Alumni Spotlight on Jared Swanson: How a TEFL Certification Shaped His Time in Colombia
Greenheart Travel’s TEFL certified alum and current Teach in Colombia participant, Jared Swanson, tells us why he decided to get TEFL certified in Nicaragua before moving to Cali, Colombia earlier this year.
Q: Why did you decide to take the Nicaragua TEFL course before arriving in Colombia?
I decided to take my TEFL course in León, Nicaragua because I had intentions to teach English in South Korea, which is currently a popular and lucrative place to teach English. I chose Nicaragua for the sole fact that it was inexpensive to travel to and the course itself was one of the least expensive. Another plus was that the TEFL school offers English classes at an extremely discounted price to Nicaraguan students who otherwise would not be able to afford English classes.
After experiencing teaching this demographic, I decided I did not want to pursue a job at a private school, one that catered to the upper class. It was in one of the first weeks of the job placement assistance with Jon from the school that I learned about the Teach in Colombia program, which was exactly what I was looking for. It was during my TEFL class in Nicaragua that I applied for my current position here in Colombia.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course that has helped you in your current position?
The most valuable thing I received from my TEFL course was my teaching practicum. I had to make thorough lesson plans and execute them in an actual ESL classroom. I found this to be the most helpful because I was able to get the first-day jitters out of the way and really experience what it was like to conduct a class.
The teaching practicum will also be observed by an experienced TEFL instructor who will give feedback during a reflection session. My time teaching in Colombia would definitely not have started off as smooth had I not had this real-world experience.
The training I received in Nicaragua has shaped my entire experience here in Colombia. The orientation in Colombia includes two weeks of training with your orientation group (that was 66 people for me). Where in Nicaragua, I had 4 weeks of training with 6 other classmates.
Q: What did you do with your time after your course ended and before orientation started in Colombia?
The TEFL course is very intensive, which means you won’t have much time to experience the city. By the time I graduated I could not wait to get out and explore more of this country I had spent the last month in. I spent much of my time traveling on weekends, studying Spanish and immersing myself in the culture. Accommodations, travel companions, nightlife, temporary teaching positions and Spanish lessons are all abundant in León.
Q: What was your favorite thing about León, or Nicaragua in general?
My favorite thing about León was the energy; it’s a very authentic Nicaraguan city. I feel like it was the perfect place for me to begin my Latin American journey. León has an established backpacking community, so it’s not like I was the only foreigner, but the city isn’t a total tourist attraction.
Q: What would you say to someone who was on the fence about teaching abroad?
Teaching abroad isn’t something people should think of lightly. If you’re reading this right now, you’re obviously doing research and are somewhat interested and motivated. So do it! In the past six months, I bet I’ve met over one-hundred people teaching English abroad in different cities and programs. I will say not everyone loves it, but I haven’t met anyone who has regretted it or disliked it enough to go home early. Give it a shot, but set yourself up for success.
Q: What would you say to someone who hasn’t taught before and is thinking about getting TEFL certified?
Set yourself up for success. I know my classes wouldn’t currently be as smooth as they are, and my students wouldn’t be learning as much as they are if I hadn’t taken my TEFL course before coming to teach in Colombia. The orientation in Colombia gives you all the tools you need to be an effective teacher, but I’m personally thankful I decided to get my TEFL certification.
Q: Any additional comments about your experience?
Again, if you’re thinking about teaching abroad, just take the plunge! Any excuses you have that are holding you back are just that. I’ve met people of all ages, backgrounds and education levels who have pursued this dream. If you have any specific questions about getting TEFL certified or teaching in Colombia, you can find me in the Greenheart Travel Teach in Colombia Facebook group. I look forward to meeting you!