Teaching English abroad is a great way to travel, see the world, learn about different cultures and presents a great opportunity to earn money by teaching TEFL around the globe. Nick Malia, who spent 6 months in China, explains the benefits (financial and otherwise) of teaching English abroad.
How TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) works
A TEFL qualification is not always a requirement for teaching English abroad. However, taking the TEFL course before applying is highly recommended. A TEFL course will give you a sound base. Additionally, many courses provide feedback throughout, offering help and support. TEFL is measured in hours and schools will usually look for a minimum of 120 hours.
There are many TEFL courses available of varying degrees of quality. You could opt for a personal dedicated tutor to help and support you throughout your course. In this instance, you should look at taking a TEFL course with an accredited TEFL company.
Great value options are available for online courses with such companies, with up to 20% cashback through quidco for certain courses, or you could find other courses on groupon at highly discounted rates.
Where to teach?
So, you’ve done the hard work and completed your TEFL course. A BIG well done. Now… what happens next??!
Well first of all, the door to a new and exciting world has just opened for you. You now have to decide where you fancy spending the next 6-12 months, or even longer. Whether it be teaching English in Thailand or lesson planning in Lima – it is entirely up to you.
I chose to teach English in China.
As soon as you have finished your TEFL course you can start looking for jobs. There are many different ways to find work overseas. Some people may already have friends in their desired destination and will be able to use their contacts to find jobs when they arrive. However, the most common way to find work is through TEFL job websites, including:
How to find the school of your dreams!
There are many issues to consider when choosing a location and a school for your first teaching job overseas, for example:
- What is the school like? Do some research, type in the school’s name in Google and see what you can find – if there are a lot of negative comments about the school, then maybe it isn’t the one for you. You can also go to online forums, where you can ask other students where they have taught, where they lived and ask them for the best places/schools to teach in.
- Weather – now I know us Brits LOVE to talk about the weather, but it could play a key part in deciding where you want to go. If you like warmer climes, then maybe a location like South America may suit you. Whereas if you enjoy the cold, then speaking from experience, there’s no place colder than South Korea come winter time.
- What is the town/city like? Once again – Google the town or city to find out as much as you can about it. REMEMBER – you are going to be spending months living there, so make sure that you are going to like it.
- Will there be many other foreign teachers living in my town/city? You may wish to be the only foreigner in the village or maybe you would prefer there to be lots of other foreign teachers living close by to socialize with. Research this by speaking to the recruitment company who are providing you with the job.
- Location – where is the school located? Is there much to do there in your spare time? Are there destinations close by that you can travel to in the school holidays?
- Cost of living – will I be able to afford to live in this country/city/town with the wage I will be getting paid?
Financial benefits of teaching English abroad
There are also many financial advantages to taking a TEFL course and teaching English abroad:
- Free flights – a lot of schools/recruitment agencies (especially in Asia) offer free flights or flight reimbursements at the end of your contract. You will usually get your returns flights reimbursed if you stay for a 12 month contract. If you only stay for 6 months, the norm is that you will only get one of your flights reimbursed.
- Free accommodation – a lot of schools/recruitment agencies offer free accommodation as part of the package. If this isn’t the case, then usually the teacher will receive a higher rate of pay to cover the accommodation expenditure.
- Free food – depending on whether you like the local cuisine of the country/city/town where you will be living, this could be a contributing factor, as many schools provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Language lessons – many schools offer up to two hours of language lessons to teachers per week. So, if you are interested in picking up the local lingo, then this may be an important factor for you.
- Completion bonus – to make sure that teachers honour their contracts, schools often add in a completion bonus to be received by the teacher when they finish their teaching.
- Wages – the rate of pay that a teacher receives could be a massive contributing factor. Now that you have your TEFL qualification, you will be in a very good position to apply for well paid jobs.
- Support – there is often a network of support tutors to help you settle into the area, the new school and the new way of life
- Airport pickups – possibly the most important of the lot. The last thing you want is to be standing in the middle of an airport, trying to flag down a taxi to take you to an unknown location. Instead of pupils, I think I just saw dollar signs in the taxi driver’s eyes
My advice would be to try and get as many of these added extras as possible. I know it may sound a bit cheeky to ask for these when you haven’t even stepped foot inside a classroom yet, but remember, you’re the one with this AMAZING new skill that is going to teach and enlighten a whole new generation of students…
Contracts and interviews
So, you’ve decided on the country, city and school where you will work and the company with which you shall be working. Now, you will have to decide upon how long you will be teaching English abroad. A lot of schools prefer a teacher to commit for at least a 12 month contract. However, if you find that this may be too long of a commitment, you can always ask for a shorter contract. I myself taught for six months in China.
Once you have decided upon the location, the school, the contract and asked all the important questions you have, you will most probably have to have an interview with your potential suitors. This is often carried out on Skype. But alas, in the words of Corporal Jones, “don’t panic”! This is nothing to worry about, as long as you treat it like any other interview and act professionally, you should be fine.
Once the interview has been conducted, the recruitment company will come back to you (if successful, which of course you will be) and offer you a placement. You will then be sent a contract which will include a start and end date and the finer details. Remember, ALWAYS read the small print
Now that all the stress of finding the perfect job is out of the way, you will need to look into booking flights, obtaining working visas and, depending on where you go, have a medical exam. This will all be explained to you in the interview and within the contracts.
Leaving on a jet plane
Right, so you’ve spent the past few months working your ass off to get your qualification. You’ve gone through the job hunt and interview process. You’ve got just enough blood left after all your jabs and shots. Now, you are suddenly waving goodbye to all your loved ones and about to board a plane to new horizons.
For me, this is when it got pretty real and that small element of doubt started to creep in. If, or when, this happens, don’t worry about it, this is all perfectly normal, after all you are about to embark on a life changing experience… plus there’s normally loads of awesome movies to watch on the plane.
Hopefully you’ll get picked up at the airport by a member of the recruitment team, who’ll then take you into the office where you will meet other teachers and have to fill in a little bit of paper work.
The next few days you will go through teacher training with the company, where they will explain what you will be teaching and help you create and implement lesson plans and, depending on how quickly you adapt to what you are learning, they will set your start date. This is usually 4-5 days after your arrival.
So after all the hard work and stress during the course itself, the frustration of trying to find the perfect job and trying to find the cheapest flights to get you there, you are finally standing outside of the classroom waiting to walk in to your first ever class.
Now, nothing I can tell you on here can prepare you for it. I will admit it, I was shaking like a leaf before my first class………….and I was only teaching 3 year old Chinese kids!!
But as soon as you start and get a few classes under your belt, then the confidence you gained from your TEFL course just grows and grows and soon you won’t need to even look at your lesson plan notes when you’re teaching.
Good luck and enjoy inspiring a generation!!