Dream Big: A New Teacher Moves to Colombia

With Allison, my first visitor in Colombia!, as we overlook Cali. (December 2009)
With Allison, my first visitor in Colombia!, as we overlook Cali. (December 2009)

In May 2009 I graduated from university with a degree in Math Education and Spanish.

Two months later, I moved to Colombia.  No, not Colombia, South Carolina.  No, not Columbia University in New York.  (And yes, that Columbia has a “u” in it!)

Colombia, as in the country…you know, the one in South America?

Yes, the one known for drug cartels in the 90’s…

After the natural barrage of questions from friends and family, I left Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 28th, 2009 with a final destination of Cali, Colombia in order to teach 8th grade math at an international school.

In some ways I knew exactly what I was getting into, because I had previously traveled internationally, I talked with current teachers at my future school, and I researched a lot about Colombia before leaving.

In other ways, I had no idea what this two-year job contract in a foreign (at the time) country was all about.

Here I am seven months into teaching, seven months into living abroad and seven months into discovering the wonders of Colombia, and I realize that at the very essence of this job/this move I had a dream to do something unique, something different, something challenging, and something just for me.

I just could not envision myself living, working, studying in the same place for the rest of my life; I needed adventure; I needed passion; I needed Colombia.

One of many favorite places in Colombia so far > Ciudad Perdida, near Santa Marta, Colombia. [January 2010]
One of many favorite places in Colombia so far > Ciudad Perdida, near Santa Marta, Colombia. (January 2010)
Prior to arriving and ever since, I have been blogging about everything from my school, teaching internationally, expat living, Colombian culture, travel within Colombia and my continuous discoveries about this country.

Through my own blog I have connected with fellow travelers and fellow teachers abroad, so when I read that Medellin Living was in need of contributors, I emailed Dave immediately.

He happily replied “yes” to my email asking if I could pretty please write for Medellin Living even though I don’t technically live in Medellin, so here I am.

In the days, weeks and months to come I hope to provide interesting, informative and useful content to Medellin Living through discussion about working/teaching/living abroad, the city of Cali, Colombian culture, and other travel opportunities within Colombia.

Within seven months I have already built a large base of content to share, and new topics arise every day.

Of course, what is most important to me are your suggestions as readers, so please leave a comment or find me on Twitter  (@k_rads) with any questions or suggestions for future posts.

Until next time, thanks for hosting me here at Medellin Living and a big thanks to Dave for allowing me to give this a shot!



Like the story? Take a second to support Medellin Living on Patreon!



  1. Hey Kristin,

    Great reading the posts, very informative and entertaining. I’m wondering if you could point me in the right direction. I’m Colombian American and I’m planning on making a move to Medellin. I’m saving money, but I would also like to make some money while I’m down there, and I thought why not teach English. My only experience includes volunteering at an ESL center during college. Do you recommend that I get certified? If so what kind of certification is needed to teach english part time at an institution? or independently (if I choose to go this route and gather clientele, do I really need certification?). Also if I apply to any of the english institutions do you think it would be best to apply as a Colombian or American? I read somewhere that these institutions have to hire a certain percentage of Colombians per year.
    Sorry to harass you with so many questions I’m just very inquisitive. Would like to continue this conversation via email if you have sometime.

    Thank you!

    • Iza – I would love to continue chatting more about your questions! I think you can find opportunities with or without a certification, but if you want to work in an international school full time I would think more about a certification. As for Colombian or American, schools do have a quota of overseas hires so applying as a Colombian may up your chances, but at least at my school, Americans are paid in a different (higher) bracket, so that is something to consider as well! Thanks for your comments, and let me know what more I can help with! Cheers!

  2. Buenos días,

    El equipo de Comunicaciones del 4to Festival Internacional de Cine Sinfronteras, está interesado en enviarle información acerca del mismo y para ello nos gustaría obtener los siguientes datos:

    Nombre y apellido
    Dirección física
    Correo electrónico

    Sus datos los puede envíar a través del correo: comunicaciones@festivalsinfronteras.com

    Agradecemos su pronta respuesta.

    4to Festival Internacional de Cine Sinfronteras del 22 de Julio al 2 de Agosto de 2010

    • Mario – It’s been about a year since I was in Medellin, but I do recall the metro system has elevators, which would be a major plus for being able to get around the city. In Cali and Bogota, the only mass transit is the bus system.

      • Mario – Dave will have a much better idea about Medellin…however I can say that the MIO system in Cali is wheelchair accessible, as are most major shopping centers. I have been to Bogota a few times and would say its about the same for the TransMilenio. The problem is many sidewalks in Colombia are not that well kept up in general, so navigating the pot holes would be difficult in a wheelchair…

  3. Hi, Kristin. I live near Milwaukee, WI, and stumbled upon your blog a couple of months ago when I was researching Colombia. I just wanted to tell you that I very much enjoy reading your entries here and on your own blog. Keep up the great work.

  4. Kristin,
    I think I’ve found (in your blogs) my primary source of information on what I can expect should I make my way to Colombia. I have many questions and I’ve been having trouble finding the information I need. If I may ask one question: Where should I go to find job postings in Colombia…primarily Medellin? I appreciate any help you can offer. Best wishes.

  5. i enjoyed reading your post,, im a sped teacher in usa,,have visited medellin twice and loved it,, my espanol is rusty,, but when emersed in the culture ,, it comes back quickly,, does a teaching license in america have any effect on obtaining gainful employment in colombia as a native speaking english teacher?

    • Hi CJ! Sorry I just am getting back to you…I was hired at the Overseas Teaching Fair at the University of Northern Iowa. This fair is held every year and allows teachers with teaching credentials to interview for jobs all over the world. The fair is super well organized, well attended by excellent schools, and a great networking opportunity even if you don’t find your dream job there.

  6. Kristin,
    Hello ! How are you? I need help. I love your story! I’m about to move to Medellin and I wanted to know how hard is it to obtain a teaching job. I just graduated with a Bachelors in Elementary Education with an ESOL Endorsement and I’m certified to teach in the State of Florida. I only have the experience of my internships so I’m kind of worried. I’m colombian and American. How much can I expect to get paid? when does the hiring process begin? (month) Do you have any contacts in Medellin? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Hi Lina! Unfortunately I do not have any contacts in Medellin schools, but I do know the international school there that is similar to mine in Cali is called the Columbus School. They have an excellent website that you could use to get in touch with them: http://www.columbus.edu.co/Pages/Default.aspx

      I was hired independently by my school at an overseas teaching fair held annually at the University of Northern Iowa in February. This fair is only for certified teachers, so if you are certified then I highly recommend attending as the schools are of a high quality. However, if you just want to work in Colombia then I recommend contacting schools individually. You will most likely be paid in Colombian pesos and the hiring process begins around December.

      Good luck!!

  7. I haven’t seen the teachers living in medellin, Colombia posting on the blog for some time now…I was won dering if they have returned home (USA) and It would be nice if someone would answer our questions..thank you and hope all is well.

    • Hi Libby, it’s mostly because those who’ve written in the past are short-term contributors to the blog. Usually they’ll write a half dozen articles, and then either they leave the country, or are otherwise occupied. I’ll email a few and see if they can help respond. Thanks!

    • Hi Libby! As Dave said, most teachers don’t stay forever, and the culture of international teachers is a bit too transient for consisting blog posts. I am still in Colombia, however in Cali, and have been here for 2.5 years. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  8. Hey Kristin! So excited to find your post! I am also from Minneapolis and am planning on moving to Cali this summer to spend a year teaching and dancing. I would LOVE to chat with you to get some advice and info on the school system there and life in general. I couldn’t find an email address or any other contact info for you so here’s my email – meye0878@umn.edu. If you could shoot me an email I’d really really appreciate it then I’ll write you back with some of the questions I have.


    • Hi Kelli! Just sent you an email and saw your comments on my personal blog as well, so feel free to ask away and I will try to answer to the best of my ability. Thanks for contacting me!

  9. Hi Kristin,

    I am a qualified science teacher and want to move to Medellin to teach. I have done my research on the country and would love to move their permanently. How could I go about getting a position over in Colombia. Is there a recruiting company that could help me get the job over there.


  10. Hi Kristen,

    I was wondering if the empanadas were better in Cali than in Bogota? I hear they use fresher meat in Cali, but that the empanadas in Bogota age better. Please let me know. I am considering opening up an empanada factory near Chipechapi, and I would like your opinión. Thank you….drive through.

  11. Hello! Relocating to either Central/South America to get my TESL certification AND learn Spanish. I’m really in for it! — Inquiring about WHY you love Colombia as opposed to to other South American countries, which fabulous Spanish-speaking gem do I choose? They all seem so wonderful!

  12. Hello My husband is from Cali Colombia. I still have some time to finish my bachelors degree in Psychology. We also have 3 daughters. My question is this. My husband has Multiple Sclerosis and am wondering if the health care would be good for him there, and could I find a decent job with this type of degree? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! Love reading what everyone writes. 🙂