Teaching English abroad entices all sorts of people – the vagabonds, the philanthropists, the folks suffering from a mild case of midlife crisis; those looking for a temporary change or those seeking a lifestyle overhaul. Some people want to teach abroad for a couple months, and for others it is the last job they will ever take! Whatever your reason, here are 8 things that you should know before you teach English abroad…
1. Actually know your English and grammar
Do you genuinely know the difference between past perfect and present continuous? It goes without saying that you should have the proper certifications, but before you head abroad to teach English, make sure that you actually feel capable and confident imparting the acquisition of a new language to students. Learning English typically represents huge opportunities for your students, so make sure that you take your job seriously and know what you’re teaching – being a native speaker doesn’t qualify you to educate others. Depending on the company you work for, you could be expected to generate your own lessons, activities, and assessments, so make sure that you know what you are getting into and have the skills to fulfill your students’ expectations.
2. Appearance is everything
Some institutions that teach English abroad want parents and families to believe that their students are receiving the best possible education, and sometimes that comes across very superficially. For example, some institutions require a recent picture for their job applications, have rules such as women teachers must wear skirts (no pants), and tend to hire people that look like native English speakers. Try to keep an open mind and find a company that aligns with your personal beliefs – that behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in many places, but it might be an obstacle that you face when you are trying to pursue a career teaching English abroad.
3. Scope out the job market before you interview, accept a job, or fly
Researching the job market before you head abroad will help you make an informed decision when selecting a company to work for. Read reviews from other teachers, and compare salaries, visa application process support, holidays, insurance, benefits, and possible perks like provided housing and flights. Research what each company needs for application, such as transcripts, criminal record searches, or copies of your degree to ensure that you have everything you need. Make sure that you interview with multiple companies before you accept a job offer. If you’re already overseas or feeling impulsive, have your documents ready and your background research done before you start the job search.
4. Replacement jobs are easy to come by
If you start working for a company and it seems like a poor fit, chances are there is another job waiting for you right around the corner. As long as your qualifications are in order, you could easily apply to another company that fits your individual needs. Make sure you study your contract carefully before you sign or terminate – there may be stipulations that make leaving difficult, such as paying back flight costs and losing the flight home.
5. You probably won’t get rich teaching English abroad
Teaching English abroad doesn’t pay the big bucks. That’s okay – although you might not be making as much money, typically the cost of living is lower places where English is not the primary language – so you can still save some cash if you live within your means. But really, most people teaching English abroad aren’t doing it for the money; they are doing it to explore a new country and culture while helping others learn and maintaining a steady income stream to support their adventures. Soak up the experience and live a minimalist lifestyle – you might like it!
6. Be social and choose your friends wisely
So you don’t know anyone. You have the power to change that! Reach out to other teachers, explore your new home, and you’ll have friends before you know it. Look online for expat communities in your new home, and choose your friends wisely – just because you have the shared experience of living in a new location doesn’t mean you have to be best friends. Choose to explore your new home with people who have the same level of respect and intrigue for the country in which you live. Great friends can make exciting weekend adventure partners, they understand what you’re going through, and you can make lifelong friends.
7. Your time abroad will fly, so plan accordingly
When you live abroad, everything is new – the food, the experiences, the culture, the customs. With so much to take in, your time will fly, so make sure that you pack your exploration in so that you get as much out of your experience as you can! Explore on weekends, take advantage of holidays and don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there! You are living a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t waste it.
8. You will probably get sick
Whether homesick or illness sick, chances are you’ll succumb to some kind of sickness while overseas. Get travel insurance, inquire about insurance through your employer, and make sure that you know your closest hospital. Be mindful that some countries provide antibiotics over the counter, and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. For homesickness, make sure that you have the tools to communicate with loved ones back home. Get Skype, write letters, and remind yourself that you are engaging in a once in a lifetime opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible 100 years ago.