If you want to teach fun and lively students, learn some Spanish, and visit a country rich in natural wonders, then Ecuador is a great option for first-time TEFL teachers. Over 20,000 British nationals visited Ecuador in 2010 (Source: Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism), so it must have something going for it.
I was a first-time TEFL teacher in Quito, but my experience living abroad started with a bang when I almost got mugged on my first night. I escaped unharmed but severely shaken up. I was determined to find a job teaching though. I was glad I stuck it out as I worked for three different language academies and found my vocation in life.
Life in the classroom
Ecuadorian students were laid back and easy going and it was a novelty for them to be speaking to a native English speaker; this made teaching easier as they were always appreciative and understanding when I made mistakes.
Compared to other countries I’ve worked in, I found the classroom environment in Ecuador relaxed. As a first-time teacher this was a bonus because I was still learning English grammar and I wasn’t bombarded with too many complex questions (unlike when I taught Asian students in Australia).
I had fun teaching in Ecuador and the students were always up for a laugh. Be careful though, in most classes they tried to get me to dance at some point. Being a shy English man (and without music or a beer in my hand) I declined to start with, but by the end of the course I’d given each class a cheeky jiggle.
I worked illegally on a tourist visa. I got paid between $2 and $4 an hour, cash in hand. The low wages didn’t bother me as I had some savings and was content teaching English and learning Spanish. I know people who still work illegally, but I’ve heard it’s a lot stricter now. To work legally you need to get a Work Visa 12-VI before you enter the country. If you have any doubts then read this article http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/html/immigration.html.
Life in the real world
The Ecuadorian family I lived with treated me like a son. I found an advertisement in an internet cafe and moved in after a quick meeting with the landlady. I was there for Christmas and New Years and they made me feel very welcome, even if they were a bit nosey at times. Witnessing their festive celebrations was great, but I did miss my family and mates.
For first-time TEFL teachers there are plenty of activities to do in Ecuador: scuba diving on the Galapagos Island (expensive), climbing Ecuador’s highest mountain Cotopaxi, and trekking through the jungle. Don’t miss out on the chance to eat Ecuadorians’ favourite dish too, cuy, guinea pig.
Living in Quito was great because there were a lot of places to visit at the weekends. I had trips away to Otavalo, Banos, and Ibarra. An hour from Quito is La Cuidad Mitad del Mundo. The town is dull, but it’s worth going to see the centre of the world. On New Year’s Day I went to the beach with the Ecuadorian family, which was a knackering 8-hour journey through the Andes, made worse with a hangover.
Crime put a downer on my time in Ecuador. Apart from the attempted mugging on my first night, I also got held up at knife point right outside my flat. I was lucky, but I heard horror stories of travellers who weren’t. Don’t go out on your own at night, wear a traveller’s pouch, and don’t carry a lot of valuables. Check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the latest notifications. There are dodgy characters floating about in most parts of South America, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go; just be careful. Suerte.
This blog is as seen on The TEFL blog from i-to-i