Interview with Kellane Korngay, Argentina Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Kellane Kornegay, I’m 25 and American.

What is your education level and background?

BA Communications from College of Charleston.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

Yes! I did a study abroad trip in Spain in 2013 as well as some personal travel in Spain in 2014. I also volunteered to teach in Mexico in 2015.

What motivated you to teach abroad?

After volunteer teaching in Mexico, I fell in love with the experience I had and wanted to continue doing something similar. I knew that getting a TEFL certificate would be an investment in my future and career.

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

A large part of what I wanted to accomplish was feeling comfortable in my own skin and in a teacher role. I was very nervous to be in front of a class – so much so that it was almost hard for me to picture it. Once I went through training and taught my first couple of classes, I found that I had the potential all along and not only felt comfortable in front of a classroom but am now confident in many situations I would have previously shied away from. I’d call that success.

I also wanted to improve on my Spanish. Though I have a pretty good background in the language, I am not anywhere near fluent. While my Spanish skills definitely improved, I did not get as firm of a grasp that I wanted on it and am somewhat disappointed in that regard. While there are ample opportunities to practice in Buenos Aires, when you are teaching English all day it can be a little tricky to completely immerse yourself in the native language.

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

I applied on my own and would suggest doing it that way. Only because if you go with a friend you will most likely always be with that person, which will make it harder to meet more people and make other friends. It is a more comfortable route for sure but I think part of the whole experience is about being uncomfortable – at least at first.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

I did know a couple of people that had taught abroad before and spoke with them a little bit before heading to Argentina. That was helpful as well as encouraging.

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

Not making any friends, hating the experience, missing out on my friends and family at home, not getting a job, and not being able to communicate were some of my main concerns. Did I miss my friends and family? Yes of course, but I wouldn’t have given up the great experience I had. They were all still here for me when I got back anyway!

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

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

I knew that spending the time and money on a TEFL course would be well worth the investment I was making in my future and career. TEFL Heaven was the most helpful and genuine company that I had talked with before making the final decision and I felt confident that they were well organized and would be communicative with me throughout the whole process. I was not wrong.

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

To me that was a no-brainer. While the online option is great for those that are unable to take the course abroad I think that face-to-face in the country you are going to teach in is an invaluable experience. You become more familiar with your country and the culture before you begin teaching. Not to mention the connections you make during your course. My instructor was amazing and I don’t think I would have learned half as much had I taken the course online.

Which TEFL program did you do?

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

I loved being in a classroom setting again and learning something new every day. I had been out of college for about 2 years and while I learned a lot of things in those 2 years, there is something to be said about having a teacher in front of you, a book on your desk, and peers next to you who are also eager to learn.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

Just after the course I probably felt about 80% prepared. After I taught my first lesson I felt 98% prepared. It is scary and nerve racking but once you are in front of people who are looking to you to learn you realize that you have all the skills and knowledge you need to teach a great class and be a great teacher. The TEFL course gives you all the resources you need, it is just a matter of confidence and creativity after that.

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

I was not long in Argentina but I was there for 4 months. The first month I was in the TEFL course and the last 3 months I was teaching in the city. I would have stayed longer but had to leave for personal reasons. I may eventually go to another country and teach again! Luckily I have that option since the TEFL certificate is accepted almost everywhere in the world.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

After the course our instructor and director of the program helped in reaching out to local institutes. This was a great help as I could make connections and be introduced to people that had a relationship with our institute. I ended up getting a position with the school that we did our practices with which was great.

What type of school or organisation do you work for?

In Buenos Aires I was working for a private institute and I also had several students independently.

What does a typical working week look like for you?

Each day was different as I would teach some classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and different classes on Tuesday/Thursday. Some of my independent classes were only once a week. The majority of my work days were reserved for teaching/lesson planning and my nights I would spend at home or with friends.

What age group or range to you teach?

All of my students were adults. I would teach some in-company classes where I would go to a company and have a lesson with some of the employees or I would meet some students in coffee shops and have a very relaxed/conversational lesson with them independently.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

I was unsure how to feel about teaching adults at first but soon realized that I loved it.  I got to know my students well and learn about their lives, families, careers and what life is like as a native Argentine.

How did you get your work visa?

In Buenos Aires a work visa was not necessary. Me and all my teacher friends worked on tourist visas and most institutes assume that. We got paid in cash at the end of each month. Only thing with that is you have to renew the visa every 90 days which means you have to leave the country. Making a trip to the beaches in Uruguay for the weekend sounds terrible, I know. Just kidding.

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

During the course I stayed in an AirBnb that I had arranged prior to leaving. Buenos Aires is jam packed of AirBnBs and there are a lot of nice options. I definitely suggest something like that for when you first arrive. After the course I had a friend of a friend that needed a roommate and lucked out on a place on one of the main avenues. It was definitely a stressful time securing that so the sooner you can lock something down, the better!

COUNTRY INSIGHT

One of the best surprises I found about Buenos Aires is the people. Almost everyone is genuinely kind and helpful. Surprising to me as I felt like most big cities were full of rushed, impolite folks. Not here.

Food is big in Buenos Aires. There are many great restaurants and opportunities to eat - though usually on the pricey side. Asados are a popular weekend activity that you won’t want to miss out on. Pizza and empanadas are on every corner and yes, no matter what pizza you order, there will be green olives on it.

Transportation is easy peasy in Buenos Aires though also kind of expensive with the inflation in the past couple of years. The Subte (subway system) can get you to most areas of the city and once you know the city well enough, the buses are simple to figure out as well.

Nightlife is insane. Clubs and bars are open until the wee hours of the morning. There are endless places to go and see. Dancing is a huge part of the culture as well. See a tango show if you can!

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: $300 USD

Food: $75 USD

Other bills: $50 USD

Social life: $75 USD

Transportation: $50 USD

Phone: $20 USD

Other costs: N/A

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

It is possible to live comfortably on the monthly salary though of course that depends on your spending habits. When I am in a new place, I want to do all the touristy things, I want to go out to eat and go to the clubs. That can add up very quickly. Argentina is expensive so you do need to make sure you set a budget.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

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

Do it! If you have come this far then you are cut out for it. Everyone’s experience is different so don’t have too many expectations. Either way, you won’t regret it. Be prepared financially and mentally. While it is a great time where you will learn a lot, it will also be challenging. Be ready but be flexible. Enjoy!

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