Updated: 25 January 2012
You’re tired of your day job. Or, you’ve just graduated and can’t seem to land a job due to the economy. Maybe you just want to see other parts of the world. So… what to do? Teach English!
Teaching English abroad can be an excellent way to experience a different culture and get paid while doing it. Not only will you be exposed to new ways of thinking and doing things, but you’ll also learn about yourself. It can seem a bit intimidating to drop everything and move across the world, but it’s worth the risk. So, where do you start?
First, do your research. Moving abroad is a big decision so you should be as informed as possible about what you are going to do. When I first started looking into teaching abroad, I spent hours reading blogs, message boards, and websites to learn about others’ experiences. Most of the people had very positive things to say about living and teaching outside of their home countries. Check out Expat Blog, a compilation of blogs written and maintained by- you guessed it- expats. Many of the expats are teachers who are very receptive of questions and concerns of their readers. Dave’s ESL Cafe is another great resource. There are message boards that cover any possible question you could have about teaching/moving/living outside your native land.
Next, you must decide where you would like to go. Friends that are interested in teaching abroad always ask about the best place to teach. This is entirely objective, so it’s good to take a look at what others think are pros and cons of living in specific countries. What’s your intention of living abroad? Do you want to save a lot of money? Do you want to experience a culture completely different than your own? Would you prefer to be in a place that has more of the comforts of home? What are your qualifications to teach? Different countries will have different benefits of teaching there and will also have different requirements to obtain a visa. Footprints Recruiting does a good job at explaining more about teaching in specific countries.
So why did I choose Korea? When I made the decision that I wanted to teach abroad, I was broke and knew that I would have to start repaying student loans within the upcoming months. I was very interested in Southeast Asia but the pay was significantly lower than North Asian countries. Europe was another interest of mine, but visas seemed harder to come by and I had no credentials or certification to teach English. So, money played a big factor. I found that most jobs in Korea paid for teachers’ flights and accommodation and the salary was quite high. They also only required that teachers have a bachelor’s degree.
After making the decision of where you want to go, you should check out the jobs available in that country. The job boards on Dave’s ESL Cafe are very helpful to get an idea about what positions are open as well as potential salaries and benefits. Many people that decide to teach in Korea will find their job via a recruiter, the person usually posting the job ads on the message boards. You can let them know what age group you are willing to teach as well as the neighborhood you prefer to live in. Be wary as many recruiters will tell you anything to make a commission off of you. So, do your research on the school before signing a contract. If the school is a good one, they will let you talk to one of the foreign teachers already employed.
The only recruiter that I will recommend is Michelle Kim of ESL Career. Note that I am not paid to support this company, but I have personally had a fantastic experience with it. Michelle was professional, honest, patient with my decision making, and followed up with me even after I started working with my school. I’d highly recommend her if you decide to find a job through a recruiter.
Now, Korea has been making it more complicated to get your E-2 teaching visa. It can now take up to 3-4 months to process so if you are even considering teaching in Korea, get started on your documents NOW!!
The FBI Criminal Background check (for Americans) can take up to three months to get, so it’s recommended that you be immediately fingerprinted at your local police station and submit the card with your application as fast as you can. Check out all of the documents necessary here.
Soon enough, you’ll be ready to head off to your new home. Remember to bring the most important thing: an open mind. You’ll be in a new land of people who don’t always have the same mindset as you. Be patient with different customs and try to learn as much as possible about the country you’ll be living in. Give yourself some time to adjust. Don’t throw in the towel too fast. It may be scary for the first few weeks, but as you adapt, you’ll begin to enjoy it. Your year (or years) abroad will be an exciting one and will give you memories that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
Feel free to leave your questions about teaching abroad in the comment box below.