International Educator Interviews: Corey in Monterrey

In this installment of International Educator Interviews, Corey dishes on how studying abroad led to teaching abroad and what Mexico is really like. (Hint: He likes it so much he’s staying in-country for his next teaching post.)

Where are you now and what are you currently teaching?

I’m currently in Monterrey, Mexico teaching fourth grade at the American Institute of Monterrey.

Is this your first international post or is this one in a string of many international posts for you?

This is my second international teaching post.  I taught fifth and sixth grade English in Bucharest, Romania for a year before coming to Mexico.  Next year, I’m going to teach in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido

What made you decide to teach internationally?

Ever since I studied abroad in university, I’ve had a passion for traveling, so teaching abroad was an easy decision for me to make.  During my last year of university, I started looking for teaching jobs in the United States, and I found it very difficult to find any vacancies.  After my first post teaching in Romania, I figured, you know what, I could make this my career, and here I am.

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

There are a lot of challenges about teaching at a new school in a new country.  Starting a new job in your home country is stressful enough, but starting a new job in a different country is something entirely different.  Of course, you have the normal things that can be stressful at the beginning of the school year (procedures, getting materials, setting up your classroom, etc.), but if you top that off with the fact that you’re living in a new country where you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and don’t know where places are, then it can be a very challenging situation indeed.
Las Pozas de Edward James

Las Pozas de Edward James

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

Teaching in the United States has its perks.  Materials are easier to come by than in other countries. (I’m looking at you, Target.)  In Mexico, finding simple teaching items can be difficult.  However, the workload in international schools is generally smaller because there is less paperwork and students use part of the day to take classes in their native language.

What’s it like living in Mexico? What’s your favorite thing about being an expat there? What is challenging?

I love Mexican food!  Tacos, chilaquiles, enchiladas, guacamole… I can’t get enough of it.  Mexican culture is generally more chilled out and relaxed, which can be very refreshing.  Also, there is so much to see in Mexico.  Waterfalls, jungle, beaches, mountains, ruins, architecture, cities, churches… Mexico has it all.  I’ve found that Monterrey, specifically, can be pretty conservative, which continues to be a challenge for me.  Since Monterrey is located in the north of Mexico, which is close to the U.S./Mexico border, sometimes safety can be an issue.  I’ve never had anything happen to me, but it’s always good to keep an eye out while traveling on foot or on the bus.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Do you still get culture shock? How do you experience re-entry?

When I came back to the U.S. for the summer after my first year of teaching abroad, I had a lot of negative culture shock.  However, when I went back to the U.S. for Easter earlier this year, I enjoyed it a lot, so I guess it just depends on my mood and what I encounter.  When I came back for Easter, I had forgotten how organized the U.S. is and how everything is very reliable, which I definitely appreciated.

What is a myth about Mexico?

Even though Mexico is right next to the U.S., I think that a lot of Americans have a false idea of what Mexico is really like.  Many people seem to think that Mexicans wear sombreros (the big hats), ride donkeys, and take siestas (afternoon nap), but really, very few people do any of those things.  Another myth is that Mexico is just a big desert, which isn’t true.  It has a very wide variety of habitats and climates.  Before I came to Mexico, I thought that cities would just be big slums, but I was so wrong.  Mexico can be very modern.  There is a lot of wealth in Monterrey and other big cities.  The last myth would be that Mexico is unsafe to travel to.  Mexico seems to get a really bad rap for being unsafe because of what people hear on the news.  I’m here to tell you that it’s only unsafe in a few spots along the U.S./Mexico border (that aren’t even worth going to anyway) and that most of it is pretty safe.  Mexico, as a whole, has a lower homicide rate than Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, and many other large U.S. cities.

Agua Azul

Agua Azul

How do you spend your holidays? How often do you visit home?

I spend my holidays traveling around Mexico; there is so much to see.  I go home (to Minnesota) every summer.

When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from when you first started teaching?

Now that I have experienced international teaching and read a lot about it, I would say that my requirements for a school have changed.  I look for a few things in schools: positive administration, access to materials, in a desirable location, and of course, salary.  When I look at specific countries, I research the culture and think about if I would fit in that culture and if the city the school is in has a lot to offer.
Tulum

Tulum

How do you go about making a new place your own? (That is, both your new accommodation and your new country.)
I bought new furniture, kitchen appliances, and other various accessories for my kitchen and bathroom to make my apartment my own.  Traveling around Monterrey by bus has helped me to get to know the different neighborhoods in the city, which has made me feel more at home.
My Apartment
How do you know when it’s time to leave?
As an international teacher, I think that I should leave when I’m no longer feeling happy, satisfied, or challenged when working at a school.  Also, if I think that the city has become too boring or frustrating, then it’s a good time to move on.  There are so many other places to live and work in the world as a teacher, and I would hate to waste years of my life working somewhere that doesn’t make me feel happy.

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far? Is there anywhere you are hoping to land a position in the future?

I started teaching fourth grade last year, and I’m liking it a lot.  It’s great that fourth graders can work independently when I want them to, but they are not as independent as teenagers who act like they don’t need your help anymore. It’s a good balance.  As much as I enjoy living in Mexico, I feel like Europe is calling my name again; I would love to go back there to live.
Cholula

Cholula

How has living abroad changed you?
Before living abroad, I was very unaware of other cultures and how other people have very different world views than me.  I’ve met so many people while living abroad: Iranians, Argentinians, Australians, South Africans, Italians, etc.  It’s amazing because all of those people have something different to share with the world and something to teach me.  I have become a more open person because I have lived abroad, and I don’t regret making the choice to do so.
What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching?
If you are on the fence about making the leap to a career in international teaching, just do it.  You won’t regret it. Hiring season is from November to April, so start looking for jobs in October.  Since teaching internationally is competitive, you might have to work at a less desirable school in a less desirable location for two years before you make the jump to a location and a school that you actually want.
Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

You can read more about Corey and his adventures teaching in Mexico at  coreysvogel.wordpress.com.

Find the full series of Interviews with International Educators here.


If you are an international educator and you would like to be featured on The Present Perfect, contact me at thepresentperfectblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

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One Comment on “International Educator Interviews: Corey in Monterrey

  1. Pingback: I Got Interviewed! | (My Life in) México

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