11 Steps to Teaching Abroad

Everyone knows finding a job post-graduation these days can be challenging, especially if you’re looking for something that will really help with your professional development.  Before you fall back into that comfortable bartending or waitressing summer gig that you’ve had the past three years, use this time in your life to explore more of the world (and yourself) by teaching English abroad. It is estimated that a BILLION people in the world are currently English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. That means, the demand for ESL teachers is at its highest it’s ever been!You don’t need to be a seasoned economist to understand that when demand is high and the supply is low, people on the supply side (you as a prospective ESL teacher) will have the advantage. So now that you’re hopefully considering the idea to teach abroad, below are 10 steps that will land you an international job that provides more benefits than you can even begin to imagine!

1) Determine why you want to Teach Abroad and what you hope to gain from the experience. If you already studied abroad, you may have learned by now that people want to know how your international experiences directly affected your global competence and understandings. Will you be able to use this experience to your advantage in a future career? Or are you pursuing your dream career by teaching abroad?

2) Ask yourself some essential questions about where you want to teach and for how long:

  • Do you want to live in a big city or more rural area?
  • What type of weather are you looking for?
  • What is the cost of living in different cities?
  • How much do you want to travel and how comfortable are you using public transportation?
  • How much will you be able to afford traveling?
  • Do you want to live where lots of other tourists or English teachers live, or be surrounded by the natives?

Many contracts are for a full year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use one of your vacations to visit home.  However, my suggestion is that you encourage friends and family to visit you instead of spending an entire paycheck on a flight back home for Christmas.

3) Determine what type of organization you want to teach through. Do you want to go through a recruiter? If you do, be sure to be cautious and picky. If it is either difficult or impossible to connect with previous teachers from the recruiting company you are looking at, the chances are they don’t want you to contact them.  This can be a major red flag, so be sure to research thoroughly before signing any contract. Another option that is often times more legitimate are programs run by either the U.S. government (check out the Fullbright programs) or the governments of the host country (like the JET programme in Japan or EPIK in Korea).

4) Make a checklist of qualifications and certifications. For some programs, you need a certain number of TEFL/TESOL certification hours prior to teaching.  Many of the programs that offer certification will also provide job placement opportunities.  However, you should be sure they will actually provide what they guaranty you.

5) Re-vamp your resume to make it ESL friendly. Since most of the things we do after college is geared towards professional development, it’s important to focus on and strengthen the following areas on your resume: training and leadership positions, previous teaching experience, working cross-culturally, foreign language abilities, study or internships abroad.

6) Prepare for your interview. This is your chance to prove why you would be the best candidate for the teaching position. They will likely ask you to elaborate on your previous international or intercultural experiences, if you have it. For those with study abroad experience, they will likely ask how studying abroad led you towards teaching abroad. You should also be prepared to explain what your goals and motives are for teaching abroad. Like any other interview, practice and just be yourself! As these interviews are usually conducted over Skype or the phone, be sure your technology is working properly, and send a follow up email within a week after the interview.

7) Negotiate and Sign your Contract. Not all contracts can be negotiated, but if there is something you are not comfortable with, whether it be your departure date, housing arrangements, or salary, it is imperative that you address these concerns BEFORE you sign anything.

8) Apply for your passport and visa ASAP. If you’ve chosen a good recruiting company or organization, they should help you with all the necessary documentation needed for your passport or Visa. If you don’t have a passport yet, you should do that the moment you decide to go abroad, as this can be a lengthy process.

9) Brush up on your foreign (and English) language skills. Obviously knowing the language of the country you will be working in will make your life much easier to get around.  However, many people don’t think about the value in refreshing your English skills as well.  It is often assumed by employers and students, that you will and should know all the rules to adverb clauses, verb structures, and prepositions.  If you are like me, and majored in something other than English in college, and haven’t taken an English or grammar course in ten years, this may seem a bit daunting to have to re-learn and then teach material like this. However, it’s ok not to know everything, and to learn as you go, but having a refresher on the basic rules will make you feel more comfortable in your first few weeks of teaching.

10) Start thinking about your teaching philosophy. Even if teaching abroad isn’t your end career goal, be sure to be conscious of the fact that you are responsible for teaching and providing many students, whether they be children or adults, an opportunity to learn new perspectives.  Also keep in mind how exciting and oftentimes scary to have a foreign teacher. For many, it will be their first experience talking, and maybe even seeing a foreigner. You have a responsibility to your students to do all you can to give them the necessary tools to become successful learners of English.

11) Let the packing begin! If you thought packing for a summer or even semester abroad was tough, try packing for a year! Only pack essentials, and the things you absolutely love to wear. If they sit in your closet at home, they’ll likely do the same in your closet abroad.