but me being me, I like the finer things in life. This combined with my need to travel and explore Colombia at the weekends means that I have gone over and used my UK savings a tad. But I’ve literally only dipped in compared to how much I was spending per week on average for the entirety of my trip to this point.


2) “Leave the tourist hub that is Medellin for another less-touristic city which would help with my Spanish. I thought it’d be an immersive experience for me. Throw me into Colombian life for me to see what it’s really like to live and work here.”

SUCCESSES: My Spanish is definitely improving, but not perhaps as quickly as I’d hoped. But this experience is giving me lots of opportunity to get lots of practice in everyday. We had strict instructions from the Ministry of Education NOT to speak Spanish to the children in school, but it’s near impossible because the children are young and impatient, they don’t want to have to exert masses of energy trying to understand what I’m saying. So often I hear “no entiendo” and they near enough refuse to engage in class or activities if I don’t explain things in Spanish. So opens up a chance for me to practice speaking Spanish. I also obviously have to engage with others teachers, secretaries and employees around the school and in the local area of the school which means I’m practising Spanish everyday.

I also live in a shared apartment with a Colombian university student called Julian. He speaks great English, so it’s a nice opportunity for us to language exchange with one another.

And yes, outside of more touristic cities/destinations, everyday life requires much more Spanish. It’s abnormal to come across an English speaker in Manizales. But this is all great for me!

FAILURES: one of my current biggest challenges in getting to grips with Spanish is speaking in the past tense and grammar. I have a great amount of vocabulary now, but still struggle with alot of past tense. I know the important ones. So when I arrived in Manizales I set out to arrange private lessons for possibly 4 hours per week. But hit a wall; for all the advantages of living somewhere off the tourist trail, having no tourists means there is little to no demand for private Spanish tutors. I’m still working on it.


3) “Get back into a routine, having a job, giving me a totally different experience to travelling – get some teaching experience under my belt.”

SUCCESSES: Got a routine back. But…. schools here in Colombia start at 6.30-12.30. So I have to be getting up at 5.30 which is farely painful for a night owl. But great because I have all afternoons off. Totally different experience to travelling? Absolutely! I’m experiencing more about living in Colombia this way, I have alot more exposure to real-people, the culture and way of life. It’s great!

FAILURES: The “teaching experience” bit…. at least I know for sure it’s not for me! I love being with the kids and talking to them about stuff, but the actual teaching element in a public school on this scale where you have 40 kids in a classroom and the standards or discipline in Colombia are none-existent (in my school at least). But I do enjoy sharing knowledge and seeing the kids learn when they do, so perhaps teaching privately would work better…for people who are paying to be there, so they take it more seriously maybe? But overall still a great experience.



So…. that’s my update, perhaps we can see how it all looks at the end of my time in Manizales.

But for now, all I’d recommend to other travellers…. if you’ve got the time, take up opportunities like this one because it’s a totally different pace of travel/experience than the usual backpacker route and will give you more memories to take on the road and back home with you!

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