The first time I visited Mexico, I came for a summer university course at Tec de Monterrey Cuernavaca. The course was just 5 short weeks and I knew I would return to Mexico. A year later I finished my degree and moved to Cuernavaca, a small city just an hour South of Mexico City. Since then I have been working online, volunteering with a foundation called Colegio Berea, learning Spanish and enjoying everything about Mexican culture.
There are a lot of differences between my life in England and my life in Mexico and it takes a while to get used to life in a different country. For example, your day to day timetable might be very different. In England, I was used to getting up around 8am and having a small breakfast, lunch around midday and the largest meal of the day at dinner time around 6pm. Here, it is more common to have a big breakfast and not eat again until 2-4pm. At this time, most people with have their biggest meal of the day and only have something small to eat in the evening. What’s more, the cuisine is obviously very different. I have had pancita (pig intestine soup) with chili, lemon and onion for breakfast and, although it sounds terrible, it has become one of my favourite breakfasts. I’ll eat tacos regularly, which are made with soft tortillas and the kind of meat you would find in a kebab in England. Although I wouldn’t normally eat a lot of fast food in England, the tacos here cost around 5-10 pesos per taco (20-40p) which is a far too tempting offer to refuse.
To make money whilst living abroad, I interviewed at a few local schools as an English teacher and found that the salary for a full-time teacher is as low as 300-500 pounds per month depending on the school. Knowing how much stress and hard work teachers are faced with, I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with the level of work. That’s when I started looking into digital nomads and all the different streams of income that people are finding to work online and live wherever they want. I next applied for a job with SayABC, an online English learning company from China. With this company I work on average 2 hours a day and make over £1000 a month. In addition, I use UpWork to get freelance writing jobs and in my first month of freelancing have made around £200. With the cost of living in Mexico being so low, this is more than enough to live on. Just as an idea of the cost of living, a meal out for 5 people at a nice restaurant costs around £40 and at a cheap restaurant around £15. Obviously, there are a lot of chain restaurants where prices will be higher but if you go to local places the prices will be pretty low.
Volunteering has been a pretty big part of my life here. Three days a week I go to a foundation called Colegio Berea where they give me free Spanish lessons, one meal a day and transport in exchange for English lessons for their students. The classes range from preschool to secondary school and I also have after school lessons with the other teachers two days a week, as many of them also want to improve their English. I have been teaching English as part of volunteer programmes for a few years now and I’ve seen how much it can impact people’s lives. Although I don’t believe that everyone should have to speak English, I can see that many opportunities for work and travel require a high level of English and a lot of people are eager to speak it for this reason. Volunteering means that you can give people who can’t afford to pay for classes the same opportunities in life as people who can afford them. If you are interested in volunteering in Mexico, get in touch with me for more information on this foundation as well as other projects here in Cuernavaca.
Learning to speak Spanish has been the biggest challenge of living abroad. Even though I studied Spanish for a long time before moving, I never really had to use Spanish or even speak it at all during my education. The way that we are taught languages in England often lacks the conversational component and focuses on passing exams. I try to implement the use of speaking English conversationally in all the classes I teach as I know how difficult it is to go to a country without having practiced speaking the language. 6 months into living here, I feel a lot more comfortable and understand a lot more than I did when I arrived. But I still have a long way to go before becoming fluent. It might be a challenge and frustrating at times, but learning a new language is infinitely worth the effort so, if you have the chance to move to a country that speaks another language, don’t pass up on the chance to learn it.
In the past few months, I have celebrated Dia de los Muertos by going to the parade in Mexico City, tried pozole on Dia de la Independencia and now we are preparing to try all the different foods, drinks and traditions involved in Mexican Navidad. Comment below for more details on working, volunteering or living abroad and subscribe to stay updated on my experiences.