The world is your oyster, and teaching English abroad may just be your shiny white pearl!
Maybe collegiate sports or a tight academic curriculum kept you from studying abroad during college, and this is your golden opportunity for a fresh stamp on your passport! Maybe you already studied abroad during your junior year of college, and you’ve been waiting ever since to get back out of your comfort zone for part deux! Maybe you’re looking to discover your ancestry or even learn a foreign language! Whatever your reasoning for wanting to teach English abroad, we are here to help you with your decision.
As for me, I spent the fall semester of my junior year of college studying in Andalusia’s Granada – in the south of Spain. It was my first foray into European culture, and it was the best four months of my life. I promised myself I’d make it back to Europe to live and work in Mediterranean paradise.
This time I chose to experience la bella vita in the cobblestone streets of Italy. I signed up for a one month master’s level TEFL course at Via Lingua in the birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence, Italy. Joined by other students from around the world, I learned English teaching pedagogy, perfected my grammar, and practiced my lessons on real students. In between classes, we explored the world’s most renown artwork while licking cones filled with creamy gelato and even took day trips to drink wine in the Chianti region, cheer on the horses in Siena’s Palio race, and trek along coastal Cinque Terre. The TEFL course was grueling, but it set us up for English teaching success!
The Job Search
Upon receipt of my TEFL certificate, I relocated to eternal Rome to start looking for work. The best way to find work in Italy is to create a map of English schools and go to each one to apply in person with a copy of your resume in hand. The job search method will vary depending on which country you are in. When I received no responses to my job inquiry e-mails, I knew I had to change my tactics. It was also at this point I learned how hard it is to find a job without the proper visa, and my fellow students were experiencing the same dilemma. I highly recommend researching and figuring out legal requirements for teaching abroad prior to leaving your home country. In the end, I was able to find work at a reputable language school working off the books and getting paid under the table. A classmate of mine had to very inconveniently travel back and forth to the U.S. to secure a student visa for her job which proved to be time consuming, expensive, and morally frustrating.
Once you eventually start teaching, you also realize how much time is required for class preparation, time you are not being paid for. Considering your salary and cost of living. If you were thinking about supplementing your classroom time with private lessons, you might not have enough time in your schedule. You’ll also learn your preference for teaching children versus adolescents versus adults. I was fortunate to teach all age groups and quickly learned I preferred working with older people.
Overall, if you’re fascinated with travel, meeting new people, and discovering new cultures, these are the rewards which constantly outweigh the setbacks along the way! You’ll have opportunities to travel around your host country and neighboring countries, make friends with people from many regions of the world, and discover that in Italy it’s taboo to drink cappuccinos in the afternoon or sprinkle grated cheese on top of a seafood pasta dish.
Depending on your career path, teaching English abroad may be a nice segue for your posterior steps – calling education majors, international development majors, communication majors – to name a few. It can even look nice on your graduate school application! Additionally, teaching English abroad could be a refreshing “year off” to transition from being a student since forever to adult working life. Ultimately, when we make a decision to do something, we often do not know where that choice will eventually lead us, so we recommend an open mind if you have decided to teach English abroad.
When considering whether to teach English abroad, there are many options to choose from. Will you teach English abroad by applying to a federal program such as the Peace Corps or Fulbright, or will you be pursuing this independently? You’ll want to consult timelines for sponsored programs and be aware of any deadlines for application. Foreign countries offer similar programs too, such as JET in Japan. If you are otherwise choosing an independent option, we nevertheless recommend researching programs for earning your CTEFL, or Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Being a native English speaker does not automatically confirm your ability to teach English abroad, and many schools will require a certificate in order to hire you. There are TEFL courses offered online or onsite. If you already know in which country you would like to teach, we recommend taking your TEFL course in that specific country. In this way, the lesson plans and pedagogy are slightly catered to the student population you will ultimately be teaching.
The best part of the process undoubtedly is deciding where you want to teach English abroad! Is your heart set on Asia, Europe, Central America, South America, the Middle East or Africa? There are endless possibilities within these regions. Our top two suggestions when choosing a country are: (1) Research the requirements for obtaining foreign visas in the country, and (2) Consider the salary and cost of living for English teachers in the country. South Korea is known to pay significantly well for English teachers, often providing accommodation as well. Also keep in mind whether you prefer teaching children or adults and whether you want to teach in a classroom or give private lessons.
All in all, teaching abroad is an amazing experience that offers new and exciting opportunities. Sure it’s challenging, but that’s where a little preparation will come in handy. We wish you the best of luck on this new and exciting journey!
Don’t go yet – we have so much more advice for you!