28.06.2018, by Ashley Gordon
Teaching English Abroad
If you would have told me when I was a senior in high school that in the future I would teach English abroad, I would not have believed you. It was something that I didn’t even think of or really even knew that it existed. Fast-forward 5 years later and teaching English is exactly what I did. It was an amazing experience and something that you can’t put a price on. Deciding to take on this adventure was something that I basically did on a whim with not too much research done on my part. After getting my TEFL certificate and a year of teaching, I learned a lot about all the different possibilities there are out there. For those who are considering teaching English abroad at some point in their future, here are some of the things to keep in the back of your mind when looking for a job and/or moving abroad to do so.
What it’s like living abroad
First of all, living abroad is one of the most terrifying yet AMAZING thing that anyone could ever do. Depending on where you go there will be different levels of culture shock. Surrounding myself in a new place that I had no clue of the language or how things worked or even using the public transportation was very stressful for the first couple days. But once I got settled in and relaxed a bit, it all became very natural. After a year I can now speak the language (somewhat), get from A to B in any direction and not really need a map, and feel more confident than ever. Luckily, I was in a city where a lot of people spoke English and even restaurants had English menus which was very helpful. I think the most difficult thing was grocery shopping - I had to learn new words (bring my translating app everywhere) and process the fact that some foods are different than the US. Certain ideas of meals were not as easy to make since they make a lot of things from scratch here. It definitely took some time to get used to but once I did it was great. So if you are planning on teaching English abroad, make sure to do some research on the destinations.
What kind of jobs are there
When teaching English abroad, there are many jobs that one can do with a TEFL certificate. You can work in a preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, private school, language school, teach online, and do private lessons. Honestly the possibilities are endless. So if you’re a little nervous about finding a job abroad, don’t worry - there are plenty. The demand for English teachers is very high, especially in Prague. I was deciding between a couple jobs in Prague and Italy when completing with TEFL but since I was settled in Prague I decided to stick with it. My TEFL course ended on a Friday and I started my first day working in a preschool that following Monday. What was nice was my job at the preschool was fulltime and I was home by 4pm each day so I was able to pick up lessons at a language school. Working at a language school really gives you the flexibility to create your own schedule and you get to go to all these cool business to teach their employees. I did look into teaching online which is so cool because I would’ve been teaching students in China but my schedule didn’t have enough room. Definitely get an idea of what age you want to teach and the structure you would like to do. Working with very young children is more of you constantly speaking English and helping out the head teacher while being in a high school it is more structure. Teaching English gives you the opportunity to create your own flexible schedule, which I thoroughly enjoyed, because then I could travel all the time!
There are so many places that you can end up teaching English abroad. So many! Getting my TEFL certificate was one of the best things I did because then I could teach anywhere in the world. Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, even the US - the possibilities are endless. I would highly recommend doing some research beforehand when deciding where you wanted to go. There are certain factors to consider: visa, salary, cost of living, lifestyle, and much more. For example, living and teaching English in Europe is amazing because you have the possibility to travel all over Europe in an instant. When it comes to salary, you will most likely breakeven. Visas are probably the most challenging part of teaching English in Europe (with only having a US passport) since staying longer than 90 days you will need a work visa. The Czech Republic has one of the easier and more affordable visas to get which I was very thankful for. Most other countries in Europe will require you to speak their language or prove you are taking language courses to obtain a visa (only if you have a US passport). In one year, I saw so many cities and countries just by being located in Prague.
If wanting to make money and save a lot, then Asia is definitely the place to head to. There is a lot of opportunities teaching English in South Korea, China, Japan and Thailand. A lot of schools or companies will pay for your flights and take care of housing while paying you a decent salary so there is a great possibility of saving money. Most will help and take care of your visa that you will need. Teaching English in Asia does have it’s certain requirements. For example, majority of teachers not only need to have a TELF but a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and you will be required to sign a 1-2 year contract. Like Europe, teaching English in Asia will give you the availability to travel all over it and see many different cities and cultures.
Teaching English in Africa or South America will give you a chance to really immerse yourself in a very different culture compared to your own. Working in either destination, you will most likely break even, but saving money isn’t really possible. The main thing that attracts me to finding jobs in either location is the culture. The world is much different there than where I come from and I believe it would be an awesome experience.
What are the job requirements
Certain destinations and certain schools or companies will have specific requirements that are needed when teaching English abroad. The main thing that anyone who wants to teach English needs is a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. Finding a job that doesn’t require it would be very challenging and plus, it makes you more qualified that you have gone through the training. There are TEFL courses online or you can head to a different destination. I personally recommend getting your TEFL certificate somewhere abroad, particularly a destination you never have been. I looks good on your resume that you spent time abroad and can handle living away from home. Plus it’s a great excuse to travel and really interact with the locals. The course is definitely challenging but totally worth it since you will get all the information you need on how to teach English in a variety of ways and I got to practice teaching to Czech students a couple times a week. Once you complete the course, you will be that person who knows how to use proper grammar but I also felt very confident to take on my next teaching position. I went through Hello Academies who helped me find a job, was very affordable, and gave me that family feel of a company since they were always there to help me. Really getting the TEFL certificate is the main requirements for a job. Some might want a college degree but I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree when I started teaching and the schools were fine with it. Some schools will be impressed if you have teaching experience as well but it is not required. All I can say is get your TEFL certificate - trust me it’s worth it.
Difference between teaching in the US and teaching English abroad.
I am very fortunate that I have worked in the US teaching and taught abroad and there is definitely some differences. Depending on where you teach abroad, the schools or companies might have a specific structure for their day just like schools in the US do. Teaching in the US I think is very challenging because teachers are focusing on developing skills that their students are 100% going to need to survive in their lives. Teaching English is taking those skills to the next level. Working in a preschool, I was just interacting with my students and only speaking English and they would pick up on new words. It was unbelievable to see a little Czech student finally say a few words or a sentence to me in English after some time and watching as their English improved. It was extremely rewarding. Plus it just blew my mind seeing these 4 and 5 year olds speak 2 different languages almost fluently. Teaching English abroad requires a lot more grammar that you are teaching since growing up in an English native speaking country, we don’t learn the details of grammar. I loved being able to hear my students’ English improve, it made me so excited every time it happened, no matter their age or level.
How to find a job
When finding a job to teach abroad, there is a numerous amount of ways. Luckily the company that helped be become TEFL certified provided job support. Once I told them what age group and/or level I was looking to teach they helped me find a lot of different positions around the world. Something that I never thought of until I came here is that most populous cities with a lot of expats within it will have an “expats” kind of dedicated website. For example, Prague has a specific site for expats (expats.cz) that shows all different kinds of teaching jobs available, plus there were classifieds for housing and showed me a lot of events that were going on to help expats meet each other and incorporate themselves into the local culture. There are a few websites as well that are devoted to listing all the different teaching English abroad jobs around the world. You can specify it to countries, age group, level, visa requirements and much more. I personally like TEFL.com since you can input your detailed CV/resume and once you see a job you like posted, you can instantly apply without having to really do anything. I think the most important things to consider when looking for jobs is to think of where, what kind of teaching job you want, and the requirements needed for the visa. You don’t want to find a job and commit to it to later on find out that getting a visa is very challenging.
Lessons I learned
In just one year of living and teaching English abroad, I have learned a lot! So to help all of you who are thinking to pursue this future career, these are some lessons I learned along the way. Learn about the culture you are going to! This is very important as you should know the dos and don’ts of the customs to that certain culture and don’t want to get off on the wrong foot. If you want to teach abroad, you have to get your TEFL! It will make finding a job easier and will make you more qualified. Do your research of where you want to go and why. Figure out what you will need to get a job there and how to obtain a visa. Try all the local food! It is so important to see and eat what the locals eat, and majority of the time it is usually really good. Plus, who else can say they have eaten whale (did a quick trip to Iceland)! Practice using the local language as much as you can. Most places can hear my American accent when I speak but they enjoy it, plus most will want to practice their English with you. You’ll get respect from locals when trying to use their language and if you become decent enough at it, it’s one more thing to add to your CV/resume.
The biggest lesson that I learned throughout this whole process and time, was to just do it! It was one of the scariest decisions I decided to do and the looks I got from people when I told them really made me nervous but I don’t regret it for one second. I got to see things and do things that some will never ever get to do. I have a career that I can always fall back on and it is a career that I can literally do anywhere in the world so finding a job isn’t something to worry about. I made some amazing, life-long friends who I met abroad and had some of the best moments of my life. Teaching English abroad is a life-changing experience and will make you grow as a person and you will honestly learn so much more about yourself. Just do it!