It's never too late for TEFL! We speak to Judy, who is definitely at the age when most others would be winding down their working lives. Employers are often age-biased in favour of the young, so teaching English can be an excellent choice for those that aren't ready to retire. What's more, teaching gives zest and fresh energy for anyone, young or 'old'!
Judy, what inspired you to take a TEFL course all the way down in Argentina?
At the time I was living in the States. I'd been out there for a few years, mainly because I found it difficult to get work after the age of 50 in England.
Eventually I decided that with the economic crisis in 2009 - and no more work selling property - I had better make another career change and so I decided to take a TEFL course and become an English teacher.
I thought that it would be a great way forwards for me because the training is short, the work is available worldwide, it can be full time or part time and with young or mature learners.
With so many TEFL courses on offer in so many destinations, what made you fall for Argentina?
I'd actually visited it years ago when I was traveling and loved the place. I spoke some Spanish which I thought would be an advantage, but is really not necessary as everyone down here speaks at least some English.
I'd been recommended a few courses out in the Middle East but I didn't feel that it was the right time for me. I also looked at doing the course whilst still in the United States but things are more formal there and the only options I could find required me to already have a teaching degree. Maybe those courses are designed for people who wish to be integrated into the State educational system.
So you had spent time working in the States. Did you consider returning to England? Was the choice to leave an easy one?
I actually felt that it was essential to move to a country which is growing, recognising the economic downturn in Europe and I knew there were very few job prospects for a retired person in England so teaching English in Argentina seemed like a good choice.
The staff at the TEFL school where I would take my course were great and offered me a list of accommodation options including everything from sharing with my future course colleagues, family home stays all the way through to rented apartments. I opted to share with a single Argentine woman as I felt more comfortable and at the same time I knew I'd integrate quicker and get my Spanish up to speed if I did it this way. Knowing I had something secure to go to with the accommodation, the course and friendly people arranging everything at the school for me made it so much easier.
I also discovered that there is free healthcare in Argentina (and I later found all of the Doctors speak really good English!) so I was sold on it. I arranged to let my house for 3 years and I was off.
Statistically, the majority of those who take TEFL courses are in their early twenties. Was that the case on your course? Did the mix of ages work well?
Yes, between the youngest and oldest there was probably a difference of some 40 years. But it wasn't just the mix of ages but also the mix of cultures. There were a few of us from the UK but also Americans, Australians and Asians too. Had I have been in a group of a dozen 20-year-old Americans I'm sure I would have felt on the fringes. But with so many nationalities and ages there is no odd-one-out. We all were.
Freshly graduated from a TEFL course, how did you go about finding work? Does the work scene in Buenos Aires offer security and stability?
That began before I had even graduated. During the final week of supervised teaching practice one of the directors from an English Teaching center came to observe us. I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed for a teaching post and I never looked back since. That was such a relief. I had been planning a strategy for contacting schools and companies for teaching work and had begun the CV writing and employment counseling as part of the course so I was well prepared but the direct offer made life a lot easier.
There's more work than you can shake a stick at for those who want it. The pay is only around 8 Pounds an hour but the cost of living is low compared to Europe and the States. Some of the younger ones are happy working part time and spend the rest of the time partying and on the beach. That's normal and you can support that lifestyle on a teacher's wage down here.
Here in the UK we're hearing a lot of references to Argentina on the news with an escalating war of words regarding the Falkland Islands. Is that a worry for you? Does it cause any problems as a Brit?
Absolutely not. What you hear in the press is simply what is said in the press. It bears no relation to the people of Argentina, their thoughts or feelings, it's just a few politicians 'doing their job'. The people down here are great, they pay little attention to those types of news stories and it's no big thing for them. They are friendly to everyone without caring about their nationality and have really made me feel welcome here. No one from the UK should feel put off by some silly comments in the news, it's an amazing place to visit work and live. I'd recommend it to anyone.
The UK, the US and now Argentina. Where next?
I can happily say I have no plans made yet. I'll stay for another two more years then might try somewhere new. Since becoming an English teacher any notion of age or national borders doesn't register now, that's the beauty of TEFL. You're never too old for TEFL!