I am Veronica; proud Ohioan who completed a M.A. Degree in Latin American History at the University of Toledo. I am living in Cusco to teach English, improve my Spanish and Quechua, and explore Peruvian culture along the way. I love animals of all shapes and sizes, food, and am an Inca History buff.
I moved here two weeks ago. So far, I have done a pretty good job of acclimating to a culture and geographic location that is a world away from Ohio. These past two weeks, I have experienced new foods, sights, heights, oxygen levels, languages and cultures.
I am currently TEFL training in Cusco, Peru for four weeks which will lead me to being fully TEFL Certified. Afterwards, I plan to seek work as an English teacher in Cusco.
In this article you will find out more about my TEFL journey as it progresses; I will also be sharing guidance and tips for adapting to life in Cusco during the first weeks.
I am going to be honest. I did not know that new travelers to Cusco are not advised to try street food when they first arrive. Luckily, I have yet to face any consequences for my actions but some of my fellow TEFLERS have not had the same string of luck!
Quinoa is a major Peruvian staple here (this dates back to the fifteenth century). It is a grain crop that produces edible seeds. I am still getting the hang of cooking with it (and there are many different types that cook differently). Once I master the quinoa, I plan to share some recipes with you!
Potatoes are another non-meat staple. There is an old saying, “Peruvian as a potato,” that I have heard multiple times from locals at the markets. Roughly 3,800 different types of potatoes grow in Peru! Much like quinoa, the potato was an Inca superfood that persists as an important staple until modern times.
My first week, I stayed in a the lovely Hostal Wara Wara on Don Bosco street, where the owners cooked me one authentic Peruvian dinner and breakfast every morning. Here, I fell in love with papaya juice and coca tea. I drink them both every morning and can see myself missing them dearly when I return to Ohio.
Tip: During the first weeks here, definitely try coca tea. Coca tea is a South American herbal drink. Numerous people, myself included, testify that it helps prevent or ease altitude sickness.
Remember, Cusco is a little more than 11,000 feet above sea level and it typically takes around two weeks for the body to adapt to the new altitude and oxygen levels. I have been drinking coca tea every morning and have thankfully avoided any major sicknesses that often plague new travelers.
My favorite Peruvian foods and drinks so far are ceviche, papaya juice, Cusqueña (a Peruvian beer), Peruvian corn, and lucuma desserts. I still need to try guinea pig, alpaca steak, and some Quechua dishes, but I will be sure to keep you updated when I finally try them!
Cusco is a vibrant place! There are always people out, particularly around the numerous plazas that adorn the city. I live near a busy area (the Plaza de Armas) and there are always many people out shopping, going to bars, or hanging out near the fountains and city centers. Even so, I make sure to stay safe by either getting home before dark or taking a cab home (the most I’ve paid for a cab is $1.50).
Cusco has a big city atmosphere in the sense that there are many shops, restaurants, tourist bookers, and street venders of all kinds. Because I walk everywhere, which I cannot do in my hometown, it also feels small sometimes.
Already, I have a favorite market (San Pedro Market), bakery (La Valeriana), and bookstore that I visit almost daily.
Peruvian people have also been receptive to my Spanish, which is rough at best, and often use me to practice their English! This had led to a lot of fun and wacky conversations. I am also so relieved, as I am able to practice my Spanish with confidence and it has improved astronomically in just two weeks! Many people speak Spanish and Quechua, and I look forward to studying Quechua and learning more about indigenous linguistic culture in Cusco.
A typical day in the life: TEFL Training
My classes are Monday to Friday – 9:00AM to 4:00PM for 4 weeks.
Morning: I get up in the morning, make a light breakfast of eggs and toast, and walk to class. Sometimes, on the way to class, I stop at a local vendor near my apartment to get a papaya juice bag for my walk to school. My commute is a twenty-minute walk, so I get a good deal of exercise in every morning (especially because I walk uphill almost the entire way)!
TEFL Training: TEFL class starts at nine. 9-12 is the morning shift of the day. 12-1 is our lunch break! Sometimes I pack a PB&J but usually I’ll go to a café with my new TEFL friends and try some Peruvian cuisine. At 1:00 PM, classes resume until 4:00PM. We cover A LOT of material in the TEFL classes!
Hands on Training and Practice: The first week was all about critical teaching techniques in an ESL classroom. We learned how to teach classes in English to non-native speakers. I have already done two practical teaching lessons with English learners!
In my first lesson, I taught intermediate English speakers to do anxiety-reducing breathing exercises. In the second lesson, I taught English learners how to flirt in English 😉 It was challenging because I was only allowed to speak English. I had to draw images on the board, mime actions, and really be the most animated version of myself to get students engaged with the material. Luckily, both lessons went well and were a lot of fun for me and the students.
The TEFL class also covered classroom management techniques, how to teach grammar, had a job-finding workshop, and students got to observe licensed ESL teachers at work. The job workshop was especially helpful as we learned to tailor our resumes to showcase our talents as TEFL-certified teachers. Also, we received a list of schools in Cusco that hire English teachers. As soon as the course ends, I plan to start applying.
The final week of the TEFL class involves a week of teaching. From Monday to Friday, I need to have an hour-long lesson planned (each day) for English learners. I will be assessed on how well I execute the lesson. I am a little bit nervous. but I am lucky to have access to a training program and school with such strong resources.
This week, I plan on exploring the school’s library and going through “finals week” lessons that TEFL students have done in the past. Armed with that information and three weeks of training, I think that I can create some strong, fun, educational lesson plans!
Evening/Free time: On a TEFL weekday, I usually go home and do homework and then maybe meet a friend or two for a drink later that night. Some nights, I just relax and finish my work and talk to family and friends from home.
Although the TEFL coursework is rigorous, we make time to have fun! Sometimes we play silly games (we once had a classroom-wide marshmallow fight!) or reflect with other and the teacher about our lives and experiences here. The TEFL class has been a lot of hard work, but such an enjoyable experience!
Spending seven hours per day with other TEFLERS has been awesome. I came here alone and it is so comforting to have friends who are going through the same training process. As an Inca historian, I am also ecstatic that the school offers courses in the Quechua language. I plan on taking those once I have a job here.
Living in Cusco
I have been adjusting to my new apartment. In some ways, Cusco feels like home. I wake up, go to class, hang out with my friends around town, come home, and cook dinner. But every time I see the towering mountains or the line of skinned guinea pigs that adorn the entrance of the San Pedro Market, it hits me that I am acclimating to a totally new culture and I am excited for the adventures that lie ahead!
My advice about TEFL
For anyone who decides to pursue teaching English in Cusco, my advice is to arrive a little before classes start and give yourself time to acclimate. Drink coca tea, relax, and get to know the city a little before you begin your rigorous (but fun) TEFL coursework.