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Seeking info on jobs, cost of living, Medellin

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Joined: 19 Oct 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Seattle, WA USA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:10 am    Post subject: Seeking info on jobs, cost of living, Medellin Reply with quote

Hello. I really appreciate this website and forum to learn from others' experiences. I have read all the postings on Columbia but still have questions as someone hoping to work there.

Some background on me: I'm a 30ish woman , American, taught English in Taiwan for two years, don't have ESL certification, but have a masters degree (in Social Work). I also currently work as an adviser at a community college, for what that's worth. I don't speak Spanish but learning at least conversational Spanish is one of my main goals while in Colombia, also dancing a lot. So far Medellin really interests me although I'm open to other cities.

My questions:

1) Given my qualifications, does anyone know my chances of being hired at a university? Other places?

2) I've heard mixed things about work visas - the difficulty in obtaining them and their necessity. Do most people teach ESL without a visa in Colombia? If you're willing to do that, is it very easy to find jobs?

3) What is the pay like versus the cost of living there in a large city? Do many people save money while teaching English? I have debts I need to continue to pay in American dollars so need to consider how financially viable teaching in Colombia may be for me. How many teaching hours does one typically need a week to cover bills? I would find a place to live with other housemates.

4) When are good times of the year to arrive to find a teaching job? I heard somewhere that school starts in March so I was thinking of coming in February. Does it make much difference what time of year one arrives?

5) I've heard mixed things about getting work prior to arrival versus looking for work once someone's in Colombia. Getting a job there, one knows what they're getting into much more. What potential pitfalls are there to getting a job prior to arriving? Can anyone tell me their experience about doing that? I'm game to arrive first then look for a job, but worried about being without an income fo very long.

4) I would love any other advice or information people have to offer.

Thanks much! Smile
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Joined: 05 Sep 2007
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey! I gotta be quick here because I'm at school.

I hate to be a downer, but without a teaching certificate (TEFL, CELTA, TKTS - the colombian version) you will most likely have a ton of trouble. Most schools will require them, plus they are (supposedly) necessary to get a work visa. Now, you can work at some places for hours without the visa (illegaly). But the major problem there is that you only get 6 months on your tourist visa per year. Leaving and returning doesn't help, it's 6 months in one calendar year, and the fine is not insignificant (250 bucks). Plus the hassle of renewing your visa for the first 6 months (going every month to the office, waiting in loooong lines, and paying 30 bucks a pop) isn't exactly fun either. Now, supposedly some people get a student visa for a year by taking spanish classes at a local university (EAFIT, and UPB are the only ones that offer them) and then work illegaly off that.

In terms of saving, forget about it. You'll be lucky to earn 800-1000 dollars a month, and that's on the higher end. The exchange rate is favorable for the dollar right now, which means the pesos you are getting paid are worth crap. You can live down here on them, and live just fine. But if you need to save dollars go to Asia or the MidEast not South America. Also, the school year is starting right now (late Jan, early Feb). There might be stuff in March. But now is the time. Good luck finding any work from abroad. Almost impossible around here. They need to see you in person, and preferably have references or introductions from local people. If you want to find a job here, you need to be here. (of course there are a few upper crust private schools who do recruiting at international job fairs, but you need to be supremely qualified (certified in the US, etc...) to land them.

sorry to be a downer. truth is, this a cool city and there are English jobs out there, but better to know this before you show up.

mucha suerte,

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Joined: 05 Jun 2008
Posts: 183
Location: Bogotá, Colombia

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. With a Master's degree in a non-related field, no cert, and no teaching experience, I'd expect it would be very unlikely you'd get a job at a university.

2. You will not get a job at a university or high school without a work visa, and it seems most universities are unwilling to sponsor a work visa if you don't already have one. You might have some luck with a high school. The Colombian government has recently made things fairly easy to obtain a work visa (at least compared to other Latin American countries, I think), but it is still a matter of whether or not a school will sponsor you for one. You will absolutely be able to find work at an institute, working under the table without a visa...don't know about Medellin, but definitely in Bogota. I've not heard that a cert is necessary to get a work visa to teach English, but it certainly could be the case.

3. If you have debts to pay off, I wouldn't recommend moving to South America. With a cert, and assuming you're teaching 20 hours per week at a language institute, you can make $800-1000 per month, and you'd probably be able to save at most $200 of that if you live in Bogota and really watch what you spend. High schools/Unis pay more, and these positions can be landed with a teaching cert, lots of effort and contacts, and a little luck...but without a cert, you'd more likely have to settle for a really crappy language institute that'll treat you like crap and you'll make $600 tops per month, which will only cover living expenses.

4. I don't know too much about school start dates, but most universities are starting the new semester nowish...high schools can be on weird schedules sometimes and language institutes are always hiring. Your best bet for landing a uni or high school job is moving here, having the flexibility to stay for a while without needing a job immediately or working at a language institute for a while, and make the contacts necessary for figuring out where the better jobs are.

5. You will not land a job here before arriving, especially without experience or a cert.

6. Other advice: Come here and do the CELTA in Bogota. This gives you a whole month to make contacts and find out about jobs while getting a cert that will open up doors. It's expensive, but this is the way to do it if you're serious about coming here, don't already have a certification, and want to get the sort of job you're talking about.
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