Teach English in Colombia
Teach English in Colombia and make a positive impact while traveling and working abroad in this exciting country!
Teach English in Colombia is a FREE program that offers a unique opportunity to work abroad in South America.
Responding to the Colombian government’s goal to integrate English education for all by 2020 and recognizing the importance of the English language as key to the country’s development and success in today’s global world, Colombia has launched a bilingualism initiative. Our program works with Colombian public institutions, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to attempt to raise their English levels and proficiency. Learning English is a gateway to careers and jobs outside of what some of these students might have access to without this education. This program aims to make a big impact in each community where teachers are placed, as well as in each student’s life.
Discover what has even the most seasoned of travelers proclaiming Colombia as one of their favorite destinations and a highlight of their travels in South America. Spend your weekends exploring colonial cities, trekking through the Amazon, or basking in the sands of the Caribbean beaches – all while perfecting your Spanish, and contributing to Colombia’s development!
- Free to apply!
- One Semester or Full Academic Year contracts depending on when you start
- 1,500,000 Colombian Pesos monthly stipend to cover living expenses
- Placements throughout Colombia (50+ cities)
- Co-teaching placements, with other Colombian teachers
- Extensive orientation upon arrival, in Bogota
- Courtesy Visa paid for by the Colombian government for the duration of your program (~$300 value)
Check out a day in the life of our alumni, Emily, placed in Bucaramanga, Colombia.
|FAQs||Why Greenheart Travel?|
Placements are made within public institutions throughout Colombia. Your responsibilities as a teacher will be:
- Co-teaching in a Colombian classroom for 25 hours per week
- 15 hours of class preparation to be done at your school, so that you and your coteacher can work together
- Attend two pedagogy workshops per semester
- Attend all regional meetings coordinated by your Regional Coordinator
- Periodically test your students’ English level to evaluate the progress of the program
- Give applied oral and written English exams at the beginning and at the end of each semester
Placements will be made all over the country of Colombia in over 50 cities and towns throughout the country. Click the map (below at the bottom) for an updated list of where we have placed before. We place over 50 teachers in one location, and at least 2 teachers in every location as well. Each round we are adding even more placements!
You can read first hand accounts about what it’s like to teach in each of the positions listed below, on our blog here: Colombia Positions Spotlights
Learning English is not an opportunity most public high school schools students have had in Colombia until very recently. The high schools that are receiving teachers from this program are chosen by the Ministry of Education because of the impact that learning English will have on the students. The schools working with the program are in disadvantaged areas and have a great need for English education. These positions will be in public schools throughout Colombia, and you will be teaching 10th and 11th graders, so around ages 16-18. Placements in the MEN program are throughout the country, in 50+ placement cities, excluding Bogota.
Secretary of Education (Bogota y Barranquilla)
We also have limited positions working specifically with the Secretaries of Education in Bogota and Barranquilla. These programs are almost identical to the MEN Colombia program above, except all placements are in Barranquilla or Bogota – so you would get to choose your placement in one of these places. The only other big difference is that the positions in Barranquilla are with elementary school children (1st – 5th grades), which is why they are hiring separately from the MEN program. The MEN program is still in charge of the hiring high school teachers in Barranquilla. In Bogota, it would still be with high school aged students, like the Ministry of Education program. We have very limited positions with these programs, and all applicants must posses a TEFL certificate or 1 year of teaching experience in order to apply.
El Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) (Adults, College Aged)
The National Training Service, SENA, is the Colombian government agency responsible for investing in the social and technical development of Colombian workers. SENA is also sometimes known as ‘the university for all’ in Colombia. There’s no cost to the students and the classes are meant to provide additional assistance to those who cannot afford it. The students go through programs that prepare them with real-life skills in a vocation, like welding, tourism, farming, aviation, and more. Graduates are almost always guaranteed a job because of the intense and reputable training provided through these programs. SENA is the second largest institution in Colombia, second only to the Army, and every Colombian knows what and who SENA is. An important part of these student’s education is learning English to increase their success in the work force that they enter after graduating. In this placement, you will be teaching university-aged students (18-24).
Read more from SENA alumni here: What is it like to Work for SENA?
Click on the map of Colombia to see where our Greenheart Travel teachers have been placed!
Next Ministry of Education Program Dates:
January 2018 – June/November 2018 — exact dates TBD
Next SED Bogota Dates:
Next SED Barranquilla Dates:
Next SENA Program Dates:
February 2018 – June/December 2018 — exact dates TBD
Why do the start dates have different contract lengths?
School begins in Colombia in January, therefore all positions starting in January/February will have the choice between committing to one semester, or to both. Everyone starting after that will finish out the current school year. All current teachers on the program will be contacted next October regarding extension into 2018, and will have first dibs on spots on the program for 2018.
What is the benefit to signing up for a full academic year off the bat if I can just extend once I get there?
This is only an option for those starting in January/February, but unless you have something to do in the fall fall (grad school, etc.) we highly recommend signing up for the full academic year. One semester will really only be enough time to adjust to your new life, and 11 months will allow you to really immerse yourself in Colombian culture. Other benefits to signing up for the full academic year off the bat include:
- Your completion bonus is higher at the end of the year
- If you don’t sign up for the full academic year off the bat, your visa will expire after 5 months, and you will have to spend your June summer vacation in Bogota obtaining a new visa and cedula. Transportation and accommodation in Bogota will not be provided during this time. Your visa will be paid for, but you will have to pay for your new cedula (~170,000 COP).
- You cannot switch placement cities between semesters – only at the end of the school year (between Nov-Jan)
- Staying a full year gives consistency to your students, and allows you to follow through on a full year’s curriculum and examinations.
- At a minimum, a degree equivalent to a U.S. 4 year bachelor’s degree
- Citizen of the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand
- Native English Speaker
- No criminal record, including underage drinking or DUI (the only exception would be minor traffic violations)
- Age 20-50
There are no exceptions to the eligibility requirements. These requirements are put in place by the Colombian government, and we are not allowed to make exceptions.
Still need your TEFL/TESOL certificate?
A TEFL certification is not required for our program in Colombia, however, a certificate will make your life a whole lot easier when you get to Colombia if you’ve never taught before. Learning how to navigate a classroom of student who are at different levels is a skill that can only be learned from hands-on experience and we highly recommend that you obtain a TEFL/TESOL certificate before teaching abroad.
We want to give you the opportunity to set yourself up for success as a teacher so any Colombia participant that signs up for one of our online or in-person TEFL courses will receive $100 back! Here are your course options.
This program is free. There will be a $400 (USD) deposit upon acceptance to the program, but this will only be required after both interview rounds, after you have been accepted.
The deposit will be returned to you only when you complete your full program and contract term, along with your end of contract bonus. This deposit is your official commitment to participating in the program and is non refundable if you cancel or withdraw from the program at any time, for any reason. This deposit will be refunded in Colombian pesos along with your last paycheck and completion bonus, at a fixed exchange rate outlined in the Participant Agreement each teacher will sign after acceptance.
- Full time teaching placement in Colombia
- Monthly stipend to cover living expenses: 1,500,000 Colombian Pesos per month
- Visa paid for by the Colombian government
- Colombian national EPS health insurance
- Domestic flight from Bogota to placement city (domestic baggage fees are not covered if you have more than 23 kg of luggage)
- Accommodation during orientation is included in shared rooms.
- Assistance finding housing in your placement city from program regional coordinators, who know the cities and can help communicate with landlords
- Support and guidance from your Greenheart Travel program manager
- Airport Pickup
- 1- 2 week orientation upon arrival in Bogota, including accommodation at a hotel and meals (orientation at the beginning of the school year is 2 weeks, for second semester it’s 1 week)
- In-country support from your regional coordinator
- 24/7 Emergency Line
- “Culture Smart” Colombia Customs & Culture Guidebook
- Greenheart Travel “Travel for a Change” T-Shirt
- Flights to/from Colombia
- Additional International Medical and Accident Insurance^
- Meals after orientation
- Accommodation after orientation
^Additional International Medical and Accident Insurance is required for the program, and participants must provide proof of coverage. This insurance is in addition to the Colombian national insurance that the program provides, and is meant to cover extreme emergencies, repatriation, terrorism, etc. which Colombian national health insurance does not cover. The program has negotiated an insurance plan and the cost is $1.05 per day.
Upon arrival, teachers will attend an orientation in Bogota, followed by an orientation in their placement sites. Accommodation and meals will be included throughout the orientation.
The orientation will include:
- Accommodation at a hotel in Bogota, paid for by the program (in past orientations, it has been held at Hotel Estalar La Fontana)
- All meals are included on the hotel grounds
- An introduction to Colombia, safety training, and logistics
- Meetings with your Regional Coordinator and other teachers placed in your location
- TEFL training and overview of Colombian curriculum
- Help setting up your cell phone, bank accounts, and cedulas (Colombian foreigner ID cards)
- Visits from several guest speakers (sometimes the President of Colombia!)
Check out some photos from when our Program Manager, Sara, visited orientation: Photos from Orientation in Bogota
The English Teaching Fellowship (ETF) program aims to strengthen the bilingualism strategy of Colombia’s government through the participation of international fellows who travel to Colombia with the purpose of developing and jointly implementing high-quality impactful and innovative strategies, programs, and projects to improve the level of bilingualism among students and instructors.
As with any long term international experience, this program demands a high degree of maturity, dedication, and an ability to adapt to new environments and unexpected changes in plans. Please understand that while you will have opportunities to travel and enjoy all that Colombia has to offer, this job is not meant to finance your backpacking. Rather, it represents a serious commitment to improving the lives of Colombia’s youth.
You will be a representative of your home country, but also of the program and this Education initiative. The program is funded by the Colombian government and Ministry of Education, which means that all Colombian people are investing their own money into it. Their tax dollars are going directly towards paying for your orientation, visas, salary, etc. so remember that your actions reflect on the program and how their investments are being handled.
The program mission and purpose is not about funding your travels, this is about meeting the needs of the program and the people who are benefiting the most – the students. Things might not go to plan, seem unfair, not be perfect, etc. but your ability to be flexible and humble towards this opportunity is the only way in which this program will be successful.
Accommodation is included during orientation. The hotel is subject to change, but for Summer 2016 teachers had orientation at Hotel Estalar Fontana, in the Usaquen neighborhood of Bogota.
Teachers will find their own accommodation after orientation. Most teachers find an apartment or house with the other teachers in their placement location. Teachers will have assistance finding housing from program regional coordinators, who know the neighborhoods and can help communicate with landlords.
Can I apply with my friend/significant other?
Yes, we can accommodate couples or small groups on our program and you can be placed in the same city, so that you can live together.
Can I talk with alumni or current participants from the program?
What type of visa will I need?
All teachers will apply for the TP-1 Visa before arrival in Colombia, via an online application. We will provide all visa paperwork needed for this application. This is all done online, so you can apply from anywhere in the world. You will officially get the visa upon arrival in Colombia (program staff will do this for you), and the cost of the visa is covered by the program. The visa will allow you to stay in Colombia for the duration of your program, as well as come and go to other countries and re-enter Colombia.
We will provide all of the paperwork needed and directions, so you don’t need to worry about this at all!
What kind of “startup” money will I need?
Before you go, you’ll need to plan to pay for your one way flight to Colombia (~$500 USD from the USA) and your travel insurance plan (~$300 for the full year and ~$150 for one semester). As the orientation is fairly “all-inclusive”, you won’t have many costs until you arrive at your placement site. You’ll want to bring extra money for meals, cultural activities, and other free time opportunities. We recommend bringing around $1000 as spending money or as “emergency funds” in case something comes up. Our teachers are able to support themselves on the stipend, without dipping into personal savings, once they begin teaching.
Please note that you will not receive your first stipend until the end of your first month working. You will need enough money to cover your personal expenses until the first stipend is received.
Is the stipend enough to live off in Colombia?
Yes. The stipend is meant to cover your living costs like rent, transportation, and meals. All of our teachers are able to live off of the stipend amount. Placements in larger cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Cali, and Barranquilla will have a much higher cost of living, so the stipend will not go as far in more urban areas like these. Read more here: Is The Stipend Enough?
How much is rent, on average, in a rural city vs. Bogota for instance?
This completely depends. Depending on the city it can be anywhere from 200,000 pesos to 650,000 (as a very very rough estimate).
How are placements determined?
Placements are assigned entirely based on the needs of the schools. Teachers will be placed in cities and towns of all sizes, and in a wide variety of climates. It is therefore very important that applicants are completely flexible and open-minded about placements.
Please remember that this program is first and foremost about the students, and the people who need this education, and not necessarily about placing everyone in their number one city. If your number one reason for doing this program is because Cartagena’s beaches and nightlife seem like a fun time, you might want to consider just backpacking or vacationing in Cartagena. You’re more than welcome (and encouraged) to visit these places on the weekends and during your vacation time, but this is a serious teaching position, meant to make a big impact on these communities, and that should be the most important reason you’re applying to the program.
What is the difference between SENA and Ministry of Education?
Both types of positions have placements throughout the country, in all placement cities, but the main difference is the age level you are teaching, as well as your start date.
|SENA||Ministry of Education|
Positions throughout Colombia, in all placement locations
Stipend of 1,500,000 pesos
Orientation in Bogota, including accommodation and meals
Co-teaching in a Colombian public institution
Teaching hours are 25 hours per week, with 15 planning hours for a total of 40 hours per week
Visa fee paid for by the Colombian government
All other details are the same, except the below
SENA teachers will have their own orientation, as will Ministry of Education – so you will have orientation alongside those placed with the same age level of students.
Is Colombia safe?
Colombia’s reputation is currently struggling with old stereotypes that are largely outdated at this point. There are some issues with guerillas in remote jungle regions, but as long as you stay in well-traveled areas, and avoid areas that you are advised against traveling in, Colombia is quite safe.
At the country level, the existing safety issues rarely involve foreigners. Colombia has certainly had its challenges over the past several decades, and like any country or major city, there are still some areas that may be dangerous. Use the same caution you’d use in any major city or foreign country.
In general, travelers find Colombians to be extremely open, warm, friendly and helpful. Speak with anyone who has traveled to Colombia in recent years, and you’ll likely find out that it was one of their favorite countries that they’ve ever visited, and that they felt perfectly safe. Use common sense, and listen to the advice of the program and the locals, and you’ll be in great shape to have a positive and safe experience in Colombia!
Is there reliable high-speed internet in every city?
There is high speed internet in all cities. However, volunteers should be reminded that it is not uncommon for services (water, gas, internet, etc.) to go out sometimes as this is a developing country. During orientation you will have access to the wifi at the hotel for free, but with so many teachers accessing it at the same time it can be slow.
Can I bring my children? Pets?
No, children and pets are not allowed.
Why do I need extra insurance?
You will be covered by Colombian national health insurance as part of the program, but the extra insurance will cover you in case of a severe emergency and will also cover things like repatriation, terrorism, and evacuation which are not covered by Colombian national health insurance.
Do I need a TEFL/TESOL certification?
A TEFL certification is not required for our program in Colombia, however, a certificate will make your application much more competitive. Greenheart Travel highly recommends that you obtain a TEFL/TESOL certificate before teaching abroad. By taking the course, you’re setting yourself up for success in your new teaching job! Read more: Which TEFL Course Should I Take To Teach in Colombia?
Is there usually more than one teacher from the program in the same school or same town?
Yes, every city will have at least 2 teachers placed there, and some larger cities will have over 50. Some teachers are at the same school or center as up to 5 other teachers, but other teachers might be at their school as the only English teacher. That being said, this program is very social and all of the teachers travel and hang out together on the weekends. Please also remember that a big part of this program is experiencing a new culture and meeting and making friends with Colombian people, not just those who speak English fluently. No matter where you are in the country, you’re not alone.
When should I apply?
We usually accept applications up to 1 year in advance. We are currently accepting applications for January/February 2018.
Why does Greenheart Travel charge a program deposit?
Since this program is free, your deposit will serve as a way to show your commitment to the program. Once we have the deposit we will start on all of the preparations for you to arrive, like your visa paperwork, accommodation, and all placement details. The deposit is also meant to guarantee your commitment to the program, as the school is counting on every single teacher to show up on the first day of school. In the past we had some people apply for the program, since it was free, just as a backup plan and then decide a few days before the start date that they didn’t want to participate. This put us (and especially the schools and students) in a really hard spot, which is why we now require the commitment deposit. You will receive the deposit back at the end of your teaching contract, as long as you show up for orientation and complete the contract.
What if I want to stay longer than I signed up for originally?
Most placements will have the option to extend after your first commitment has ended, but this will depend on your center and school. We have had plenty of teachers stay longer than their first year!
If you are considering extending once you are there (on a 5 month contract), you are at a slight risk of not being able to be placed in the same city or receive a placement at all for the following semester. It all depends on how many people choose to extend and how many spots we have allocated in each city for the following semester, as funding changes frequently.
What is the benefit to signing up for a full academic year off the bat if I can just extend once I get there?
Unless you have something to do next fall (grad school, etc.) We highly recommend signing up for the full academic year. 5 months will really only be enough time to adjust to your new life, and 11 months will allow you to really immerse yourself in Colombian culture. Other benefits to signing up for 11 months off the bat include:
- Your completion bonus is higher at the end of the year
- If you don’t sign up for 11 months, your visa will expire after 5 months, and you will have to spend your June summer vacation in Bogota obtaining a new visa and cedula. Transportation and accommodation in Bogota will not be provided during this time. Your visa will be paid for, but you will have to pay for your new cedula (170,000 COP).
- You cannot switch placement cities between semesters – only at the end of the school year (between Nov-Jan).
- Staying a full year gives consistency to your students, and allows you to follow through on a full year’s curriculum and examinations.
Are there any required vaccinations for Colombia?
While there are no required vaccinations for Colombia, we highly recommend that you see a doctor or travel clinic for advice on vaccinations. You can find more details about recommended vaccinations on the CDC website. If you are planning to travel in South America, some countries require that you have the yellow fever vaccination for admission if you have spent time in Colombia.
Will someone be there to pick me up at the airport?
Yes, you will be picked up at the airport, unless you are traveling independently before the program begins. In that case, you can just arrive to the hotel in Bogota on your designated arrival date.
Are flights included and booked for me?
No, flights are not included in the program, and you are responsible for arranging your own flights/transportation to Bogota.
When should I book my flight?
You may book your flights once you’re accepted onto the program and the official start date has been confirmed. We will let you know when you can do so!
How will I get from orientation to my placement?
This is included in the program, and you will be provided with a bus ticket or plane ticket to your placement city. You will make the journey with the others placed in your city, as well as your local coordinator. Please keep in mind that baggage fees are not covered by the program, and domestic baggage allowances are usually much lower than international allowances.
Do teachers receive an induction when they arrive at their school before they start teaching?
Yes, each placement location has a “welcome week” orientation, but the activities and events during this week will completely depend on where you’re placed!
Will there be a course book or syllabus to follow?
Yes, there is a course book and curriculum for you to follow, but this is still very new and you will have creativity within this as well.
What is the most common level of English ability with the students?
Age can often be a deceiving indicator of English ability among students. For planning purposes, we recommend preparing your expectations for lower ability students ranging from elementary to advanced beginner.
What is the dress code for teaching?
You can dress business casual for teaching, but definitely still try to look your best. For those teaching at SENA centers, you will also be given a white coat (looks like a lab coat) to wear while teaching as well.
Will I have a phone?
We’ll help you get set up with a plan on the first day of orientation if you’d like the assistance. You can bring your own phone to use in Colombia, as long as it is unlocked and able to use a new SIM card. If you aren’t bringing your own phone, you can buy one in Colombia.
What if I don’t speak Spanish?
No problemo! It is not necessary to speak Spanish to apply for this program. In fact, the schools prefer that you only use English in the classroom to create a complete immersion experience for the students. However, having some knowledge of Spanish will of course benefit your day-to-day life, help you negotiate, understand the culture and allow you to connect with your students and people in your community.
What holidays will I have off?
If you are staying for a full academic year, you’ll have a two week paid summer vacation at the end of June. All teachers will also get all Colombian national holidays off. Colombia is second only to Argentina in terms of how many national holidays there are – Colombia recognizes 18 days! Most teachers will also get the week of Semana Santa off, which is the week before Easter.
Can I use my credit card in Colombia?
Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Colombia, but the ideal method of payment is cash. Plan on using cash for most transactions.
Why Greenheart Travel?
Greenheart Travel works with our Colombian partners, not only to find qualified and motivated applicants, but also to assist with the application process and prepare participants for life in Colombia prior to departure.
Greenheart Travel has been working in Colombia for many years, and there are advantages of applying for this program through us:
- It’s FREE!
- Your $400 deposit is refunded at the end of your program – as long as you show up to orientation and complete your contract – we don’t keep it!
- The deposit isn’t due until after you’ve been accepted, so it’s totally free to apply
- Pay your deposit with a credit or debit card via our online portal, hassle free
- Friendly, responsive, and professional support from program managers who have taught abroad as well as visited the program in Colombia and attended orientation
- Our application is completely online and easy to complete
- Free background check for Americans ($50-$100 value)
- Connect with alumni and others on the program, before you even leave!
- Pre-departure cultural and logistical training webinars
- “Travel For A Change” T-shirt and Colombia Culture Smart! Guide Book
- Greenheart Travel Alumni Program
- Greenheart Club and Grants
- Discounts for future Greenheart Travel programs
- We are a non-profit, mission based organization
- Continued support throughout your contract
We will keep you on track to make sure you have the best possible chance of getting a position in Colombia! Once you’ve been accepted, we provide extensive pre-departure support to make sure you’re prepared for your new role as a teacher in a new country.
Our spaces for this program are limited. Applicants will be screened and accepted on a rolling basis. We recommend submitting your application and documents as early as possible to secure a position.
Required Documents To Apply:
- Application (done online)
- Copy of Passport (scan or photo)
- Criminal Record Check
- Greenheart Travel pays for this for US Citizens as part of the online application
- No alchohol offenses are permitted, including underage drinking and DUI
- Copy of your University Degree or Transcripts
- For those graduating this year, you can submit a current transcript and submit an updated one showing graduation, or your diploma, once you officially graduate later.
- Letter of Recommendation (Academic or Professional)
- You can submit this via the online system, or have the recommender email the letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
- There are not requirements for the structure of this letter
Completing Your Application
You should plan on completing the online application in one sitting. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner we can start reviewing your application, set up your interview, and hear about your acceptance. With your application out of the way, you can start planning your upcoming adventure!
- Select the APPLY NOW button to the left. You will be sent your unique link to your online application immediately via email.
- Using the unique link emailed to you, fill out the general information application.
- You will be emailed our Terms and Conditions after we’ve received your application, which you should sign electronically.
- Skype Interview with Greenheart Travel
- Skype Interview with representative in Colombia
- Acceptance onto the program, which will be sent via email
- Only after your acceptance will you will be required to submit the $400 deposit
Reviewing Your Application
Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 weeks to confirm you’ve have moved on to the second interview round with a representative in Colombia. This can only be done after we have all of your required documents, so if you still need to submit documents, please email those documents to us as soon as you have them, or upload them into the system. The final acceptance decision will come from our partner, and we will notify you as soon as we have news about your acceptance.
Once you are accepted, your spot on the program will only be confirmed upon receipt of your $400 deposit. This deposit is meant to act as your commitment to joining the program. This deposit will only be returned upon successful completion of the program and contract. The deposit is non-refundable if you cancel or withdraw from the program at any time, for any reason.
Looking to do more research on the program? Here is some additional information and guidance from our staff and Program Managers.
- Our alumni, Evan, explains his experience on the Colombia program in our “Ask an Ambassador” Webinar Series
- Spotlights that highlight the difference between Ministry of Education and SENA positions
- Make sure you join our Facebook Group!
- Here are some tips about Why and How You Can Become TEFL Certified Before Teaching in Colombia.
- Satisfy your wanderlust with 30 Photos To Convince You To Teach English in Colombia