Teaching English in Arequipa

By | January 24, 2014

Arequipa, the White City, is a beautiful city in southern Peru full of white volcanic stone buildings and surrounded by three (usually snowcapped) volcanoes. These volcanoes are easily seen from most places in the city making for picturesque views that will not grow old. Located in southern Peru, it is closer to Chile and Bolivia than it is to Lima, Peru’s capital city. Arequipa is known for it’s clear and slowly spoken Spanish, pride in their cuisine, a rapidly growing economy, and a comfortable dry climate (from March through November) with nearly every type of outdoor activity. With their growing economy, there are opportunities to teach at a number of English schools. So, if you love the outdoors, want to learn Spanish, or just slow down your pace and eat some delicious Andean food, Arequipa is a great destination to teach English.

Read more about Arequipa on Wikipedia.

Why Teach in Arequipa

Image taken by David Pratt

Image taken by David Pratt

Arequipa is a relatively laid back, slow paced city when compared with Peru’s capital, Lima. The people are less in a rush. This shows with their speech as well. The accent is easy to hear and understand for someone not fluent in Spanish. This makes it a great place to learn or tune-up your Spanish skills. You can even find places where you can do a language exchange in your spare time.

The food in Arequipa is quite good. The baked empanadas make a delicious breakfast for 80 cents (USD) and healthier version to the more commonly found fried empanadas in most other South American cities. The lunch “menus” are cheap, healthy, filling, and delicious. These are what they call the daily lunch special. There is usually one choice that varies each day and it is significantly cheaper than anything else the restaurant offers regularly. These “menus” typically come with a soup and large plate of rice and usually chicken, beans and some sort of vegetable. Famous Arequipan foods are Rocoto Relleno (stuffed peppers), Adobo (spicy pork soup served on Sundays), Cuy (fried Guinea Pig), Causa (a casserole-like mashed potato, chicken and avocado dish) and Anticuchos (beef heart). There is a growing pride in the mix of new age gastronomy with the ancient Andean dishes and ingredients. Higher end restaurants are on the rise but you’ll probably have to dip into savings to enjoy them.

Image taken by David Pratt

Image taken by David Pratt

Arequipa is an agricultural city with a fast growing economy. There are also many mines where newly graduated engineering students seek employment. English is recognized as a growing importance in order to get a good job and succeed in the business world. This has lead to a high demand for native English speakers so there are jobs to be found!

The climate in Arequipa is dry, sunny and warm. From March through November, clouds are rare and rain is barely ever a thought. With it’s high altitude desert location, it will be easy to know what to expect. From December through February you can watch the clouds gathering atop the volcanoes, which will give you an hour or two warning before any precipitation. That said, when it rains, it pours. The streets often flood with poor drainage so you’ll need a good umbrella and a pair of high rain boots is a good idea. However, the city of Arequipa is located 2-3 hours from the coast where there are many small, popular beaches to visit for the weekend to escape the rain. This is the high season for beaches like Camana and Mollendo.

Arequipa is nestled in at the base of three beautiful volcanoes. All of which are possible to climb for those seeking adventure. The most commonly attempted is El Misti as it is the symbol of Arequipa and looks like what we think of when we think of a volcano. El Misti is a beast and not to be taken lightly. This two day climb is not for the faint of heart with its steep snow-capped summit that reaches an altitude of 5,822 m (19,101 ft). If mountains (volcanoes) aren’t your thing, Arequipa is also home to the two deepest canyons in the world, excellent rock climbing, white water rafting and more. The White City is also just 6 hours by bus to Lake Titicaca and a 4 more to La Paz, Bolivia. Just 5-6 hours to the south, you can visit the northern beaches of Chile. The climate and the terrain make an excellent combination for travelers and lovers of the outdoors.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Arequipa

The most common teaching job in Arequipa is at one of the many English language schools. There are dozens of schools around the city, new and old, big and small, all serving the growing demand. Jobs at universities are higher paid and more difficult to come by.

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Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

It is easiest to find a job if you have a TEFL certificate and some experience teaching. However, if you have one or the other you should be able to find work at a private English language school. If you have more than a year experience you will make a slightly higher wage.

Image taken by David Pratt

Image taken by David Pratt

Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”1434″]For a city with a growing economy and demand for English teachers, you may expect salaries to be higher than they are. However, the cost of living is incredibly low so this is all relative. Expect to pay 300 -600 Peruvian Soles ($105 – $210 USD) per month for a room in a nice neighborhood. You almost never are expected to pay for any utilities. The average hourly wage is between 11 ($4 USD) and 13 ($5 USD) soles per hour. Hopefully your school gives you 6 hours of classes per day, 5 days a week. Do the math, but don’t expect to have any savings after a night out with friends or a budget trip to the beach.

Read more about the living costs in Arequipa from Numbeo.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

Obtaining a visa can be quite difficult without a school willing to sponsor you. This will most likely happen at the university level. The public schools have Peruvian English teachers and it is quite difficult to get a job at a public high school. It is possible (and common) to be paid under the table by a private English school operating on a tourist visa. Be careful with this as many schools are known to pay late and not honor contracts. You may not receive the hours or wage you were promised and signed for. You also may be required to exit the country every few months to avoid overstaying your visa and being subjected to fines upon departure.

Image taken by David Pratt

Image taken by David Pratt

How to find a Job Teaching in Arequipa

Arequipa is a little behind technologically and most businesses lack websites. However, the good English schools should have websites and post job offers online, but if you are having trouble locating opportunities, that doesn’t mean they do not exist. If you find yourself in Arequipa, I would recommend walking into the schools with your resume and references and letting them get a look at and listen to a native speaker. There are definitely schools that would love to find a way to employ a native English speaker to boost their credibility.

Teaching in Arequipa

Teaching in Arequipa has it’s ups and downs. It is a great place to get experience if you are new to the teaching English world and love seeing amazing new places or want to learn Spanish. If you are an experienced English teacher, you may be frustrated by the disorganization of management and lack of compensation for prep time, etc. However, these frustrations can be found anywhere. The isolation and beauty of Arequipa leads to incredible weekend experiences and a very strong Expat community. If you have some savings and are looking for an incredible South American adventure with a great climate, serious outdoor terrain, clearly spoken Spanish, and amazing and cheap food, Arequipa is certainly a great jumping off point.

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