TESOL (or TEFL) is steadily growing more popular, and you can find jobs advertised for native English speakers in almost every country of the world, which gives you the opportunity to not only travel, but to discover a culture that is likely vastly different to your own. The largest market is currently in Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand), but if the Asian market doesn’t appeal to you, then you are able to find jobs advertised for positions in Central and South America, most parts of Europe and also in the Middle East.
Working overseas teaching English is the opportunity of a lifetime, but if you don’t do your research, it could turn into quite an adventure. Before agreeing to any position, make sure to research the school. There are many horror stories of westerners turning up expecting to find a job and accommodation lined up for them, only to arrive and find out that they are going to be farmed out to the highest bidder, or subcontracted out to different schools every day, giving no job stability.
There are a myriad of sites that you can use to investigate the legitimacy of the organization proposing the contract. Many of the websites that provide job vacancy lists also have a school review area, making it easy to see how other teachers have fared at a particular establishment.
In addition to checking the internet for reviews of particular schools, it is also crucial to ask the organization for the contact email addresses or phone numbers of previous and current foreign teachers. If they refuse, this is a definite red flag, as any legitimate institution will be more than happy to give you this information. Chances are that if you don’t find any scathing reviews on the internet, and any previous teachers don’t tell you to turn tail and run, then you’re fairly safe in accepting the job.
Once you have decided on a school, with undertaking any new job, you need to make sure you understand and agree with everything in your contract. If there’s something you don’t agree with, or understand, contact the appropriate person and get it sorted out before you arrive. There’s no point turning up with the idea that you can change something once you’re there.
Deciding where to teach will also have a huge impact on your time overseas. You need to consider your financial situation, as the wage and benefits vary from country to country. What sort of living conditions can you abide by? Are you able to accept spending time in a patriarchal society, or do you require a more liberal culture? Will you be able to survive in a country where the temperature drops to below –30, or do you hate the weather when it consistently reaches above 25?
You also need to decide what style of teaching is going to best suit you. Do you have lots of energy and love kids? Then teaching kindergarten or primary classes is probably for you.
If your idea of job fulfillment doesn’t include running, jumping and rolling around miming actions and playing high energy games, then a position in a high school or university is probably going to be more suitable.
It is vitally important that you realize that the conditions of your housing and workplace are likely going to be extremely different to what you’re used to. Moving to a country where you have no grasp of the unfamiliar customs or language has it challenges, and culture shock affects many people during the first three months in another country.
While offering challenges, both personally and professionally, teaching is also very rewarding. If you’re the type of person who can go with the moment, and adapt to any situation, as long as you’ve done the research, your time overseas will be a time to remember, for all the right reasons.