Tripper of the Week: Virginia Lopez on TEFL

Meet Tripper Virginia Lopez, a world traveler passionate about educating abroad. Please read her interview below about the TEFL program and how it has impacted her life.

We hear you’re a TEFL teacher. Can you tell us what TEFL is?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TEFL teachers travel to countries where English is not the native tongue, but the level of fluency often determines job success.

What made you want to become a TEFL teacher and where have you taught so far?

I became a TEFL teacher because I love to travel; I love to meet new people and immerse myself in cultures other than my own. Each trip brings an element of novelty and excitement. I also have a couple of friends who were TEFL teachers and told me how much they loved it. I haven’t been teaching for too long, but I have taught in some amazing places. I was certified and first taught in Cuzco, Peru. I was there for six months before I traveled to Mexico where I taught in Mexico City for a couple weeks and Guadalajara for five months. Now I’m back home in Chicago doing some charitable work before I go back to Mexico and teach in San Luis Potosi!pageb

What is your favorite memory from your experience in the program?

I have so many. One of my favorites happened during a conversation class. I asked my students to talk about their hobbies. One kid said that his favorite hobby was to play with his “trumputation.” I found it a common habit to add “tion” to the end of any word in order to make it sound English. The students are amazing. They all have a different reason or story for why they are learning English and from them, I too have learned so much.

What’s the hardest part about your job?

The hardest part of the job for me has to be the schedule. It is very limited, which makes it difficult to explore the city in between work. Being away from friends and family for so long is also challenging.

What’s your absolute favorite part of the job?

My favorite part is the teaching. I get to meet so many wonderful people. I was teaching in Mexico last year and I had a student who was in his mid 40′s. He worked a 9-5 workday then traveled almost two hours to get to school. He was never late and he always had his homework ready. Little things like that- they inspire me.

Where did you travel to last? Where are you going next?

I was teaching in Guadalajara, Mexico around this time last year. It was incredible. Mexico has so many different influences now. The cosmopolitan city mixed with a deeply rooted Christian background. This mix is so beautifully reflected in its architecture and people. Next I am going to San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I have never been there, but I hear it is a very small mining town. So I’m expecting there will be gold and silver jewelry everywhere!

What advice would you give to people considering TEFL?

I think people have to consider that TEFL is a real job, with long hours. If anyone is considering teaching abroad, they have to know they won’t be making much money. The working conditions are not what most people are used to. This job is all about the experience and stepping out of your comfort zone is a considerable part of that experience. It’s all about traveling the world, getting to know the locals, becoming comfortable with the culture and taking off to do it all over again.

What kinds of people are you excited to meet on Tripping?

I want to meet all sorts of people: old, young, and in-between. Everyone has a story to tell, an anecdote. We can all learn from one another and Tripping will help in opening the doors and providing a platform.

Thank you Virginia! Thanks for sharing your experiences and for being a part of the Tripping Community. Please keep us posted on your travels and teaching adventures and feel free to send us a postcard from the little mining town of San Luis Potosi. ;)