Meet Erik and Margot, two amazing Canucks who went south (way south) for adventure. After studying Economics at McGill University, Margot wanted to see a developing country in action. Similarly, Erik, with his degrees from the University of Ottawa in English and Anthropology in tow, knew he could make a difference in young students’ lives as a teacher.
And with that, they are now teaching English in Brazil AKA dancing to samba and eating lots of brigadeiros between lessons on sentence structures. Come along for their adventure!
1. AH! Your awesome nine month adventure in Latin America has officially started. What attracted you to this part of the world?
We both wanted to visit South America to experience a different culture and to practice new languages. We have both traveled a lot but had never gotten around to visiting Latin America. I (Margot) also speak some Portuguese and wanted to improve my fluency by visiting Brazil. We also plan to visit Argentina, Chile, and Peru in the new year.
2. What was it like getting TEFL certified prior to heading to Brazil? Do you feel it adequately prepared you for the job?
Somewhat, although I don’t think an online course can replace human experience/interactions. It gave us some background on different teaching approaches though, which was good. We also had additional training when we arrived, which was very helpful.
3. Was the arrival experience smooth? What feelings were you having as you were landing in the airport?
We were both pretty terrified! I was very disappointed with the arrival experience. The organization could only pick us up downtown, not at the airport, so we had to get our friend to pick us up and drive us downtown. When we met up with our friend at the airport, the person who was supposed to provide us a ride to our host family from downtown was not answering their cell phone, so our friend had to drive us two hours to our destination. I am unsure what would have happened if our friend had not helped us.
Premier TEFL does everything we can to ensure arrival experiences are as smooth as possible. This incident is the exception and not the norm — we have taken this feedback seriously and taken great steps to guarantee this experience will not happen again in our Sao Paulo program, or any of our destinations for that matter. If you would like more details about the result of this situation, please don’t hesitate to ask your Premier TEFL advisor.
4. Tell us about your job placements and the different levels of your students. What type of school are you working at?
The school provides two, one-hour classes per week, typically, to all ages. We teach one class of kids and a mix of teens and adults. It is casual, for beginners to fully fluent English speakers who want to learn while going to school or working. Although the website advertises 26 hours, with prep time and weekly meetings, it is pretty much a full-time job. Saturdays are the busiest days, and the schedules have many gaps for breaks (so it is not a typical 9-5 job). It has taken some time to adjust to teaching and this type of schedule, as it is very different than the jobs we had back in Canada. Overall, while teaching is a demanding job, it is rewarding.
5. We so LOVE that you are doing a homestay! Margot, do you feel like your Portuguese is improving? Give some insight to future Brazil TEFL students about what the homestay situation is like.
The homestay is the best part of this program. Our family is sweet and includes us in all their activities. We have access to a kitchen, bathroom, etc. and it is very clean. My Portuguese went from stuttering to basic fluency in two weeks! I have no idea how this happened, probably because I’m forced to speak Portuguese to order a coffee, but I’m so happy. They may also offer us some Portuguese lessons but I don’t really know yet.
6. It sounds like your trip is off to a great start — especially when it comes to your dinner plate! Tell us about all of the yummy foods you’ve been nomming on since arriving (don’t spare any details!).
It’s all in my blog! I tried coxinhas, literally deep fried chicken balls, churrasco, which is basically just barbecued meat, brigadeiro (a dessert made with condensed milk and cocoa powder) and caipirinhas – Brazil’s national cocktail – made with cachaca (sugar cane-based hard alcohol), sugar and lime. It is also the first time I tasted acai, a type of ice cream made with fruits from the Amazon, and ‘doce pizza,’ which is basically pizza with Nutella and strawberries. I still have many different foods to try but for now, I can say I love Brazil’s food, although I think I am already very full of rice and beans (which they eat at least once a day)!
7. What has most surprised you about Brazilian culture (both the good and the bad?)
Brazil culture… I really can’t claim to understand it. From what I gather, Brazilians are extremely welcoming people, and you become friends/family very fast. I have heard, however, that racism exists in some parts of the country, for e.g. the South, although I don’t think I have experienced this first hand. They love to play music very loud on the streets, for any reason at all (e.g. selling eggs from their car).
8. What is one piece of advice you would give future ESL teachers in Brazil?
Be prepared to work REALLY hard. This is a full-time job. Save up enough money to go on trips etc. because your salary only covers basic necessities. Also, your life will be so much easier if you learn at least some Portuguese before you arrive. I hired a tutor once a week, and there are also online resources. I think these are the three most important tips I can give anyone.
We hope you are excelling at samba as well as you are at teaching English. You both rock! Have a blast on your trip.
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