Five steps to teaching English abroad

So, you know that you’re ready for a change; a brand new start. But you’re not sure what shape that new start should take – should you get a new job? A pet to care for? How about move to a new town? Take up an exciting new hobby? Or move to the other side of the world to experience an exciting new country and gain skills for life teaching English abroad?

Teaching English overseas is an unbeatable way to discover all the wonders of our vast world, whilst getting under the skin of a brand new culture in a way no tourist would be able to. Uprooting and moving to a new country may sound scary, but if you’re ready for a new adventure it could be just what you need – and the process can really be quite straightforward.

We’ve distilled the journey of teaching abroad into a simple five-step plan; it really can be this simple.

Do your research

As with anything in life, it’s important to approach TEFL with your eyes open and with a realistic point of view. There are different requirements for TEFL depending on what your aims are: for example, to take on a paid job you may need a university degree and a passport from an English-speaking country. Also, when you’re handing over money to a company to help you achieve your TEFL dreams, you’ll need to make sure they’re everything they’re cracked up to be.
Unfortunately there are plenty of dodgy agencies and companies around, but you needn’t get caught out; the internet is great for a lot of things, and digging up dirt on dodgy companies is one of them! Check out teflcoursereview.com for detailed course reviews, and sites like Trustpilot and Reviews.com, give your chosen companies a ring and have a chat to them so you know you’re buying wisely.

Get TEFL qualified

This is an essential first step to have in place when you start getting excited about where you want to teach. Not only will you need to know your stuff, but most overseas establishments will ask for a qualification of at least 120 hours too. There are lots of different types of TEFL course ranging from 120 hour online courses to heavy duty CELTA qualifications, but unless you’re seriously looking to make a career out of TEFL, you’re probably best sticking with an online course that can be completed relatively quickly in your spare time. Our 120 Hour Online TEFL Course is accredited by the ODLQC and can be studied anywhere, on any device – and you won’t pay through the nose. You could qualify in as little as six weeks with the help of an expert tutor, so that you’ll feel totally prepared for the reality of teaching English overseas.

Secure your position

Now, it’s time to decide what route you want to take in your TEFL journey. Are you ready to uproot for a year or more with a paid teaching job? Or would you simply like to visit a new location for a few months whilst getting some great experience for your CV? There’s all sorts out there for aspiring teach-and-travellers; here at i-to-i we offer paid jobs in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Spain, as well as a series of fully supported TEFL Internships that offer up to six months of hands-on teaching experience in colourful locations like Thailand, Colombia and South Africa.
Great placements will usually offer accommodation included in the price you pay (so that’s one less thing to sort out) and you may even receive free meals during teaching at your school. With paid jobs, it’s really important to thoroughly read your contract to make sure you’re happy with all the stipulations, and to raise any concerns before you’ve signed.

The boring (but important) bits

All this preparation will be for nothing if you don’t remember to tick all the appropriate boxes before you travel, so don’t put off getting the ‘boring bits’ sorted. Vaccinations are a must when you’re travelling to a new country, so get booked in nice and early with your doctors and be prepared for a bit of extra expenditure. Your doctor can help you organise any prescription medicines as well.
Visas are also essential; depending on where you’re from, you need particular paperwork from the government of your host country to confirm that you’re able to work in the role you’ve taken on. Assistance with your visa is available from I-to-i when you travel with us, so don’t be put off by the thought of all the admin. Failure to sort your visa out before you travel could easily result in being refused access to your chosen country – and working illegally will cause problems further down the line. Then – last but not least – you’ll need to get your flights booked!

Get packed & go!

You’re nearly there! Just remember that over packing will only cause you a hassle once you touch down. Pack, unpack, re-pack and do this all again until you’ve slimmed down to the bare essentials. You may want to get in contact with any fellow travellers if applicable to see if there’s anyone you can make the journey with, and remember to stay hydrated on your flight so you feel fresh when you touch down. Your adventure is just beginning!

We hope that this simplified list has given you a more realistic idea of how easy teaching English abroad can actually be – there’s nothing to it!

What’s life like in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Thailand TEFL intern, Pashka, tells us what it’s like to live and teach in rural Thailand.

Welcome to my pad!

I am currently sitting in my new home for the next 2 months. It’s a Thai style house with a concrete downstairs, there’s an open space with a sofa, fridge, microwave, work desk, television and bathroom. Upstairs there’s a dressing room complete with an iron and ironing board and the bedroom. While it may not be a palace, it’s home and I love it!

I’ve definitely had the luck of the draw when it comes to accommodation as facilities vary from school to school. My first piece of advice – be open minded when it comes to where you’ll be living and be prepared for it not to live up to western standards.

I’ve spoken to some interns who have a spare classroom in the school with a bed and a shared bathroom a few floors down. While others have made a renovated school clinic home that’s “western standard” in terms of structure but not so much in terms of homeliness.

The culture shock is real

The one guarantee is a western toilet (as opposed to a squat) so you can breathe a sigh of relief if this was putting you off signing up!

Now for my second piece of advice – expect to be uncomfortable at times, you’ll endure the odd stomach upset, sleep on a hard bed and take a cold shower. This can be quite a shock for new interns but it’s all part of the experience.

I’m living in Thailand and I live like Thais do. I’m experiencing the true Thai culture, eating and sleeping like the other teachers – something no tourist would get to do.

Adopting the Thai way of life

The Thai attitude towards life is very different to the UK but the main thing you’ll notice is that they’re very laid back. Things only get serious when it comes to respecting elders and upholding traditions. Other than that the pace of life is slow, no one is in a rush to do anything and everything is subject to change. It’s probably the heat!

One thing that was said over and over at orientation was that every single person in the local area will know who we are and this was no exaggeration! When you first think of Thailand you probably picture the throngs of tourists in Bangkok and the famous beach parties but the reality is very different. The TEFL schools are in small, quiet communities, often out in the sticks and cut off from everything else.

For the first couple of weeks, walking down the street turned more than a few heads. The looks I get range from respectful recognition to curious glances that seem to say “what are you doing here!” A foreign face will be a novelty so get ready to be in photos and chat to the locals as they’ll want to try out their English, no matter how limited it is.

The rewards of being a TEFL teacher

It’s such a small community that every time I leave the school I’m bound to run in to a student and their parents. Being respectful and following the social norms goes without saying, and if you play your cards right you might be rewarded.

The other day I went to buy some shorts and after a friendly chat with the owner, in which we told him we were teaching English at the local school, he ended up giving me 50%off and a lift to town. Not bad for a TEFL teacher!

And it’s not just me who’s benefited from these perks. My partner plays football most days after school with the kids, one of the parents, touched by his involvement, gave him a big packet of Emmental cheese (cheese is notoriously hard to get here).

We’ve had a free massage from a teacher who owns a salon and even visited our English teacher’s family for dinner, including left-overs for the next day (or two)!

This sense of togetherness is central to Thai culture, everyone knows everyone, shares what they can and looks out for each other, very different to our home, London.

Making every weekend count

If I had to tell you the “thorn in my side” about living here it would be the noise at night. It might sound like an exaggeration but I have a more peaceful night’s sleep in a dorm room on Khao San Road than I do in Tha Muang, Kanchanaburi. If it isn’t every dog in the neighbourhood keeping me up with their relentless barking and howling, it’s the incessant whoop of a Koel bird that seems to nest directly above my head.

But I’m not completely cut off from the comforts of home. We’re lucky to have a bus stop nearby so we can travel to both Kanchanaburi town and Bangkok. I’m away almost every weekend with the other interns (there’s 30 of us in Kanchanaburi) and we often stay in a tourist hub where the menus are familiar, the showers are hot and the WiFi actually works.

We’ve managed to do it all, from touring the provinces’ famous “death railway” (The Burmese railway), river Kwae and waterfalls at Erawan National Park. To flying to Ko Pha Ngang for the famous full moon party, witnessing the lady boys show, witnessing tuk-tuk drag races and celebrating Chinese New Year in Bangkok. The weekends are usually so eventful that by Sunday night we welcome another “quiet” week at school.

 

If you’re ready to follow in Pashka’s footsteps and live the dream of teaching English in Thailand why not check out our Thailand TEFL Experience! Got a degree? Take a look at our Paid Thailand TEFL Internship and you can earn a generous monthly allowance too.

Sawadee!: Jessi starts her Thailand TEFL Experience

Touchdown in Thailand!

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to America and hello to Kanchanaburi, Thailand as I begun my Thailand TEFL Experience. My first thought is “Wow, what a place!” There are so many differences between Thailand and my home, and I am loving every minute of discovery.

I didn’t arrive with many expectations because I prefer to be pleasantly surprised, but I did have some preconceived notions about what Thailand would be like. I expected to be surrounded by beautiful and glittering temples, and bright lights on the streets with tons of food vendors and bars. I have definitely found and enjoyed all of these things, but more importantly I have come to appreciate the inconspicuous beauty of Thailand.

Let me explain: while the popular tourist spots of Thailand are quite enticing, I have loved to become familiar with the more rural parts of Kanchanaburi.

Thailand intern Jessi teaches a class at school in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

 

Getting to know my new home

My tourist expectations went out the window as I realized that my new school was nowhere near the closest tourist hub. It took me a few days to adjust to this change in scenery, but I soon realized that this is the reason I decided to live in Thailand. I wanted to get up close and personal with this culture, and what better way to do this than to live like a local?

Around me are tiny family-owned shops, fields, a sugar cane factory, and reminders of the new culture I have entered into. I feel privileged to lift the curtain of tourism and to see behind it into the heart of the Thai culture. I believe this would not be possible had I decided to just backpack through Thailand.

 

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Doing it the Thai way

In just two weeks, the Thai culture has taught me to increase my patience and trust in others, and I have come to appreciate both my life at home and my new life here. I am grateful for my privileges in America, and I have realized that it is possible to live happily on less.

I look around me and see people living without air conditioning, western plumbing, fancy houses, or expensive cars. The Thai people live very basic lives, yet Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”. Everyone here seems to be at peace with each other, and will always offer up a smile to you, even if you are a complete stranger and a foreigner.

I have never felt so loved and accepted in a new place, and I am so grateful to my school for helping me to become comfortable in my new home.

School in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

 

Life changing for me and my students

Thailand has already showed me that my possessions do not define me, and the secret to a happy life is building meaningful relationships and finding purposeful work. I am enjoying my new relationships with the Thai teachers and children, as well as the other English teachers in my program.

I am finding so much happiness in the ability to give the children of my school a life-long skill of speaking English. I know I will have made a difference in their lives after my two months are up, even if I can only inspire them to continue learning after I am gone. I am hopeful for the impact I can have on the kids and teachers in my school, and I know they have already made a huge impact on me.

 

 

i-to-i Thailand intern Jessi teaches her class in Kanchanaburi

 

Has Jessi inspired you to have your own Thailand adventure and make a real difference?

If so, why not download the guide for our Thailand TEFL Experience, or give our TEFL advisers a call!

What it’s like doing TEFL in stunning South Korea!

Today, we’re interviewing the lovely Emina, who is living and teaching in super Seoul, South Korea. Jealous, us?!

Hi, Emina! Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name is Emina Dedic. I’m 27 years old, and originally from Bosnia. I am a former refugee, and first generation college graduate. I am a career student, writer, activist, and world explorer.

How do you usually spend your spare time?
I collect currency from all over the world and vinyl records. I regularly contribute to a variety of travel writing and educational blogs. I’m very passionate about community activism and do my best to contribute to my local community as much as I can. I’m an avid fashion and coffee enthusiast.

i-to-i TEFL graduate Emina Dedic teaches her class in Seoul, South Korea

What’s your education history? College, degree, high school?
I have an associates and bachelors degree with a focus in Psychology from Charter Oak State College. I also have certificates in Victim Advocacy and Legal Investigation from Texas A&M International University, and Paralegal Studies from Georgia State University. Currently. I’m four classes away from finishing a BA in English while simultaneously working on my MBA as well.

Where are you now?
Currently, I live in Seoul, South Korea. I teach at a private academy. I’m currently in my second year, and I am loving it!

i-to-i TEFL graduates socialise at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea

What is it that drew you to teaching English abroad?
I have wanted to teach English abroad for about five years, ever since I saw my school career services website advertising open positions for the jobs online. I was held back from going since most places a degree is a requirement. I was very hesitant to take out student loans, so it took me longer than normal to obtain my degree, which is a requirement in this industry. While I worked a job and went to school full-time, I kept daydreaming constantly about how one day I would wind up where I am today. My patience and determination paid off, however, because now I’m living a dream come true.

Which TEFL course did you complete?
I complete the 120 hour online course. However, I also did some specialist modules. Teaching Business English, Teaching to Online Learners, Teaching Business English, Teaching One-on-One, and Teaching With Limited Resources were some of the skills related subjects I studied. I also took country specific courses in Teaching in Italy, China, Poland, Japan, and South Korea.

A park and lake in peaceful Seoul, South Korea

Why did you choose your teaching location? Do you feel you made the right decision?
I chose South Korea because the nation has a reputation for being safe and a comfortable place for new teachers. The benefits are also nice. Overall, safety, security, and reliability were the main factors.

Where are you teaching? How are you finding the experience?
I have been teaching kids of many different ages, usually in the range from 4 years old to about 11. I work at a private academy. I am really enjoying the experience, but it does get challenging at times.

What’s your favourite thing about living where you do?
Other than having a job that I love, I’m very close to Olympic Park and to a dog café I adore called Lucimon. There is a Pyrenees dog there named Podong I really love. I love grabbing some tea and hanging out with him while I work on writing travel articles or grading assignments.

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Are there any challenges you’ve faced? How did you overcome them?
I really had no prior experience with teaching children, so the adjustment process was a bit hard for me. Figuring out how to discipline properly as well as teach students in effective ways in different class sizes and age levels also proved difficult. Sometimes, it was also hard to juggle a personal life along with such a demanding professional life.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start out teaching English abroad?
Go for it, but don’t jump into it blindly. Do your research. Negotiate your pay. Get TEFL certified, and make sure any contract you look at is valid. Know your rights and employment laws wherever you work. Most opportunities are legitimate, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of, because scams do still exist and there are bad schools out there.

Are you the same person as a year ago?
I would like to think that I am. I’d like to think I’m the same person, just a bit more aware about international issues, female traveling issues, what having to adjust to a culture is like when you’re completely alone, etc. I try to use my experiences to better myself as a person and use those tools to improve my community. I definitely learned I’m stronger than I thought I was.

Students on a field trip to the zoo in Seoul, South Korea

What three things would you choose to take to a desert island, and why?
Sunscreen (safety first), emergency supplies (in case I end up stuck or sick), and a really great book with a pen inside and some blank pages in the back so I could jot down some notes for an article I’d like to publish about the trip later.

Thanks for your time, Emina! It was great chatting with you. All the best in your future teach and travel adventures!

What makes a great TEFL teacher?

Teaching English overseas could be the start of an amazing adventure around the world for those who are ready for a challenge. Many would-be TEFL teachers may be put off by niggling doubts; can I do this? Am I capable? The truth is, TEFL teaching needn’t be scary. When you jet off to teach English overseas, you’ll be starting out on a brand new journey that’s likely to be unlike anything you’ve experienced before. You’ll use skills you will have picked up throughout your life, and you’ll carry them forward with you into your future education and professional endeavours. Here are the skills that will make you an unbeatable TEFL teacher!

 

Be enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

Understand that the language you’re lucky enough to speak is an international tongue that unites and connects people; and by teaching English in overseas communities, you’re giving this gift to the students you teach! Speaking English opens up a huge new world of opportunity for your learners, so hold your head up high and throw yourself into planning some really engaging lessons.

i-to-i TEFL teacher with students in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Remember to be patient.

When you’re starting out in a new school, in a new community, in a brand new country, there are bound to be a number of culture points to get used to, so don’t work yourself up into a tizz the second your hot water doesn’t seem to work. Similarly, your students may need further support and a little more of your time to explain concepts and learning that you may take for granted; remember the language and lifestyle differences may form a barrier, but over time you can dismantle this with really rewarding results.

Use your creativity!

The TEFL classroom can bring out the Picasso in even the most ham-handed teacher, so don’t be afraid to crack out the felt tips! Visual aids such as photographs, pictures and flash cards make the learning process much smoother for learners of all ages, and creative time in the classroom can also be used as a way for the students to get creative and share information about them. Trust us, when you’re repeating your point again and again the hand-made aids will seem like lifesavers!

Open your eyes.

TEFL allows you the opportunity to get under the skin of some of the world’s most unique cultures; those that are markedly different to ours here in the West. While the culture shock can seem overwhelming at first, we believe the beauty of life comes from experiencing brand new things, so get stuck in! Make friends with your fellow teachers, share lunch with your students, explore the local area and learn some more about the context your students are learning in.

Statue at a temple in Thailand

Don’t lose your sense of fun!

Teaching young people will always be a good laugh, but delivering lessons to older learners can be really fun too. The fact is, sometimes your lesson plans might not work, sometimes your class might feel unruly, sometimes lesson plans may get changed around at the last minute. Just take a deep breath, crack a smile and have a laugh about it! Whilst teaching is a serious business, sharing this amazing learning experience with your students should be fun.

If you’re after a new adventure or a change in career then becoming a TEFL teacher could be for you! Check out our range of TEFL Courses here.