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.
Hi Mimsie! I've made the decision to teach abroad and I too have chosen Korea as my 1st destination. Just like you mentioned in this post, research is extremely important. Through endless research on the web, I found your blog! I have especially enjoyed reading your blog because it is quite thorough. Everything is explained very well and you give honest opinions. I began my research in November 2011 and I am currently being prepped for the August 2012 E.P.I.K intake. I have gotten started on gathering all necessary documents although the program hasn't released the Summer 2012 application yet. Sometime when looking at my checklist of all the different things I need to get, it can become quite overwhelming, but overall I am very very excited to embark on this journey of my life.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the world!
First, thanks for checking out my blog. I'm glad you were able to learn a bit to prepare yourself for your upcoming journey to Korea. I must also comment that you are quite smart to have researched everything so thoroughly. I'm confident that you will have a wonderful time there. Best of luck and know that if you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message and I'll be more than happy to answer them!
I am considering teaching in Korea. Your blog is very helpful. I am planning on bringing my wife and 2 children. Do u know how we could handle the housing? & about how much are utilities?
Hi!! Thanks for reading. What a great opportunity for you and your family. Your children will especially benefit from being able to experience living abroad.
I'm no expert on finances and housing as far as a family is concerned. Of course, your employer will most likely be willing to help you in locating housing and many schools will give you a certain amount of money to go toward your housing. But, you should ask these questions before signing a contract.
I found a great website that lists expenses and the typical cost of living in Korea in 2012. There is a section on this website which lists expected costs/prices for a family. I think it would benefit you to check it out: http://www.thekoreaguide.com/2012/03/24/cost-of-living-in-seoul-korea-2012/
Thank you so much!! My wife is a little worried about making such a big move. This is so helpful.
Have you heard of anyone moving to Korea first before finding a job?
Being a little worried about relocating across the world is totally normal… and expected. I've had a few friends who have moved to Korea before finding a job and stayed in a hostel/hotel before settling down. Schools are always looking for teachers so it's not difficult to find a job once you are here. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to check out the school and meet the administrators in person before signing a contract. If you do plan to do this, however, you should have all of your documents prepared before moving to Korea. Otherwise, it will be a big hassle preparing them from here.
Wow! Im so surprised how I came across your blog. I became linked to your blog by a page you wrote about seeing a fortune teller in Korea. I was so surprised to see you're from the MS gulf coast as well (I'm from Ocean Springs) and someone from USM too! Small world! I am half Korean and American and I really want to travel to Korea and would love to learn the language. I was an English major however I've switched to Social Work. I am so excited to see someone else discovering Korea and it really makes me want to try and go there even more now!
Wow, Laura!! It really is a small world. It's great that you're considering traveling to Korea. It really is a wonderful country and so different than Mississippi (as you can imagine!). If you ever have any questions or need some travel tips, feel free to contact me! Thanks for your comments!