David studied Joint Honours Spanish and Geography between 2005-2009 at Leeds. He now works at Colegio Jefferson inCali, Colombia teaching English.
I really enjoyed my time at Leeds...fantastic memories from a great place with amazing people. My course highlight has to be my year abroad teaching with the British Council in Santiago, Chile..the constant sense of adventure and experiencing new things on a day to day basis will always stick with me, as well as my first time to go solo travelling around the Patagonia wildernesses in southern Chile and Argentina.
I wanted to return to South America as I didn't get the chance to travel to the northern part in my year abroad. Colombia was the best option with the British Council and I'd heard gradually more positive things over the previous few years about the country. I came straight to Colombia after graduating, with the British Council Language Assistant Scheme which I had applied to during final year. It's a good way to combine professional work with travelling, as well as living in a completely new place.
My typical day is waking up at 5.45am, starting school at 7.30am, teaching (14/15 year olds) English literature and language. I experience the day getting gradually hotter, eat a fairly flavourless lunch but enjoy a delicious fresh fruit juice with it, have a few meetings in Spanish, finish at 2.30pm, hope to avoid the regular afternoon thunder storm, have a siesta, catch up on British TV and football news, plan classes, plan pub quizzes, cricket tournaments and other aspects of expat life in Colombia! One week a year takes me on the school field trip to the Caribbean, which is the highlight of the year. Getting paid to sit on the beach and swim in the sea sounds great, but being responsible for 80 raucous teenagers doesn't make it as relaxing as it sounds!
The advice I’d give to students wishing to go into a similar line of work is; research possible destinations well for day to day realities (language, established expat community, size etc) and prospects (jobs, opportunities). Get relevant qualifications (CELTA or equivalent) as soon as you can, as well as any form of teaching experience, and then find your adventurous spirit and go for it. See what options Leeds has by way of electives or professional development courses to help you whilst you're there.
Travelling is always a positive experience when reflected upon afterwards, but it can be looked at negatively at the time, but if you try to make it productive it can be very useful and open many doors down the line. Look for opportunities with NGOs and teaching organisations that get involved with local people (both foreigners and locals) and the experience will be much more enriching, and you never know where it can take you. A lot of life is just about being in the right place at the right time!
I speak fluent Spanish which is very useful at work, despite it being a bilingual school. I have regular meetings with parents and other teachers in Spanish, as well as attending conferences and seminars that are directed in Spanish too. I have to speak English all the time with students, but Spanish is more or less essential for other day to day tasks, both in and outside of work.
For me, every day is different. Students are constant sources of inspiration and entertainment, as well as frustration and irritation, but they make every day a challenge and do occasionally show their gratitude towards you. Colombia is a country that is changing drastically at the moment, generally for the better, and it's exciting to be here at this time.
I have travelled throughout most of South America and Europe, but my highlight has to be cycling across the USA in 2010, from LA to New York. I plan to cycle from Cali, Colombia, to California, USA, at some point in the future!
My blog latinodave.blogspot.com and Twitter: @latino_dave cover my day to day exploits in Colombia and are a useful source of information.