The world is getting smaller and more and more people are getting the travel bug. While vacations are great and three-day-weekends are always refreshing, maybe you’ve been thinking of something a little bit more adventurous and long term.
Teaching English overseas is a great way to not only see the world, but also to build up your resume, which could lead to a challenging and exciting career. If you’re from a native English-speaking country (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc), have a four-year degree, and an accredited TEFL certification, you are golden. You can still work as an ESL instructor without all of these qualifications, but it’s more difficult, and chances are you’ll be outmatched.
So should you consider teaching English overseas? Here are some great reasons!
1) You’ll get to see the world
Armed with your degree and TEFL certification, the world is your oyster. One of the greatest perks of teaching ESL is the fact you get to live and work in a country that’s not your own.
While Asia may be the first part of the world that comes to mind, and it is still the largest market for ESL, it’s not the be-all-end-all any longer. Long gone are the days of making bank in South Korea and Japan thanks to waning economies and budget cuts, and so ESL teachers have started to spread and set off for other corners of the globe.
2016 has seen the broadest range of ESL jobs, with many of the booming markets in the least expected of places:
Vietnam: With decent salaries and a low cost of living, most foreign English teachers earn enough to save the equivalent of $500+ each month after expenses.
Colombia: After two decades of reform, Colombia is no longer a no-go area and is a great introduction to South America. Hiring is mostly through private language schools, but the Ministry of Education has also begun to recruit foreign instructors.
The Czech Republic: Teaching English in Europe may not be an obvious choice, but they need ESL teachers too! The Czech Republic is a beautiful country and it’s currently the leading European market for ESL. Work visas for US citizens are relatively easy to get and there are many positions available, especially in Prague.
Taiwan: Not interested in teaching in China, but want to head to Asia and do something a bit different? With skyscrapers, street food, and great perks, Taiwan may be the island for you.
Spain: Battling the Czech for ESL teachers in numbers, Spain is also a great European choice for those wanting to enter the teaching field. Hiring season is between mid-September and mid-October and interviews are best done in person, so book a holiday and see where it leads you! Sangria and paella await you.
And this is just a small list! Never mind the fact that you’ll have holidays and vacation, just like any other teacher, and you’ll have the ability to travel. Explore your new country or jump on a plane or bus and check out a whole new part of the world.
2) You’ll make an impact
You’re most likely going to be teaching children as an ESL instructor, anywhere from kindergarten age to high schoolers cramming for university exams. You’re going to become a part of their daily lives, helping them learn and giving them new skills for their lives. There’s something truly wonderful about seeing the moment ‘it clicks’ and they understand what you’ve been teaching them. There’s nothing better and there is pride in the knowledge that you’ve helped them on their language-learning journey.
You may also be teaching adults, which can be wonderful as well. You’ll be able to connect with them on a more mature level, being more similar in age, and be more likely to have meaningful conversations.
At the very least, you’ll be forming relationships with your students. They will be impacting you as much as you are them; it’s a special and unique experience and one that is incredibly rewarding.
3) You’ll gain international work experience
Teaching English overseas can prepare you for a career in multiple different fields. While many ESL teachers are already doing the career they love, others teach ESL as experience for differing teaching jobs.
If you’re looking at a career in politics or law, international experience is vital. You’re going to have a better understanding of the world, giving yourself an outside and broader perspective back at home. If you want to work in international relations, you obviously need international experience.
In general, if an employer sees that you’ve lived and worked abroad, you have an immediate talking point in your interview where you can explain how the experience helped you. Teaching overseas will help you learn how to make quick decisions, to be adaptive, to be flexible, and to really master problem solving skills.
4) You could save money
Depending on where you live, you could be saving a great deal of money. Whether you’ve got student loans to pay or just want to start saving up, teaching ESL abroad is a great and stress free way to do that.
If you have an actual teaching certificate or degree from your home country, you can make serious bank in the United Arab Emirates, which has salaries as high as $4000 a month for ESL teachers.
Places like Japan have a higher cost of living, and even though you’ll be making more there (average is around $2500-3000 a month), you’ll also be spending more. In Vietnam and Cambodia you won’t be making nearly as much as in Japan or the Middle East, but the cost of living is incredibly low, so it’s possible to save a little.
In South Korea, your housing will be provided (most often), meaning you’ll have no rent to pay. With only having to pay utilities and your half of the national health insurance and pension plan (your employer will pay the other half), there is a lot of money left over. Most teachers can save anywhere from $500-1000 a month, even more if you’re especially frugal.
It all depends on your lifestyle really, but the opportunity to save a few thousand dollars over the course of a year is definitely possible.
5) You’ll discover and explore a new culture
Whether it’s enjoying siestas in Madrid or matsuri in Japan, you’re going to be thrown into an entirely new culture. While Europe may not be too far out of your comfort zone, Asia and South America may have more culture shock value. Not to mention the teaching style and work culture in other countries may be very different from your own.
Speaking of culture shock, regardless of where you move, you’ll get it. It’s a natural part of the whole living abroad process, and while it can be challenging, it’s also an eye opening experience. You will come out a different person after living and working abroad, but it’ll be for the better.
6) You’ll learn a new language
The best way to learn a language, no matter how good a teacher you are, is through immersion. Lucky for you, you’re going to be living and working a country that speaks a language that’s not English! You’re going to automatically and unconsciously pick up words and phrases, and if you put in the work, you will be learning a new language at a relatively fast pace.
Because you’ll need to use the native language to get around and live in your new home, you’re going to be more driven at learning than you may have been in middle school Spanish class. Also, hopefully you’ll be making friends with locals and want to communicate with them in their language rather than in your own. Find a language buddy! Most major cities will have inexpensive or free language classes for ex-pats, so make sure you check in with the local tourist board and see what’s available in your area.
There are endless reasons why you should consider teaching English overseas, but only you can decide if it’s for you. Ready for an adventure that will change your life and those of your students? What are you waiting for? Go teach!
Words and photos by Kristina Manente.