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Why I Left My Corporate Life to Teach English in Cusco

For 15 years I worked in various positions in the Finance Industry. From working in banks with investment and loan portfolios, to training and development, consulting on business development projects, and even a government-funded educational institution–which involved liaising with the ministry of education, and international ambassadors and prime ministers. Some of my work involved travel, which I was completely grateful for, but I didn’t realize what I was missing until I took a 2 month vacation in Antigua, Guatemala, after I completed a contract.

Why I Left My Corporate Life to Teach English in Cusco

Those two months exposed me to new culture, language, and opportunities I would have never dreamed possible. I returned to my home country of Trinidad with a heavy heart and a lot to consider. Did I really want to go back to my old career in finance? I´d learned and grown so much in the industry, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work, but I left a piece of me in Antigua that I would never get back.

Upon my return, still undecided with the direction I would go, I took up a short-term contract with the bank which turned into a one year project. At the end of the year, I had made up my mind. I wanted to be back in Latin America. And so, my research ensued. Maximo Nivel was a top choice as it consistently popped up on my browser, even after deleting my history. I had a friend in Cusco, Peru who did some on-the-ground research and gave me the OK. Immediately, I signed up for my TEFL course in Cusco which would allow me to begin a new career teaching English abroad. My TEFL certificate afforded me the formal education needed to provide quality service to our English students, while allowing me the confidence to teach without any previous experience.

Teaching English in Peru

Though I felt completely prepared to face my new challenging role as an English teacher, my first few months did not come without unexpected challenges. Specifically, having to deal with the variation of students in the same class was a tough transition. You can have students aged 16-60, some with more English exposure, and a variety of education levels all in the same class. But you learn to remain balanced, and do your best to work with each individual student.

On the other hand, I´ve never came across a more rewarding role. Seeing students transition from being completely unable to comprehend or communicate in English, to months later stringing sentences together and being able to express themselves, is by far the most satisfying aspect of being a teacher. It has been a huge transition from finance to education, but being able to add value to someone´s life and witnessing the sacrifices they make to better themselves, is more than I could have asked for.

In addition, teaching in Peru has not only given me the opportunity to teach English, but also to travel! Since beginning my teaching career over a year ago, I’ve been able to visit Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Lima, Trujillo, Tacna, Arequipa, Tipon, and even Chile. Cusco, itself, is a beautiful city to hang around when I’m not traveling, my favorite place being the Cusco Coffee Museum.

Traveling in Peru

I could never have imagined where I would be today–teaching English at Maximo Nivel in Cusco, Peru. Though over a year later, I still struggle with the cold climate (remember, I´m from the, always sunny, Caribbean), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience. For me, the Latin American culture is similar to the Caribbean, because although it´s cold, the people are so warm and embracing. I love the food, especially the duck in Lucre, and the traditional lomo saltado, I love the language, and I love the vibe.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone looking to do something similar, my advice would be: Don’t hesitate. Embrace the opportunity, take the risk, and you´ll never be disappointed. For me, teaching will be my last career. My goals are to use my certificate to travel, teach, and experience cultures around the world. Being exposed to new cultures–the diversity–will enrich your life in ways you’d never imagine.

-Judy D.