So you’re thinking of becoming (or are about to become) an EFL Teacher abroad? First, pull out your journal, iPhone, sticky note deck, old receipt from your purse and answer these 5 questions.
1: Where do you want to teach?
Deciding where to teach, will depend on so many factors all specific to each individual. You should choose a country that interests you and a place you’d like to travel. BUT you shouldn’t teach in this country just so you can afford to travel in it.
There has to be a balance between the 2: a location made for your own exploration with a culture that entices you to stay for long periods of time to immerse into it. This is not just a place you will travel, but a place you will live. Be real with yourself – ask just how far you think you can move away from your home comforts before it starts to get uncomfortable. Research both country and culture, and be sure that you will find a home within its values and traditions (which might be opposite to your own).
2: Have you established your reasons why?
- Why do you want to teach?
- Why do you want to go abroad?
- Why do you want to teach in (insert chosen country)?
- What does it mean for your future?
3: Are you qualified?
If you don’t have a degree this will effect which countries you can teach in, but it doesn’t mean you can’t teach abroad. Research where you can work without a degree and what level of teaching certification you’ll need before anything else. If you do have a degree, then great! Most of the time it doesn’t matter what field of study your degree is in, as long as you have one.
You’ll also need some form of teaching certification. You can read my post about the different ones here. I recommend at least a 120-hour course which leads to an internationally recognised certification. This will meet the minimum study-length requirements for most TEFL jobs, and means you can use your certificate all around the world. Whether you chose an online course or face-to-face is up to you, but if you don’t have any previous teaching experience like I didn’t, a face-to-face would probably be better.
If all of this sounds too expensive, time consuming and boring, go back to step 2 and make sure your reasons for teaching are because you actually want to be a teacher. This is an essential part of becoming an EFL Teacher and will constantly be required by new job applications and career developments.
4: Can you afford to live in your chosen destination?
Now, you don’t have to be rich to become an English teacher abroad. It’s actually a very good way to fund a life overseas, and you might even live a better standard of life in certain countries, on a much smaller salary than you would get in your home country.
However, it’s important to research the start-up costs of relocating to your chosen country and make sure you have enough money in the bank to live off for the first 6 to 8 weeks. This can include flight costs (cost of a return depending on visa requirements), visa fees, 2 months rent for an apartment, living expenses, health insurance, teaching supplies and materials, transportation costs and much more.
When I first decided to go to to Thailand, I was excited. I wanted to get out there as soon as possible! But I was also knee deep in my student overdraft and was only working part-time. Rather than think it was impossible, I just pushed my date of departure to something more realistic. I worked hard, paid off any financial commitments and saved up enough money to travel for 2 weeks and live for 8 weeks without any income.
5: Do you have a support network to help with the hard times?
Becoming an EFL Teacher in the country of your dreams is going to be one of the best decisions of your life. It’s also going to be one of the most challenging, difficult, magical, life-changing and crazy decisions too.
You will experience a myriad of emotions, and there will constantly be new and surprising things happening to you. It will be amazing, but sometimes it will also be hard. It’s important to have people both at home and away who you can discuss your new experiences with to help process the emotions.
The human body can react physically, emotionally and psychologically to change: whether it’s good or bad. Establish a good support network who you know will give you sound advice and will encourage you to stay strong through the difficult times.
Answering the 5 questions above will help you to leave for your new teaching job abroad with more confidence in what you are doing and why it is that you’re doing it. It can be as simple as not knowing what you want to do as a career, so you’re doing it for the experience… or it can be as serious as the start of a life-long career within the education sector. Whatever your reasons, believe in them and back them up. Then remember your answers to these questions whenever you hit a speed bump so you can continue to follow the road to your dreams.