Are you considering teaching English overseas? Maybe it’s your gap year, or maybe jobs are in short supply in your field at the moment. Years at the same job may have you dreaming of a new adventure when you retire. Or perhaps you just haven’t settled on what you want to do with your life, but you’re looking for a way to earn some money while seeing the world. Teaching English is one of the more enticing ways to work overseas. It’s easier than farm work, and you can find many different programmes and places to go. But are you cut out for teaching English in another country?
To decide if this is the next step for you, you need to have a realistic idea of what to expect. Each programme and each country is different. Teaching English in Japan is very different from teaching English in Romania or Ecuador. While the demand for native English speaking teachers is great throughout Asia, you can find programmes to teach in South America, Africa and even Europe.
Finding the Right Programme
When you are looking for a programme to teach English abroad, you have to consider several things. Remember, getting qualified and getting a position are not the same thing. And positions vary greatly, even in the same country. Here are some critical questions to ask any programme you are considering.
- How widely is this qualification recognized? Who oversees the programme?
• Does this programme provide a placement when I qualify? What are my options? What age group would I be teaching?
- What is the compensation for this position? Remember, there are many volunteer opportunities too, so don’t assume anything about the pay. Before you make a decision, research how far that income will go in the country.
- What else is included in the package? Accommodation? Room and board? Can you select where you stay? Is accommodation shared? Do you have your own bedroom? Bathroom? Kitchen? Paid holiday time?
- What happens if you become sick or injured while abroad on this programme? What health screenings and precautions are recommended for this location?
- What are the hours? How many hours per week? Does that include both teaching time and class prep, grading assignments, etc?
In addition to these questions, you would also need to do some in-depth research on the country where you want to go. What are the biggest safety issues there? What is the food like? Are you comfortable with the culture? Could you socialize happily there? What about dating? Would you have an opportunity to study the local language while there?
The Pros and Cons of Teaching English Overseas
Teaching a language you speak fluently might sound like the easiest gig going, but that isn’t the reality. Teaching is a lot more than simply putting your knowledge out there. You also need to know how to manage a classroom and coax each student to do their best, keeping in mind their various learning styles. And the actual work of the job is only a small part of the challenge. You will be a foreigner. You’ll struggle with the language barrier outside the classroom, experience culture shock and feel lonely at times. You might grapple with different social rules that limit how you can socialize or interact with the other sex or dress. The bureaucracy is bound to give you headaches, and you might find that your contract is not on par with your colleagues. The money might not be adequate to fund the travel adventures of your dreams.
On the other hand, teaching can be incredibly rewarding. You get to see someone else gain a skill and share in their pride at it. You’ll get to immerse yourself in a new culture. Living abroad pushes you to develop new inner strengths, and you are bound to return a more confident person. Teaching English overseas might be a brilliant adventure that leaves you with amazing memories, or it might change the rest of your life. But the best way to make sure it is a positive experience for you is to research every aspect from qualifying to living in the specific country as much as you can before embarking on your English teaching career.