Maybe you have a few years left in college. Or maybe you’re just a semester or two away from graduating. You’re not totally sure what you would like to do for the rest of your life, but you’re interested in traveling and seeing what else is out there. And since your parents aren’t going to pay your way around the world, you think you might like to teach abroad.
Deciding to teach abroad is a big step, but it’s a great choice for young people who want to travel and still have to pay off those pesky student loans.
What can you do now to be sure you will get a teach abroad job after graduation?
As a native speaker with a bachelor’s degree, you will already have some of the qualifications needed to teach abroad. But there are other skills that you can develop now that will not only help you get the job you want, but also help you to secure a higher salary and better benefits.
Here are some things that you can do today that will help you secure the position you want, in the country you want. These actionable tips will not only help prepare you for your new role, but also for your new life abroad.
Where do you want to teach abroad?
Okay, totally obvious, right? Of course you have researched some of countries that you might like to teach in! Or maybe, like me, you just sort of have a “gut-instinct” about a place that would be right for you. (Those are mostly right, by the way!)
If you think you might know where you want to go, try to find blogs of people who are currently teaching there. I have found that these blogs tend to have the best information about what it’s really like to teach in that country. Also check out Pinterest (which is like a visual search engine), and join Facebook groups tailored to people who are teaching abroad in the country you are interested in.
Research the qualification requirements.
Qualification requirements tend to vary from country to country, so you’ll want to know what’s expected of you before you apply in the one you have your heart set on.
For instance, some places require that you have a TEFL certificate or a certain number of years of teaching experience. Some countries, like China, will only give you a valid working visa if you are within a certain age range.
Volunteer as an English Assistant.
Before I taught abroad, I spent two years acting as a volunteer English teacher. This was a great way to prepare myself as a teacher. It taught me how to use lesson plans, how to effectively communicate with people who didn’t speak English, and, ultimately, it taught me how to teach.
Also, I really enjoyed it. I loved going to my classes. I loved taking time out of my schedule to do it. I’m not saying you have to be thrilled about doing free labor, but volunteering as an English teacher will help you decide whether or not teaching abroad is the right decision for you.
This would also be a great way to determine whether or not you would like to teach adults or children. Try both before you even leave your home country, and you will be able to find a job abroad that will be better suited for you.
Become a tutor.
If you are still in university and too tight on cash to volunteer, try tutoring. Not only will you earn some extra cash, but you will also gain valuable communication and teaching skills (while helping others in need!).
The truth is that some people are natural teachers, but a lot of us aren’t. (I know I’m not, despite the fact I have been teaching for three years). Teaching is a skill I had to learn. If you have never been in a classroom before, the first few days can be super tough. This teaching practice will give you more confidence on the first day and make your transitions into a life abroad go much more smoothly.
Strongly consider getting TEFL certified.
The best way to assure yourself (and your parents!) that you will get a well paid gig teaching abroad is to get your TEFL certification. Some people might tell you it isn’t necessary, but actually the opposite is true these days. With more and more people teaching abroad, the competition is more fierce for high-paying jobs, especially in countries where teaching abroad has become popularized. But if you have a TEFL certification, it will increase your chances of getting a good job with better benefits, especially if you don’t have much experience yet.
Additionally, the skills you will learn in your TEFL course will be the best preparation for teaching in a foreign classroom. You will come out of the course with lesson ideas, class management skills, and hours of classroom practice.
And, if you choose a TEFL course provider that includes job assistance/placement in the country you want to teach in, then you’re totally set!
Try learning a foreign language.
If you are still in university, consider taking foreign language classes. Or if you aren’t in college anymore, hop on Duolingo, an excellent and fun app designed for learning languages. Regardless of where you decide to teach English abroad, knowledge of the host country’s language probably won’t be a hiring factor. (So don’t worry if you aren’t exactly sure on where you would like to teach!) But trying to learn a foreign language can aid you significantly in teaching English.
The truth is that teaching a language is tricky. But it might be trickier to learn a foreign language. I found that by looking back on my past experiences learning a language, it helped me to be a better teacher. Since I knew what it was like to be a language learner, I was able to go more at my students’ pace rather than the pace of my lessons.
So regardless of whether you’re still in university or you’ve already joined the workforce, the process to work abroad takes time. If you have three years, or just three months, all of these tips can help you to be a better teacher abroad.
Are you interested in teaching abroad? Tell us where you would like to go!
Words by Dara Denney. Images from Flickr Commons.