After teaching in Costa Rica for over a year and now living on the opposite side of the world, I've had a lingering feeling of needing to return and explore South America. Argentina has for a long while been on the top of my list and to say I was mildly interested when I came across Lauren's blog is an understatement in the least! She has been living and teaching in Argentina for over nine years and in my eyes she is basically a local at this point. Read on to find out more about the ins and outs of teaching in Argentina:
KD: Tell us about yourself - who you are, where you are currently living and teach and your teaching experience.
LW: In the immortal words of Alice from Alice in Wonderland: "Who in the world am I? Ah, that is the great puzzle!"
While I am able to identify myself with different titles (such as "Mother," "Wife," "Teacher," "Blogger," and so on), I am still very much figuring out who I am in the greater context. In any case, since leaving South Korea, I have been living in Argentina for the past nine years, and teaching English as a second language and English as a foreign language for nearly 15 years. I currently teach at the Lincoln International School of Buenos Aires, as well as English to Chinese students online. I got my start teaching refugees in a church in Washington, DC in my early university days, and it was an immensely rewarding experience. I am proud to have had students of all ages (from toddlers to senior citizens) from every corner of the world and just about every level of English proficiency.
KD: What made you decide to teach abroad?
LW: I was all of 15 years old when I went to spend a summer with a Brazilian family in Belo Horizonte. I was introduced to my host brother's EFL teacher, who graciously invited me to sit in on one of her conversation classes. THAT! That did it for me! That was THE moment the seed was planted. As distant and as far-fetched it seemed in the future, it was always an ambition of mine.
KD: What’s it like living in your current country?
LW: I have often compared living in Argentina to a co-dependent, love-hate relationship with an eccentric lover. When I think of Argentina, I think of a place with out-of-control inflation, bureaucratic obstacles for even the simplest of tasks, and a great deal of insecurity. You are always on your toes. However, I also associate it with closely-knit families (including the one that I formed here myself over the years), decent and affordable healthcare that I did not have back in the United States, and economic opportunity for those willing to work hard. There is no such thing as a Utopian country, and by this point in my life, I more than consider Argentina to be my home.
KD: What do you love most about teaching where you are?
LW: I teach full time at the Lincoln International School of Buenos Aires. There are so many facets of my job that I love; not only do I work with some incredibly amazing colleagues, but my students come from all over the world - Argentina, Israel, South Korea, Germany, Brazil, and Kuwait (just to name a few). It is like a mini United Nations!
KD: What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in this country?
LW: As I had previously mentioned, inflation is one of the greatest challenges facing Argentina. The first year when the current president, Mauricio Macri, took office, we experienced a crippling wave of 41% annual inflation. While my school offers a dignified peso wage for a local teacher, it has unfortunately not proven quite enough to make it to the end of each month. Like most people living here, I have a "side hustle" apart from my 9-5, by doing some side jobs as a private tutor as well as teaching online.
KD: What advice do you have for others wanting to teach and travel abroad?
LW: Teaching abroad has been by far one of the most difficult things that I have ever done, but has also been one of the most worthwhile. It has required me to be out of my comfort zone on almost a daily (no... hourly) basis. But on the other hand, everything I accomplish on my own feels like an important, character-building victory. So where am I going with all this rambling?... My point is ultimately that while teaching and traveling and living abroad is not for the faint of heart, there is no other experience quite like it. The world out there is so vast - make the most of it! As the old adage goes, "Ships in the harbor are safe, but that's not what ships are built for."
KD: How can I teach where you are?
LW: Because it is often difficult to get a proper job without a work visa, and difficult to obtain a work visa without a job, I recommend doing what I did - coming over on a tourist visa (valid for 90 days, able to be extended for an additional 90), to first test the waters to see if this is the right place for you (it isn't for everyone). In that time, you can still work "en negro" (off the books), and establish valuable connections, make friends, and see if this city is a good fit for you overall. Almost all companies that are legally able to contract foreigners prefer to interview you in person before hiring you, so during the time you are here, you can make yourself personally, professionally known.