Home Things to consider when teaching abroad
Last update on October 31, 2019

If you’re a teacher looking for a rewarding work experience, there are many benefits to teaching abroad. The growing number of international schools worldwide means there are many teaching jobs available abroad.

Teaching abroad can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll live and work in an exciting new country while picking up some invaluable professional experience along the way. But whether you’re moving to South Korea or Sumatra, it’s important to know what to expect from your new life abroad before you hit the classroom. To help make things easier, here are some things to consider when teaching abroad.

Choose the right culture fit

There are plenty of places around the world where you can teach English. From established expat favorites like Japan and Spain to up-and-coming markets like Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica, the choice is yours. However, when deciding where to go it’s important you consider culture fit. If you like partying at the weekends, you may prefer living somewhere with good nightlife options. Similarly, if you don’t want to be halfway round the world from your loved ones, teaching in eastern Asia might not be right for you. Do a little research and find a country that sounds like somewhere you could spend a year or more.

Things to consider when teaching abroad

Think about the technicalities

Before you start booking flights, make sure you can legally work in your chosen country and that you’ll be able to find work as an English teacher. Visa requirements can be notoriously strict in some countries, which may be something to think about if you don’t have an employer to sponsor you. The rules also vary around who can teach English and who can’t. In some countries, you’ll need to be a native English speaker with a university degree. In others, you’ll simply need to demonstrate your English ability. Avoid any disappointment by doing your homework and making sure you’ll be able to find work as an English teacher.

Consider your finances

Are you thinking about teaching English abroad to save up some money? Or maybe you’re considering it simply for the experience? Or perhaps you’re looking to volunteer by teaching in poorer communities? Whatever your reasons for teaching abroad, ensure your choice makes financial sense for you. For example, in some countries wages for English teachers are notoriously high and you may be able to save money. In other countries, lower wages will be offset by a much more affordable cost of living. So think about what you want out of your time abroad and follow the money that’s right for you.

Get a qualification

While you might not need years of experience to get your first job teaching abroad, it’s a good idea to get a TEFL qualification under your belt before you start applying for jobs. Not only will this qualification give your resume a boost, it’ll also help you get a better understanding of what’ll be expected from you in the classroom. Most courses offer a mixture of online and classroom learning although some are only web-based. Check out online reviews and testimonials from other teachers first; make sure you find a course that matches what you’re looking for.

Things to consider when teaching abroad

Do some research

It might sound obvious, but Google will quickly become your best friend before you make the move abroad. From checking out local expat message boards to deciding which city or town you want to live in, there’s a whole host of information out there and you should take advantage of it. You’ll soon be able to find out which cities are more expat-friendly than others, and which ones you’ll want to avoid. Don’t stop there, either. Get familiar with your new home by doing a little cultural research, too. Watch some local movies, read books by local authors, and generally try and get a feel what life will be like in your new home.

Brush up on your language skills

Do you know the difference between the past perfect tense and the past conditional tense? How about the rules around apostrophes? We all struggle with punctuation, spelling, and grammar from time to time. As an English teacher, though, you’ll be expected to know what you’re talking about. After all, you don’t want to be standing in front of an entire class unable to answer a simple grammar question from one of your students. So, avoid any awkward moments in the classroom by sharpening up your English skills before you leave. It’ll be worth it.

Find a school you can trust

Depending on the country you want to move to, you might find a whole host of different language schools looking for English teachers. These can range from public schools to private English language academies. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous language school owners out there who don’t take care of their employees, which can leave TEFL teachers in difficult situations a long way from home. To avoid getting caught out, research the school thoroughly before accepting any offer. If possible, try and contact teachers who already work at the school and talk to them about their experiences.

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Build your network

Moving to a foreign country can be challenging. Even if you have a teaching job arranged before you arrive, adjusting to an entirely new culture can be tough without an established support network of friends and family. To help you get settled in your new home, try and connect with other expats in your town or city. This can be through joining a sports club, attending language classes, or simply finding out which bar is favorite with the local foreigners. Social media can also help you connect to other expats. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet people who you’ll be friends with for life?

Go with the flow

It’s safe to say your new life abroad will be very different from your life back home. And while some of the changes you’ll learn to love, others you might find more challenging to accept. But when you’re living and working abroad it pays to remember that there are many things that might not make sense to you. However, you’ll get a whole lot more from the experience if you simply go with the flow instead of sweating the small stuff. Are all the shops in your new home closed on Sunday? Simply shop on Saturday, instead. Does your boss expect you go to karaoke-ing with colleagues at a moment’s notice? Then go! You might have a lot of fun!

Prepare to be amazed

Wherever you end up moving, teaching in a foreign country will probably be one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have. From learning a new language and integrating into a new culture to meeting friends from around the world and visiting some breath-taking destinations, you’ll be doing things you never thought possible! It won’t always be easy. There’ll be some days you miss friends and family back home. But these moments will be overshadowed by all the great new possibilities that await you. And one thing’s for sure — once you’ve taught abroad you’ll never be the same person again!