How I Found a Teaching Job in South America


When I was an undergraduate studying Literature going through the oh-so-stereotypical, "Oh my god, what am I going to do with my life? How can I choose one thing for the rest of my life? This is a crisis of an existential magnitude," I came across the book Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. This totally explains why I often get emails from Amazon titled, "Hot New Releases in Self-Help" by the way. I've always believed books can solve any and every problem.  This particular slop of self-help opened my eyes to the idea that I could "have it all." 

I worked for a year after earning my BA at an interpreting agency by day (and developing the now delightfully useful skill of understanding foreign accents) and spent hours drooling over travel blogs by night. I came to the following conclusion: I was one of those sick people who MISSED school, and two weeks not chained to a desk a year was never going to fulfill my travel dreams.

So I applied for a Master's in Teaching program. I knew there were many opportunities to work abroad in teaching, and where else could I talk about writing and reading all day?  I found my perfect fit, the perfect blend of literature, writing, traveling, and activism. During my Master's program, I studied abroad in Africa and taught ELL strategies to teachers there, and when I graduated, I got my first teaching job at a Title 1 middle school. I gained two years of brutally beautiful experience you can only get from a high poverty school. I also met my match in both love and wanderlust in my boyfriend Aaron, who has one of the most adventurous spirits I've ever met. Living abroad was on his bucket list, so we made a pact to move together if/when I was offered a teaching job abroad. 

The day I found out I was offered my dream job in south america called for a margarita, obviously.

The day I found out I was offered my dream job in south america called for a margarita, obviously.

I spent all Thanksgiving break doing research and signing up for agencies that place teachers abroad in international and bilingual schools; I ended up paying the fee to become a member of Search Associates. I spent all Christmas break writing cover letters, filling out applications, and agonizing over my personal statement (is it too cheesy to use the phrase "dream come true?"). I received a lot of "thank you for your interest but..." emails and 1 interview via Skype. I read again and again that I had to attend a international teaching job fair if I wanted a job offer, but that Skype interview resulted in my first teaching overseas position at a private bilingual school in Manizales, Colombia. 

I can only speak from my own experience and of others' stories I've heard, but the schools who hire international teachers are typically very helpful. I didn't have to worry about my boyfriend or my own visa; they found a furnished apartment for us, set up our internet, booked my plane ticket, set up my phone plan, started me a local bank account, and answered every insane, little question that came to my mind. It was - as far as moving abroad goes - luxuriously worry free (minus my obsessive packing behavior). 

There are all sorts of ways to travel longterm such as saving up enough money to quit your job or by volunteering, but I'm thankful I found an easier route with more financial stability. I'm also incredibly blessed to be at a bilingual school where the vast majority of my students are from the country I'm living in. They've already taught me so much about the culture. I've really got it all now. 

Other helpful resources for finding a teaching job abroad are International Schools Services (ISS) & The International Educator (TIE).


Ashley Peak

Teacher & traveler seeking bright sides and adventures. I recently left my position as a Title 1 middle school teacher in Spokane, WA for a position in Manizales, Colombia teaching English and Geography at a bilingual private school. I'm passionate about education in action, the power of literature, and traveling the world. Optimism Rampage is a place for me to reflect on the adventure. β€œStuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. see the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451