How To Teach ESL Abroad
Are you interested in teaching English abroad? First of all, awesome! Teaching ESL has completely transformed my life. Three years ago, I left all I knew (aside from my BF Dan and our cat Cleo) to take a chance on a little dream I had. I’ve always wanted to live and work abroad, and with support and encouragement from family and friends, the three of us took the leap. And I’m so glad we did.
I’ve now taught in two different countries: Hungary and Spain. The experiences have been totally different, as were the processes of getting there. Which means, there is no exact How-To guide about teaching English abroad. But I can give you general advice, and advice specific to my experiences.
I’m in the process of detailing it all here (stay tuned). In the meantime, you will find general guidance below. But if you don’t find what you’re looking for, ask! The point of this blog goes beyond me. I started it to keep little memories of my travels alive, but I want my experiences to benefit yours. So please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.
How to Teach ESL Abroad: The First Steps
#1 Get Certified
Most positions will require some sort of certification. There are some countries and programs that only require a Bachelors degree (or nothing at all!), but to open up your opportunities, a basic TEFL certification is a no-brainer. Not all TEFLs are created equal. That super discounted Groupon may look really good right now (and, again, some places will accept it) but it’s best to stick to at least 120-hours.
#2 Get a Little Classroom Experience
If you’re currently a teacher, skip this step. But for those of us who don’t come from a traditional teaching background, this one is kind of crucial. It does two things. First, it exposes you to a preview of what teaching entails. If you’re shocked by the clawing hands of grubby 8-year-olds, or in disbelief by how the teacher can handle 15 questions at once, then you know this isn’t for you. And second, it looks great on your resume. You can secure this experience simply by asking local schools if you can observe or volunteer.
#3 Research Countries and Programs
Like mentioned above, each program and each country is different. This is where you’ll need to do your own research. Pick a region, country, or city that interests you and start searching. There are opportunities all over the world, so try to focus on one or two general areas. You can look for private placement programs, which can be quite helpful: assist in paperwork, secure housing, pay taxes, reimburse your flights, etc. Or you can go the public/governmental route. These programs won’t offer much assistance, if any at all, but you won’t pay a placement fee. Be weary if anything requires a large placement fee. Even if you’re promised that it’s not a scam, it probably is.
#4 Start Saving
There will be start-up costs, even if your flights are reimbursed and your housing provided. You’ll need to at least pay for flights up front, maybe rent a flat while you search for a permanent home, and wait until your first paycheck. In Hungary, my first full paycheck didn’t arrive until January. And in Spain, November. Paperwork takes time and you’re usually only paid once a month. Bringing some savings as security is vital.
#5 Get Excited
You’re doing something that takes you completely out of your comfort zone. Something that will challenge you. But as you embrace the challenges and meet them, you’ll receive rewards that last a lifetime. It won’t always be easy – culture shock is real – but it will change you for the better.