How to decide where to start TEFLing

One of the best things about teaching English abroad is that there are so many destination options! With a high demand for TEFL teachers all over the world, the list of where you could teach is endless. So, how do you decide where to start TEFLing? Start by asking yourself these questions…

What do you want to get out of the experience?

It’s important to ask yourself why you want to teach English abroad. Some people might want TEFL to broaden their horizons, give them a chance to get paid to travel the world and see some amazing sights. Whereas, others might want to save money and boost their CV. Where you end up will depend on what you want to get out of the experience. If it’s a good salary you’re looking for, places like China, Japan and the UAE will be perfect for you! But if you’re dreaming of travelling on your days off, you might be better looking at Europe or South East Asia, where it’s easy to get around and you’ll generally have more time off.

Woman walking through street with backpack

What are the job requirements?

Job requirements can vary massively from country to country. From places like Mexico – where you’ll be able to bag a job with just a TEFL certificate – to Dubai, where you’ll need a degree in a relevant field and at least 2 years’ experience along with your TEFL certificate. It’s really important to look into the requirements of each country to make sure you’ll be able to land a job there.

Can you get the correct visa?

With most TEFL jobs, you’ll need a visa to work in that country. There are a few countries where you might be able to get a temporary visa, or a working holiday visa, if you have the correct passport. If you don’t fall under these categories, you’ll generally need to apply for a work visa. Always make sure you check the visa requirements for your chosen country as some places require you to have a certain passport and a degree.

How much money do you want to make?

Will you be happy just breaking even or do you want to make enough to save or cover additional travel costs? In most countries, as a first-time TEFL teacher, you’ll easily make enough money to pay your bills, live comfortably and still enjoy life. But if you’re hoping to be able to put away savings at the end of the month, you’ll have to think carefully about where you want to TEFL. Check out our job guides to get a rough idea of how much you can make and how much it costs to live in each country.

money pot with map

What till the start-up costs be?

Start-up costs for teaching English abroad can vary depending on where you want to teach. If you land a job in Japan, the UAE or China, your TEFL contract will generally include flights, visa fees and accommodation, so you don’t need to worry about start-up costs as such. Just make sure you have enough to cover your living expenses for your first month or so (before you get your first TEFL pay cheque!). For other TEFL countries, you might need to pay for your own flights, accommodation and maybe even visas.

Who do you want to teach?

If you want to teach children, you’ll find thousands of teaching positions all over the world in private and government schools. But if you’ve got your heart set on teaching adults, you might have to choose you country more carefully. China, Japan, South Korea, Costa Rica, Chile and parts of Europe are prime destinations for adult education! Grab yourself a specialist course in teaching Business English and you’ll increase your chances of landing a job in one of these countries.

Can you see yourself living there?

Ultimately, it can all come down to this. Where can you actually see yourself living? Are you dreaming of spending your days off lazing by the beach? Do you want to be able to travel to local countries or have you always wanted to live and work in an uber-modern city with looming skyscrapers? There’s a TEFL country to suit everyone, you just need to work out what you want and if you’ll qualify for the jobs there.

Woman taking picture at Mexican market


Still unsure? Take our handy TEFL quiz to find out which destination suits you!

Top 10 Homesickness Tips When Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad is an amazing experience and brings many unforgettable memories and adventures with it.

Destinations like Thailand, China, and Vietnam have great wonders and new cultures to explore and discover first hand.

Why do we feel homesick?

Yet no matter how adventurous you are and how many new friends you make, homesickness when teaching abroad can hit any of us. Just to be clear that’s absolutely okay.

It doesn’t mean you’re not as adventurous as you thought or that you’re not having a good time, it just means that you’re human and are reflecting on how your new experiences compare to the old ones.

The longing for home can be triggered by something small like a conversation that reminds you of a similar one you’ve had before with friends or family back home, or it can something bigger, like a key holiday time like Christmas, Easter or your birthday.

single person alone crouched on the ground

You may be teaching far away from home, where these holidays are acknowledged in different ways, but Christmas in particular is growing throughout the world, so you’re likely to encounter reminders of it wherever you are.
So, what do you do if homesickness strikes? Our TEFL teachers and interns have experience with this, so we’ve put together some useful tips:

1. Keep going

There’s a reason you were inspired to teach abroad, you just need a reminder. When emotions are high this can seem too difficult, so here are some  suggestions:

a. Bucket List

Write down a bucket list of the places you need to visit or see before going back home, then try to tick as many off this list as you can. The process of putting this list together will help you get into the same inspired state you were in before homesickness came along.

paper with pen and a watch witht he word bucket-list written down

b. Document or photograph

Keeping a journal of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen can be very therapeutic. So, too can taking pictures of what you see. This can be something as straightforward as going to the market or even your commute to school. Use your creativity to re-ignite your wanderlust.

Wat Chai Wattanaram , Thailand

2. Create a routine

A very useful quote from Jim Ryun, American track & field athlete, is: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” 

We all need a sense of routine. New habits and a new routine for your new home will help you feel more at home, but don’t mistake routine for boring. This is your adventure, so create the habits you want to have while here.

Notebook with date and pen

3. Talk about it

Talking is a great healer. Sometimes just saying that we feel homesick out-loud already makes us feel more able to tackle it. Talking with friends or family back home, or sharing your feelings with new friends or roommates or other TEFL interns is a great way to cope with homesickness.

Two girls on phones in a field

4. Don’t feed it

Talking is important, but beware. Homesickness is a hungry beast and a phone call can turn into a weekly catch-up and then into a daily call that you get overwhelmed or can upset you if you miss it.

Keeping in touch with family and friends is important, but if you’re getting more homesick every time you speak with them or see what they’re doing on social media, then a break from it may be just the thing. No need to completely cut everyone off, but reduce the frequency of catching up and checking messages.

smartphone with images of people on social media

5. Dive in and challenge yourself

Which leads us to tip #5. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. It’s so tempting to stay hidden and feel sad, but don’t let this control your actions.

There’s so much to see and do, which you’ve been dreaming of doing. Dive into trips and activities or just get out there and meet new people. You may not feel motivated when you first start, but the activities will soon get you in the mood for more. Anyhow, everything is better with others to share experiences with.

Three women on beach in Thailand looking at boats

6. Share home comforts

Sharing is caring, and with your new group of friends why not share stories of home with them, as well as the things you miss. Craving that Sunday roast? (even though you never thought you would) Do it yourself and invite others to join you.

Or have a big cultural food exchange, where everyone brings their favourite comfort food to share. You may find a new comfort food, you would’ve never known about.

Rice and ice cream dish Asia

7. Learn something new

People have a natural drive to gather information. We need “input” to feel good and as a TEFL teacher you’ll be passing your love for learning on, but are you enjoying it yourself?

To help with homesickness, why not learn something new. You’re in a prime location for learning a new language. No need to be fluent, just pick up some key phrases and swap some with others outside the classroom, too.

Open book with a string tied around it in the shape of a heart

8. Use it to reflect on you

As mentioned before, homesickness can hit us very unexpectedly and can be very confusing. You may have never been homesick before, but still feel it on this particular trip.

Rather than feel bad about feeling it, why not reflect on what may be the cause. What is it you’re missing and what will you take away from this experience? You may learn something new about yourself that will help you grow in a way you hadn’t realised was an option before.

Woman looking out on Lake reflecting on life

“Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success and freedom”, Vikas Runwal

9. Be active

It’s not just fueling our mind that we need to stay balanced,  but our bodies need the chance to get a change of scene. Getting the heart pumping releases so called feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids).

There’s a reason we feel satisfied after a run. Give getting some exercise a try, when you’re feeling blue. Running is a quick and easy option, especially running with others in an area you know and are comfortable in, but there’s also joining some sport societies or clubs.

Person jogging with inspiring mountain landscape

10. Write your future self a letter

If things are getting really out of control, then turn to a writing therapy technique. Write your future self a letter about what it is you want to feel, what you currently are feeling, what you want to get out of this experience and how you plan to achieve.

Sometimes the only person who can understand us are ourselves, so talk to you and put a plan of action in place.

Basically, don’t let homesickness stop you. No matter if you’re generally feeling homesick or the holidays are getting you down, do remember that you’re never alone.

There’s plenty of support out there and very understanding people with you.

Two rocks with drawings round so they are holding hands

You can have a fantastic time teaching abroad even with homesickness. You’re where you are for a very important reason and you’ve got the chance to make the most of it.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow, experience new things and see the world while teaching abroad, then take a look at all of our travel products:

Happy holidays to all our teachers abroad from i-to-i.

New Zealand Beach with canoes