My Post-College Job Search Abroad

Medellin, Colombia CC0

Written by  April 27, 2016

A college degree and a TEFL certificate lands Caroline in Colombia.

Rain poured from the ceiling of the panaderia. The cashier swept the flooding floor with a broom, pushing the water toward the sidewalk, while two bakers in white aprons stood to the side. I crouched on an aluminum chair, protecting my shoes from the encroaching shoreline.

“Media hora,” claimed another bystander with his arm wrapped around a motorcycle helmet. He, too, escaped the sudden change in weather at the right moment, and promised the downpour would conclude within 30 minutes. If he was right, I’d be able to catch a cab across town and still arrive to me 3 p.m. interview on time.

As an English language teacher new to Medellín, Colombia, the on-the-ground job search isn’t quite what I’d anticipated, but it’s encouraging me to go with the flow.

As an English language teacher new to Medellín, Colombia, the on-the-ground job search isn’t quite what I’d anticipated, but it’s encouraging me to go with the flow.

Medellín marks the end of my backpacking travels. Within a few months, I completed my college degree and TEFL certification, booked a flight to Lima, and explored two countries as I made my way toward Colombia’s second-largest city, where I hoped to teach. After studying in Argentina last year, I knew I wanted to return to South America to put my TEFL certification to use. Having heard so much about Medellín from Colombians in the States, I opted to unpack my bag here and stay for a while.

The city sits in the Aburrá valley of the Andes, and the climate is a dream; hot but not humid, with cooler evenings, a warm breeze, and the occasional, brief rain storm. It’s exactly the escape from New England’s snowy winters and boiling summers that I craved after studying in Boston for the past few years. Paisas—Medellín’s locals—are friendly; eager to help with directions, to dissuade you from walking down an empty street, to connect you with their friends, and at times—as with one academic director who, in the middle of an interview, insisted on explaining to me how Medellín’s party culture works—to provide unsolicited advice.

The past two months were my first take at backpacking solo. But as any viajero soltero will explain, when you’re traveling alone, you’re never alone. I showed up in Cabanaconde, Peru one evening and hiked the Colca Canyon with another traveller the following morning; I joined a group of seven for a five-day trek to Machu Picchu; I listened to live music with new friends in Trujillo; I went canyoning with a hostel roommate an hour after we met in Ecuador; I encountered two other Colombia-bound travellers with whom I crossed the border; and I shared many a taxi with anyone else on the street who looked like they’d like to split the fare.

Now, having arrived at the end of my itinerary, I’m no longer striving to get the scope of a town in a couple days. Instead, I want to learn the pace of a city and meet people who won’t necessarily catch a ride to their next destination at the end of the week. The social scene suddenly shifts from sharing travel plans in hostels to joining locals and expats for a beer or a bike ride around the city.

Many of my friends in the U.S. are preparing to move to new cities, too—namely New York or L.A., or wherever their job prospects take them. The post-grad routine is the same here, in another country: learning the map, meeting new people, and establishing a sense of work-life balance. And what I’m learning is that the international divide doesn’t make a huge difference—it’s more about being open to new experiences. If I’m going to start out somewhere, I figure it might as well be here.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Caroline Cassard

Caroline Cassard is a travel and food-enthused English language teacher from the U.S. Excited to explore Latin America and beyond, she scavenges for vegetarian meals and attempts to pick up the local language between classes.


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