Teaching English abroad is a great way for young travelers to explore new cities, while earning some money, and even doing some volunteer work on the side. The general rule of thumb for Peru , as in the rest of South America, is that teaching here will not earn you much money, but nobody comes for the money; we come for the experience. If you’re looking for a higher-paying teaching job, you’ll want to search in Asia.
For anyone that has studied abroad, living abroad is a totally different ballgame. Although teaching English is suitable for travelers of any age, many twenty-something’s, including myself, liken it to the more relaxed study abroad experience. Before actually arriving, that is.
Be prepared to face the challenges of job and house hunting: cultural exchanges between landlords or vendors that can occasionally be frustrating, language barriers or simply dealing with things in a way that is unfamiliar. That’s part of the teaching abroad experience, though, and will you will learn more through these encounters than in any other part of the trip.
Many people don’t come to Cusco with teaching experience, but get their TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate while living here. Although there are plenty of online courses, I would highly recommend taking it in-country because you get real teaching experience, and have some time to get acclimated to your new home before jumping headfirst into a new job. These courses in-country will run you a little over $1000 while online courses are generally only a few hundred dollars.
TEFL doesn’t require you to speak Spanish because you are supposed to elicit all of the material, but if you are working with a lengthier curriculum, speaking Spanish and knowing some Spanish grammar will absolutely speed up your classes. Just be careful with over-usage of Spanish because you want to make sure your students are still learning and practicing English.
Although there are plenty of English students in Cusco because of the booming tourism industry, there are not many English schools to teach at. If you aren’t looking for a full-time job, and are coming here with the intention of travelling over the span of a year, come with savings of at least $2000 - 3000 (to pay for rent, food, inevitable housing problems and travelling, which is not necessarily cheap).
Proyecto Peru is a small language school with a hardworking staff, but they only have two full time teachers plus a part time teacher. In Cusco, the turnover rate can be quite high as many people only come to live here for six months, so it is still worth a try if you are looking for a job there. You can find it on Calle Siete Cuartones near the Plaza de Armas.
Affiliated with the U.S. Department of State, ICPNA (Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano) is a huge school on Avenida la Cultura that can seem intimidating at first. They generally don’t hire foreigners, like the other institutes, and run classes on the weekends, which you won’t find at other schools. Foreigners that have worked there usually started out with weekend hours and over a few months, were able to switch to more consistent hours during the week.
Excel Language School is ideal for travelers coming to Cusco with savings, but who want some work experience. They are more concerned with their teachers having a university degree, not a TEFL certificate. They offer month-to-month contracts and pay well per hour, but usually it is only possible to teach one or two classes a month. Excel is on Cruz Verde, nestled in the back of a courtyard.
If you are coming to the city with few savings and are looking for real work experience, Maximo Nivel is arguably the most consistent place to work in terms of getting paid and having hours. It is a business first, not a school, which effects the efficacy of the curriculum, but the teaching staff of sixteen are usually young travelers so work can be a great place to make friends there. The minimum teaching commitment per day is six classes, with a maximum of seven classes. You can find it on the main avenue in Cusco, Avenida el Sol. You can also take the TEFL course through Maximo Nivel.
There are three universities in Cusco, but to work at one of them as a foreigner, you usually need both a work visa and a Master’s degree. If you are planning on staying in Cusco for at least six months, ask for 183 days on your tourist visa upon arriving in Lima.
If you’re looking to teach English in Cusco, know that teaching options can be limited, but you will have the opportunity to visit some beautiful areas in Southern Peru, experience a new culture in an old city, learn what it is like to work abroad and learn Spanish. It is a small city, but can be a great place to call home for a bit during your travels.
Originally from the Washington DC-metro area, Naomi currently lives in Cuzco, Peru. She went there to get certified to teach English and to improve her Spanish, not to mention explore a beautiful country and continent while she’s at it. Travel writing has always been a dream of hers and she wrote this piece for Tucan Travel (www.tucantravel.com), providing tours all over South America, to Peru, Cusco and beyond.