Interview with Megan Smock, Peru Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

Megan, 25, USA

What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor´s Degree in Criminal Justice from Colorado Mesa University.

Have you traveled abroad previously, and if so where?

I lived in Okinawa, Japan for 2 years about 6 years ago where I worked there for the US military. After returning from the states from Japan I traveled with my church on a mission’s trip to Tallin, Estonia for about 2 weeks. We volunteered with a program that helps women stuck in sex trafficking to get out of the business and get a different job. I have also traveled to Paris, France where my sister was living, for 3 weeks. I´ve also traveled to Morocco for a total of 1 month, where I rented a car and took a 6 day road trip from east to west. My sister and I took camels to the Sahara desert and camped overnight there. We then flew to Egypt to see the pyramids, museums, and more desert!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I wanted to teach but couldn´t get a job teaching in the states without a specific degree for it, so I signed up to take the TEFL course and get a taste of teaching. I also wanted to do some more travelling outside of the US before I settled down. I also knew that living in a different country is much different than travelling because you must live as the locals live. Living in a different country also is allowing me to practice the Spanish I do know, as well as improve my Spanish which was an important aspect to me when choosing which country to go to.

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

I wanted to live on my own in another country and remove myself from bad habits and judgments in the US. Another really important aspect was my Spanish. It is really important to me to become fluent in Spanish so that I can be bilingual – which will be very valuable for future jobs in the US or even other Latin America countries.

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

All on my own! I knew that I could make friends here, plus all of my friends back home have families and children and couldn´t travel so my only option was to travel solo.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

Yes, a friend of mine´s brother began teaching in Vietnam about 10 years ago. He ended up loving it there and is now married with children there!

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

I was concerned that the pay would be so drastically different that I wouldn´t be able to budget properly (I was used to making much more), but it turns out the pay is sufficient to live on if you are not spending frivolously. Another concern was that I would become lonely because of not knowing anyone and having the language barrier. In reality, I have many friends here that I have met through the school (other teachers, and students).

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

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

I actually didn´t have any clue about TEFL or TEFL Heaven before coming across an article on Facebook about ways to travel and get paid for it. Through this article, I found TEFL Heaven so I went to their site, read EVERYTHING on every single page. The company that I worked for was going out of business and I was one semester away from graduating University so I literally decided right there that I was going to do it. The fact that it´s only a month long but lasts a lifetime is really valuable especially since you can use it in literally any country that needs English teachers!

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

I chose face to face because I was already taking some University courses online and wanted to get away from the computer. I also was very keen on moving out of the country and figured that teaching face-to-face would help meet more people and create better rapport.  

Which TEFL program did you do?

TEFL Heaven Cusco, Peru Program.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

The energy was really positive and the TEFL Trainer was great. She immediately had us doing skill building exercises to get us acquainted with the other classmates to create a comfortable environment. We also received SO many resources for grammar games and styles to help us keep our classes interesting. Every day was something new and different which kept the class from being boring. On graduation day, we even had a “TEFL toast” where we received our certificates, ate pizza, and drank some beer. 

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

I felt like there could´ve been more training to be honest. We only were required to do one week of practical teaching which I felt was not enough but luckily the school I work for has a curriculum so I could prepare for each class the day before. I felt extremely prepared as far as the techniques they wanted me to use but as far as grammar… I´m still learning everyday!

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

I have been in Peru for 5 months already and it flew by so fast that I may consider another whole year or so! The company I work for are semi flexible with taking vacations after your contract is completed, then returning shortly after.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I was only 2 weeks into my TEFL course here in Cusco, and the school that was holding the TEFL course saw me doing mock classes and actually offered me the job just like that!

What does a typical working week look like for you?

I work Monday-Friday beginning at 7 am. I teach for 2-3 hours (depending on that specific month schedule) then have a super long break until about 4pm. I then teach from 4-9pm with an hour break for dinner. Split schedules like this are extremely common for private institutes here in Cusco to accommodate clients work and other school/University schedules. Then I have all weekend free! Additionally, about once a month we will have a long 3 day weekend because of a holiday or whatnot.  

What age group or range to you teach?

5 out of my 6 classes are adults. The adult classes range in age from 17-55+! I only have 1 youth class and they are ages 11-16.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

I enjoy being the go-to person for my students. They really respect teachers here and appreciate your time. They also give me energy when the day has been long.

How did you get your work visa?

A work visa was not required for this specific institution.

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

I first asked other co-workers and managers of the school who directed me to a newspaper (which I found is the best way to find an apartment). There were literally hundreds of options for apartments here in Cusco so I asked a fluent Spanish speaking co-worker to call a few options. I met with the landlady that day and we had a verbal agreement for me to move in and it was as simple as that!

COUNTRY INSIGHT

Cusco is generally a touristy place for foreigners but the locals definitely do not let tourism take over. Traditions and culture are still very much alive here. Their typical dishes include ceviche (fish) with fried trout and little soft corn pieces that are hollow on the inside-so yummy! Another is a standard rotisserie chicken (an eighth) with French fries and salad. Also, you can find just about anywhere, chicha morada- it is a drink made from purple corn, slightly sweetened. These drinks go for about .30 cents on the street! If you like nightlife, Cusco has plently! Again, with it being a city geared towards tourism, there are many clubs that offer a good time. With that being said, many of the clubs play local Spanish music (raggaeton, salsa, bachata…) so you will have to find the super touristy ones if you want 50 cent or Eminem. A popular day excursion here in Cusco is a hike to Cristo Blanco (literally white Jesus). It takes roughly an hour and when you arrive, you can take pictures next to the statue and have an amazing view of the city.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: $165

Food: $150 (I eat out a lot, but if you cook for yourself, much less)

Other bills: electric $25, gas $10

Social life: $40

Transportation: $20

Phone: $5-10  realllly cheap here

Other costs: travelling: for example, to take a bus to another neighboring city (Pisac, Tipon) is about $3, or to go across the border to Chile the bus ticket is about $20 plus another $20 in taxis to your hostel, etc.

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

Live yes, travel no. I make enough to pay the bills and eat out often but not really enough to travel as often as I´d like.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

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

Do it! Just be aware that poverty here is big so if you are sensitive to it then this might not be the best place. Also, if you are high maintenance, again, not the best place. There is a mall here with more high end items but selection is limited. The people here are friendly but even more friendly if you can speak a little Spanish so I would recommend knowing a few words of Spanish (however, you could come here knowing absolutely nothing and be ok). Also, the Cuscanian mindset here is extremely laid back and tranquil which usually carries over into their punctuality, or lack thereof, as they are usually late to everything. Overall, though, I really love Cusco and Peru in general.

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