Friday, November 5, 2010

Considering teaching English overseas? Ask yourself these questions

"It's never too early to start beefing up your obituary" - The Most Interesting Man in the World

Since i've been traveling, i've had quite a few people ask me how they can get into teaching overseas. I'd like to take a few minutes here to at least begin to answer that question.

Consider these questions.

1) What country or area appeals to you? (do you like Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, etc. You can even teach english in Australia)

2) What are your chosen area's visa and work permit requirements?
For example, getting a work permit in Italy is almost impossible unless you have an EU passport. But getting one in the nearby Czech Republic or Poland is much easier.

3) What are your chosen area's qualification requirements?
Qualification requirements can range from some college (parts of Asia) to Bachelors degree (many places) to an ESL teaching certificate and Bachelors degree to a Masters degree with experience. Obviously the more desirable locations and jobs will require better qualifications. To improve your chances in this area, consider doing a 1 month ESL teacher training course (note: the CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL are the only two courses i would recommend). These will teach you how to be a good teacher. They cover everything from grammar to lesson planning to real in-class practice. And as an added bonus you can often do them in your destination country and get a month to familiarize yourself with everything before your work begins.

4) What is your current financial situation?
Moving is always expensive and moving overseas, doubly so. Europe is a fantastic place to live but if you don't have any money in the bank to travel and explore, you'll miss out on much of what the continent has to offer. As a general guideline, most places in Europe pay about break-even money (you won't be saving). Asia is generally much better for saving money and definitely has a lot to offer an interested teacher. Africa offers satisfying work but poor conditions and pay. It is best suited to those who want to volunteer, not travel around. South America is great but you make so little that you'll usually have to dip into savings to support yourself while there. Of course these are general guidelines and specific countries can vary greatly.

5) When can you leave?
Generally most places begin school in September and/or January so the months leading up to these times are prime hiring season. Finding a job outside of these times is certainly possible but not quite as easy.

6) Do you know anyone else who has done this?
Talking to someone who has been there and done that (or is there and is doing it) is invaluable both before and during your travels. Find someone who can help you and then ask every question you can think of. It's amazing how much smoother this can make your transition. And if you don't know anyone, message me. I'll be happy to help everyone who asks.

I won't lie to you and say living abroad is always easy. I will say that it is easily worth any difficulty you encounter. If you have even the slightest desire to teach, travel or just experience more of what life has to offer, I can't recommend this highly enough. Mark Twain said it best

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Note: - Easily the best site for information on all things ESL. Their forums are packed with useful information on nearly every country and topic you can think of.

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