Interview with Ben Thomas, Mexico Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Ben Thomas, I am 21 years old and I am from England.

What is your education level and background?

I have a university level education, having recently graduated with a degree in anthropology, with a focus on a holistic (well rounded) approach to studying human evolution, behaviour and culture.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I have travelled with my family to various countries in Europe including Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, as well as to the USA and Canada. I have travelled solo in both Costa Rica and Colombia, both of which were amazing experiences which I would recommend to anyone!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I decided that I wanted to travel and immerse myself in a new culture but I wanted to avoid just being a tourist, so naturally working in another country seemed like the best option. I turned to teaching English abroad as it is a fantastic way of working in another country, given that you not only work with local people, but you get a sense of genuinely helping people when you can see them learning. The combination of the cultural immersion of working in a new country and the rewarding satisfaction of teaching motivated me to teach abroad.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

I wanted to achieve personal growth and experience a new lifestyle, and I would like to say I have succeeded! Moving to a new country, learning a new language and finding your way in a new city and job really does encourage personal growth in terms of maturity and wisdom in a way. Independence becomes a must, and you begin to learn how different parts of the world function. I have seen this personal growth in myself and in other new teachers around me, and the effect is definitely positive. I also feel I have certainly began to experience a new lifestyle, as Mexico has so much to offer in terms of food, culture and the warmth of the people here.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied on my own.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

No I did not.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

I was concerned about learning a new language and generally having little knowledge about where I was going to be situated, which unnerved me to some degree.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

I decided to do a TEFL course so that I could travel and not be a tourist, so I could really immerse myself in a new culture whilst performing a rewarding job like teaching. I chose TEFL Heaven because it feels very safe and very reliable, given that so much of the organisation of the whole process of going abroad and studying to teach/beginning to teach is handled by them in such a professional manner.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

I felt like a face to face course would offer more in-depth preparation for teaching, which is certainly not a job you want to go into unprepared.

Which TEFL program did you do?

The TEFL program in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

There were lots of things to enjoy about the course, ranging from the location of Puerto Vallarta and its many amenities to the fantastic staff and teaching of the course to the people I was lucky enough to take the course with.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

Very. The course in Vallarta gives you very practical knowledge for teaching, which you are then able to practice in hands-on teaching practice scenarios. The course aids you in preparation for these practices and after having done them you will have some experience of what teaching is like. For me, this made me feel very prepared for working as I left the course knowing I could teach a class well if I prepared well. As such the nerves for my first classes in my new job were much more manageable!

How long have you been teaching in Mexico and how long do you plan to stay?

I have been teaching in Mexico for a month now, and I plan on staying another five months minimum.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

The job placement program that comes with the TEFL course in Vallarta secured the interview for the job for me, which was extremely helpful as I was able to have a job lined up before I finished the course as a result.

What type of school or organisation do you work for?

I work for an organisation that teaches business English to adults. Classes are taught at the premises of different businesses across the city.

What does a typical working week look like for you?

I have two classes a day that last one and a half hours, and work five days a week. The classes are in different parts of the city, so my job involves some degree of travel, however not too much as the company I work for makes sure the businesses you teach are easy to get to for you. In the mornings on weekdays I travel to class, and after I have finished have time to go home and eat lunch, after which I travel to my next class and then finish for the day.

What age group or range to you teach?

I teach adults, generally 21 and over.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

The engagement that you can have with your class is so rewarding. You can really have fun in this job, through teaching you find yourself and your class having fun along the way in the learning process, and the engagement that gives you with your students is really rewarding.

How did you get your work visa?

The work visa is provided by the company you work for, with most of the process undertaken by them. For Mexico, you need to go to a Mexican embassy in another country to collect your work visa, so keep in mind some travel is needed to complete the process.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?

I found my accommodation from a recommendation that I got from an Airbnb I stayed at when I first arrived in the city. It’s a lovely place in a nice neighbourhood with many amenities close by.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

Mexican culture is definitely worth experiencing. The people here are so genuinely warm and friendly, and they definitely know how to have fun. There are many festivals throughout the year from Mexican independence day to the day of the dead, all of which are great opportunities to go out and have a good time. The food here is fantastic, and if you don’t like spicy food before you come here, you will when you leave! The general culture around food in Mexico is really rich, food is made with a lot of care and is really meant to be enjoyed.

In terms of transportation, much of Mexico is traversable by bus. For Guadalajara, the bus system is quite extensive and should be able to get you from A to B relatively easily. I do recommend downloading an App for your phone called Moovit, as it is especially helpful navigating the bus routes in the cities here when you first arrive.

There are many places of interest to visit in Mexico and Guadalajara, to the point that you will not find yourself short of places to visit! In Guadalajara there are many beautiful temples and cathedrals to visit in the centre, as well as Chapultepec, a street with a fantastic array or bars and restaurants that has a great nightlife. On top of that you have big clubs such as La Santa to visit and many shopping malls throughout the city.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: 3500 pesos/ 184 USD

Food: 3500 pesos / 184 USD

Other bills: Gym membership – 750 pesos / 40 USD

Social life: 500 – 1000 pesos / 52 USD for nights out/ meals with friends.

Transportation: 750 – 1000 pesos / 40 - 52 USD

Phone: 250 pesos / 13 USD

Other costs: N/A

Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

Yes I would, you just have to make sure to spend your money carefully!

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Mexico?

I would say do it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and the job itself is so rewarding. If you’re not sure if teaching is for you I would say that you can almost definitely find a teaching style that suits you and you feel comfortable with, and a demographic you feel happy teaching.

I would definitely recommend teaching in Mexico, the country has so much to offer! If you want to experience Latin America, I would say that this is one of the best countries to come to, as it has so much culture and so much to see and do.

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