TEFL: An Adventure for All Ages

Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a great way for people of all ages to travel the world, earn a decent living and meet people from all over the world. But the challenges, opportunities and rewards of teaching English overseas are different depending on your age and your motivations to TEFL.

So we’ve put together a article talking about TEFL experiences for everyone from gap year travellers through to people looking for a little adventure after they’ve retired. So, let’s kick off with you lucky, young, care-free, fresh-faced Gap Year TEFlers.

1.  TEFL opportunities for gap year travellers

Due to the wandering nature of gap years and the relatively short time frames, TEFL opportunities for gap year travellers are effectively limited to three types of teaching: volunteering, short-term paid internships and summer schools.

Volunteering opportunities

Despite the very obvious drawback that you can’t actually make any money by teaching English as a volunteer, it can be a great way to gain experience and work out whether TEFLing is right for you. It also opens up places where you just can’t really earn money teaching English, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

The Pros

Minimal training required, with no previous experience needed!  Instead, you’ll be focusing on gaining useful experience you can actually put on your CV – all while making a difference to underprivileged people in exotic locations (hello, sandy beach in Honduras!)

The Cons

With volunteering, you have to understand that in addition to no wages, you’ll probably have to pay to get yourself over there in the first case and in some circumstances, fund your living costs too.  Furthermore, teaching resources will be extremely limited in the schools, which can require a certain type of confidence to be able to teach effective lessons.

Short-term TEFL internships

If you can’t afford to take a gap year without earning a little cold hard cash along the way, signing up for a TEFL internship is a great option.

The vast majority of these internships are to be found in the rapidly growing English markets of South East Asia and China. And the good news, if you’re new to TEFL is that they are open to people with no previous experience and no TEFL training.

The TEFL Internships with i-to-i in Asia are available in China, Thailand and Vietnam and include 140 hours of TEFL training, accommodation, help with visas and a healthy monthly living allowance.

The Pros

In most countries, you won’t need experience as you’ll be trained up by the school.  You’ll also get a monthly wage and in some cases, free accommodation too!  But perhaps one of the best things is the network of interns from all over the world who are teaching in the same area; which means you’ll be able to do a lot of free travelling yourself in the holidays to visit everyone’s home countries!

The Cons

We can’t think of any really… erm, Asia can  be quite hot, and it can be depressing when you have to leave…?

Teaching English in summer schools

Every year across Europe, parents who’ve got a little cash send their kids off to improve their English skills at summer schools. There are literally 100s of them from Paris to Prague, Seville to Sienna.

The vast majority of summer schools – especially in the UK – are British Council affiliated. This means you need a level 5 qualification like a CELTA to work there; although there will be some schools you can work for with a 120 or 140-hour TEFL course.  These high training requirements also mean that wages are relatively high, so you expect to earn anything up to £380 a week plus food and accommodation.

The Pros

You’ll find locations all throughout Europe, so if you love a bit of culture and country-hopping, it’s the perfect continent for you!  Furthermore, short-term contracts are available if you don’t want to commit, and you’ll earn decent wages too – all whilst you get to meet teachers from all around the world, making great friends.

The Cons

You’ll often need to be highly qualified with a level 5 qualification (although there may be some exceptions), and with the short-term contracts comes no long-term stability, but that’s what you expect.

2.  TEFL for Career Breakers

Without trying to sound patronising, belittling or age-generalising to gap year students and backpackers, career-breakers have more work experience. Having spent time (even a couple of years) in the working world gives career-breakers the edge over the average gapper. Teaching related or not, the world of work provides you with great transferable skills. So, when it comes to an interview with a prospective TEFL employer you are able to demonstrate a whole host of talents and a certain ‘maturity’.

As career-breakers, you also know what you need to work on.  After spending a decent amount of time in the working world you can appreciate what you know, but also welcome growth in certain areas. Perhaps you want to add more strings to your bow, pick up another language, pick up some management skills or just see the world?  Whatever it may be, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it all starts with a TEFL course!

Teaching English abroad and the average office job are worlds apart: an attractive quality for most career-breakers. Let’s not beat around the bush, quitting your job takes a lot of guts, it’s an active decision to break from routine, the norm and give up what might be a steady life. Yep, most people might think you’re mad, “You’re moving where? To do what? On your OWN?!” etc. etc but for some people, when your life has turned into wake up, eat, work, eat, work, eat, rubbish TV, sleep, it is time to make a change.

Demand for TEFL teachers is a global one. So whilst you spent those hours at work dreaming of warmer climes, now’s your chance to head there. A combination of: work experience, a degree, a TEFL certificate and a real drive to get out there will see career-breakers being one of the most employable type of TEFLer out there.

A final word from one career-breaker:

“If you’re signed up for TEFL, or thinking about it, do it now. I wish I had done this years ago. Do it now, if you hate it you can always go home and say it wasn’t for you. However if you wait, you will always wonder. There are great days and horrible days. There are days I love classes, and everything works. There are days all my classes suck, students say nothing, and I want to get on the next plane home. Take each day, enjoy yourself, relax and start a new day.”

3.  Retirees and the mature TEFL teacher

So if you thought that teaching English wasn’t for you, then here are a few reasons to change your mind and a few tempting teaching opportunities too.

Commitment/guilt-free travelling

The 9-5 thing is done and dusted, the children have flown the nest and now it really is time for some ‘me-time’.  You promised yourself that you’d travel the world, well, now’s your chance to do it!  With a global demand for TEFL teachers, you can go exactly where YOU want to go… see you later 2 week holidays in Disneyland with the (grand) kids and say goodbye to planning your holiday around the rota at work… it’s time to choose your TEFL destination – the ultimate guilt-free expedition!

Work experience

There’s no doubt about it that teaching English abroad is a full-time job, sitting on a beach with a few gin and tonics isn’t in the job description I’m afraid. Having said that, it is a great option if you’re looking to do something different for a few months or a few years and travel at the same time.

“Can I get a job?” When it comes to employability, mature TEFL teachers are often top of the list, especially within the Business English market (and no you don’t need to know everything about Business to teach it).

Most TEFL employers appreciate someone who can demonstrate skills such as: professionalism, managing teams, maturity in the workplace and overall life experience. Being able to demonstrate these skills to future employers will put you in the good books straight away and set you apart from the pack.

So although you might have left the conventional world of work, another year or another career is waiting for you with open arms.

Family life experience

One of the biggest TEFL markets is young learners and school children. So, if you’ve raised children you’re going to know a thing or two about looking after children, keeping them in check and ensuring that they get the most out of their experiences.

This is a big win for TEFL employers, they want someone who knows what they’re doing.

It’s time for a change

If you’ve spent the majority of your working life crunching numbers, sitting indoors all day (hugging the heater in winter and the air-conditioning unit in summer) then teaching English abroad is a great opportunity to try your hand at something new. Not taught before? No problem. A new culture, a new cuisine and a new way of living is a great way to start a new life in the sun.

A final word from TEFLers who’ve done it.

“After doing a TEFL course with i-to-i we put our CVs on the internet and got quite a few replies – mainly from the Far East. We were approached by the Yangzhou College in China and decided it would be far more interesting and are so very glad we chose China as it was absolutely fascinating.”

Mary, 69 and Ted, 74

Need a TEFL course to go alongside that enthusiasm?  Check our course offers here!


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  1. Dennis Schauffer

    I was told that the Chinese Government did not give visas or work permits to persons over 50. At 74 how did Ted manage to work in China? I would love to work in China and I am 71.

  2. Elle Pollicott

    Hi Dennis, as visa requirements frequently change, I would suggest the best thing to do is speak to the Chinese consulate in your country, and they will be able to provide you with up-to-date information. Elle

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