What you should know about teaching English in another country and getting hired 

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Changing your career path can be daunting. Leaving the security of what you know, as dull as it may be, for the unknown can be exciting, but it’s certainly scary. This is especially true if you are starting a new job, or a new career as a teacher of English as a foreign language (TEFL) abroad. From cultural to financial matters, there’s a lot to consider.

 

Without a doubt, there are a number of questions that need to be addressed before taking the leap:

  • Can you retrain before quitting your old job?
  • How should you choose your destination?
  • Who should you teach?
  • Will you enjoy it in the long run? 
  • Will you be able to make enough money to support yourself and your family? 
  • What unexpected challenges might you encounter?

 

Let’s try to find some answers!

 

Retraining while working

Getting ready for your new teaching career will involve some training. While it is possible to teach English as a foreign language without a degree, a minimum of a 120-hour TEFL qualification is a must. Currently, most providers offer different training options: full or part-time, face-to-face or online. Choose the one that best suits your needs.

 

If you already have your TEFL qualification and you want to specialise in a particular area, like online teaching, young learners, business English, you might want to consider further professional development. Most reputable TEFL course providers are able to offer specialised courses online.

 

Choosing your destination

This is probably one of the most exciting aspects of teaching abroad: where next? This very much depends on your lifestyle preference. Start by considering the kind of climate and landscape you like. If you like warm, sunny beaches, moving on top of a snow-capped mountain might not be your ideal choice.

 

As well as climate, think about the kind of area you’d like to live in – rural or urban? And think about the implications of your choice. Urban areas often offer more job opportunities, higher salaries, and a faster pace of life. On the other hand, in rural settings TEFL jobs are harder to come by and the pay is lower. However, with a slower pace of life, you’ll be more relaxed and in contact with nature. It will be easier to immerse yourself in the local culture.

 

Another aspect to consider when choosing your destination is the requirements of the country. Always do a thorough research regarding moving as a TEFL teacher to the country of your choice on the following:

  • Age limit. Some countries have an age limit for their international teachers. In Myanmar, for example, the maximum age for a TEFL teacher is 52.
  • Higher education. Often for visa reasons, only teachers with a bachelor’s degree as a minimum are allowed as TEFL teachers in certain countries, like in Vietnam.
  • English proficiency level. While most countries offer teaching opportunities to non-native English speakers, you must have a strong command of the English language in all the four skills (Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing).

 

Last but not least, think about what you want to achieve from working abroad. 

  • Are you looking for a high income? Kuwait could be the place for you. 
  • Are you seeking cultural enrichment? Try China. With 55 ethnic groups and as many dialects, as well as Mandarin and Cantonese, this country is ideal to discover different cultures. Coming over to China to live and teach is on the bucket list of many teachers. However, in 2020, China enforced new regulations that no longer allow international teachers to teach children younger than 6, be it in-person or online. Despite this, China is still a great country to work and live in, just more competitive than it used to be.
  • Do you want to make a difference in the lives of others? Think Ghana, where you could introduce new teaching approaches and help local teachers develop their teaching skills. 

 

Who and where to teach

Choosing your students can be tricky, because it often depends on the school you work at. Generally speaking, you could be teaching:

  • Children in preschool/kindergarten (3-5 years old) or primary school (6-12 years old)
  • Teenagers in high-school (13-17 years old) 
  • University students (18-25 years old) 
  • Adult learners (18+ years old) at private language schools.

 

In the long run

Teaching English as a foreign language abroad can be challenging, but it’s extremely rewarding. Cultural sensitivity and an open mind are necessary to enjoy what this fulfilling career has to offer. Keep yourself motivated by exploring the new country and improving your skills by pursuing professional development.

 

Making money

The amount of money you can earn depends on many factors. There are countries that offer higher salaries than others. As previously mentioned, within the same country, city jobs usually pay more than in a village.

 

In addition, the institution you work for has a great impact on teachers’ salary. In general, universities offer the best pay out there, followed by international private primary and secondary schools. Language schools (or academies) are usually OK in terms of remuneration, while public schools don’t pay as well. Always discuss and agree on your wages with your potential employer before signing a contract.

 

Unexpected challenges

It can be hard to predict what difficulties you might encounter in your new country or in your new career. However, one of the most common issues is ‘culture shock’. This is a process in which your brain deals with life in a new country and adjusts to a new culture and traditions.

  • In the honeymoon period, you might feel positive and excited about your new adventure.
  • You might then experience some frustration about the differences between the life in your home country and your new life abroad. You might also feel homesick. This is the most challenging phase of the process.
  • You might then enter a stage of adjustment. You begin to settle into your new habits and way of life.
  • In the acceptance stage, you have acclimatised yourself to the new life. You have now found a balance between your old and new lifestyle and habits.

What happens when you go back home? Life is not the same and things might not look quite right. You might experience different feelings and emotions and it might take you some time to settle back into your ‘old’ life.

 

Teaching English abroad – what a rollercoaster!

Changing careers, retraining, moving to a foreign country, meeting new people, adjusting to a new culture, dealing with unfamiliar situations and new challenges, experiencing personal and professional growth: this is just a quick overview of what teaching English as a foreign language abroad looks like. Truth to be told, you can never fully understand it until you try it for yourself. Do your research, plan ahead, and prepare yourself as much as possible to avoid many unexpected challenges.

 

Sources:

https://www.thebrokebackpacker.com/teach-english-in-china/

https://www.tefl.org/blog/tefl-age-restrictions/

https://ethnomed.org/resource/chinese-language/#:~:text=The%20official%20dialect%20of%20China,and%20Kejia%20or%20Hakka%20dialect.

https://ontesol.com/tefl/teaching-english-as-a-foreign-language/

https://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-culture-shock-when-teaching-english-abroad#:~:text=Culture%20shock%20generally%20moves%20through,vary%20greatly%20for%20each%20person.&text=You%20feel%20positive%20and%20curious,ready%20to%20learn%20new%20things.

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