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 for detailed course reviews, and sites like Trustpilot and, 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 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.