Hi, my name is Adrienne and I’m an English Teacher Abroad.
(Hello Adrienne!) For those of us that have been doing this for awhile we know that it is a bit like A.A. It takes the support and guidance of a group to merely survive, and practically an army to thrive. Through the assistance of fellow travelers and teachers, I have been able to continue my teaching career with a reduced amount of struggle and hardship. I am utterly grateful for that, and am here to continue to pay it forward!
My teaching past.
I graduated The Language House in December of 2015. I had booked a round trip ticket to Prague, but in December, I didn’t get on the airplane home. Prague had so many amazing things to offer: breathtaking scenery, the cheapest/best beer in the world, easy public transportation, a bevy of teaching opportunities. But mostly importantly for me, it had an ESL community, and a strong one at that. It was the perfect place for me to slingshot my career.
Prague was an amazing place. The students were dedicated and worked hard, work was continuously available, there were always fellow teachers to assist you, the visa process was smooth, and the ultimate bonus – you could travel around Europe very easily. It was also cold (California girl could’t hang), the pay was only decent (compared to other economies) and I decided it was time for me to experience something new. With a desire to be bilingual myself, I chose a far off place where I would be forced to perfect my Spanish. Argentina it was.
What to do before you leave for Argentina.
To be honest, I did relatively little research before leaving. I am more of a jumper than a person who carefully plots their attack. I did attempt to contact a few schools, but the response was mostly “Let us know when you arrive here.” I quickly realized that I would probably need to be on the ground to find work in this place. I asked questions of fellow teachers and also did some online research on visas. Truthfully, I was a little confused as to what exactly the deal was with how to live and work here. It seemed visas were not something to come by easily, and that most people who do have a visa are sponsored by a company, and by my experience, that is something only large corporate type companies do. Not little language schools. I haven’t looked into the big Universities and how they hire their teachers, but since I am one of those teachers that is working without a Bachelor’s Degree, I figure they probably have no interest in me anyway. Perhaps I could be wrong. I am currently trying to learn more about this.
So far, for me, teaching here is a lot like Prague. In Prague I worked for a couple of schools and also had quite a big percentage of private students that I found on a local website. Full disclosure, I have only been teaching here in Buenos Aires for two weeks. I was hired on VERY quickly at a local language school, and within one week I had nearly a full week of classes. Clearly there is a demand and little supply for native ESL teachers.
There is no site (like in the Czech Republic) for students to connect with teachers (business op for anybody with the drive) here in Argentina. Or at least not one that I can find. I am also currently trying to find out how people connect directly with students. My social media posts have come back empty for answers on this.
My main suggestion is to join all of the Facebook groups for teachers in Argentina that you can find. This will give you a very good idea of the teaching landscape and most of your questions can be answered there. That was how I found my position. And, as far as I can tell, how the industry works here.
Save your money. I had about $4,000USD saved, and it has taken about that much for rents, expenses etc. I have been staying in private rooms through AirBNB for about $600/month. That amount has covered me for three months, but there are deposits and various expenses to get your own apartment if that is what you want, so plan for extras accordingly.
Study your Spanish. Very FEW people speak English here. If they do, it is limited to a few words. Spanish is definitely a necessity here. So be sure to either know a little, or begin studying. They are very nice if you admit that your “espanol no es bueno” and will be patient with you as you try to speak their language. There are some major pronunciation differences when speaking Spanish with the people of Buenos Aires, so be prepared for that also.
What to bring to Argentina.
Don’t think, oh I will buy that when I get there. Products, clothing, everything is very expensive here. It is worth paying for the extra suitcase to bring your full seasonal wardrobe, and anything other items you might need. I just paid the equivalent of $14USD for a small and cheaply made bath towel, if that gives you any perspective. Basically you would have to
Cash. Bring cash. Cash is king here in Argentina and the US dollar is more stable than the Argentine peso. It costs between $8-12USD each time you withdraw from the cajeros automaticos (ATM), and the maximum withdrawal is $3600ARS/$180USD. Many places take a card, but you definitely cannot rely on it. Power goes down, services don’t work, and having cash is a necessity here.
Paperwork. I suggest having some CVs preprinted, and any additional materials you may regularly used. There aren’t a lot of resources here, so having a good supply is a must. I haven’t yet committed to starting the visa process yet, because I hear nothing but complicated stories from Americans about their attempts to obtain a DNI or actually getting a work visa.
Pack your hot sauce. The Argentine palette is quite gentle and a heavy dose of pepper is considered spicy here. So if you like things picante, be like Beyonce and have a hot sauce in your bag, swag.
What to do once you are here.
First of all. Enjoy yourself. This is an amazing city, full of vibrant energy and amazing experiences. Have some fun before getting into the teaching grind. There is something happening at every second of the day. Have a coffee. Walk in the parks. Dance tango. Eat dulce de leche until you pop.
Start reaching out to schools. I got immediate responses and was interviewing within a week. I had enough money saved so that I could slowly accept classes and be a little picky about my hours and choices. It is really up to you, how hard you want to work.
Except that you are probably going to have to travel out of the country every 90 days and will be living a fairly unstable existence while here. So far, from my experience, most English teachers travel to various places around South America (or back home to the US) every 3 months and have no trouble getting stamped back into the country for another 90 day tourist visa. Now, this doesn’t make it legal for you to work here, but it seems that this part is currently overlooked. Everyone pays you in cash. And with the salary it isn’t like you are going to have huge amounts to save leftover each month. The average pay at a language school is between $185-240ARS, which is about $9-12/hour. And I came here because I wasn’t happy with the Czech economy? The passion and excitement of this place more than makes up for the low salary, at least so far.
Get a SIM card. There a few major phone companies where you can get a prepaid “chip” for your unlocked smartphone. This will give you a +54 country code number and you can add money as you need to. You must do all of this in Espanol, so be prepared for some challenges. It took me a couple of weeks to get it all figured out, but most places have wifi so it is easy to stay connected.
Get a SUBE card. This is your bus and subte (subway) pass. You can get it during work hours in most subtes, and add money to it at various shops or kiosks around town. The card costs$25ARS and I so far I use about $400ARS/month depending on how much I am running around town.
Who will love/hate Argentina.
If you are a person who must always color within the lines, Argentina might not be the place for you. They don’t even drive in their own lane here. The rules seem to be open to interpretation and your visa and living situation are no exception. If you are ok with the nomadic free-living lifestyle you will be happy as a clam here.
Now, I am somewhere in the middle. I am a rule follower and a tax payer, but it seems that the government doesn’t make it easy for those of us not sponsored by a company to work and reside here. I am stepping out of my comfort zone on this adventure to see exactly how it works out. I have talked to many teachers and they were here for a year or two and never seemed to have an issue with the travel back and forth or living “off the grid” – so to speak. Just be sure you are prepared for this lifestyle, and that becoming a more permanent resident might be complicated, beyond reason. Though it is a city full of singles if you have any interest in becoming a resident through marriage!
Buenos Aires is a big and exciting city, with traces of Europe very obviously intertwined throughout. The food is good, transportation is quite easy, the people are extremely kind, and the weather, well it is still TBD. I have yet to experience the Argentine world outside of Buenos Aires, but I plan to very soon!