How to get a job teaching English abroad

by Michelle on June 5, 2012 · 4 comments

One of the best jobs for people who love to travel is teaching English abroad. Not only do you get to do something rewarding everyday, but you get to travel and live abroad! Depending on where you want to teach, there’s always a demand for English teachers, which is great, but at the same time, there’s also a large number of applicants, which can make open positions very competitive.

For this post, I’ve interviewed one of my best friends from high school, Leana, who is also a recent grad, and will be teaching English in Asia! While we went to different universities in different cities, it was pretty exciting when we discovered that we both made similar post-graduation plans to teach abroad!

Leana’s currently planning for her one month teaching position in Taiwan, and then Korea for a year after that. She also has a blog in the making, so stay tuned for ways to follow her on her adventure abroad!

In the meantime, here’s some of Leana’s advice and tips for getting a job teaching English in Asia.

Teaching position: 1 month at Heng Yee School through the Interactive English Program in Taipei, Taiwan (AYJGlobal)

Where have you previously travelled before landing this teaching position, and what originally made you interested in teaching English abroad?

So far, I have only travelled within Canada, to the US (Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Florida, New York, etc.) and to Cuba. I know, it’s sad! I have an itch to go explore the world though, and now that I’ve graduated, I can start my adventure abroad! I’m particularly interested in teaching English abroad because I love teaching and because it will be a way for me to both be a “sustainable traveler” (be able to financially survive wherever I travel!) as well as to develop as a teacher. Also, one of my goals is to do research into school systems around the world and to use my international teaching experience to work on educational reform back here in Canada. So basically, I love to teach, I love languages and I love to travel. What better way to combine what I love to do?

What other countries have you considered? Do you find the application process consistent, or is it much more difficult or easier to apply to in different countries?

I’m planning on teaching in South Korea after Taiwan. I’d love to visit the different continents though. Eventually I’ll make my way around the world :) Definitely Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Morocco are near the top of my list) and Europe (particularly France, Italy, Switzerland, England, Greece, Poland…) will come after Asia.

Me and Leana in high school

I haven’t looked into the application process in depth for these countries, but I believe that there are more options open for shorter contracts (1 month, 6 months, etc.). I also think it could be harder to save money from teaching jobs in some of these countries because of salary and cost of living differences.  I guess time will tell if it is easier or more difficult! Overall though, having a working visa, completing the application, providing references, having an interview over skype or the phone and providing a police check seem to be some of the key steps in the application process.

What educational/work background do you have? What experiences do they look for in the application? Do you recommend getting a TOEFL?

I just recently completed my Bachelor of Arts (English and French double major) and my Bachelor of Education (Intermediate-Senior stream).  For this particular job, the requirements are very specific. You need to have a Bachelor of Education and be a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. They also want someone who is passionate about teaching, about learning about new cultures/traveling and who will benefit from it for their future goals.  The actual program involves getting ESL (Part 1 or Part 2) certified and it is actually part of an Additional Qualification (AQ) course for teachers. So I do a 6-week course in Toronto to learn about teaching ESL (with the other teachers who were accepted) and then go actually teach in Taipei for a month. So you don’t need a TOEFL – you get a certification through the AYJGlobal program.

Would you be able to explain a bit regarding the application process on a whole? How long did it take? Are there costs associated with it?

The application process involved filling out an application form, submitting a resume and a cover letter that answered a couple of questions (such as why I want to do this program), submitting phone references and completing an interview. They had a couple pools of teachers to choose from (experienced teachers, returning teachers and recent Bed graduates from York, OISE, etc.) There was about a month and a half of interviews, so I heard back about 2 months after the interview.  A long wait, but completely worth it! The only cost is the ESL AQ course (around $800) that I do before leaving. They pay for flights, accommodations and also some of our food (i.e. buffet lunches during the week)! Other than that, AYJGlobal is organizing the flights, visas, etc. so there aren’t any other major costs!

Do you have any plans made for after Taiwan?

Yes, I have plans to explore other parts of Asia. I’m hoping to start by teaching in South Korea for a year, and within that time to also visit other countries like Japan, China, Thailand and Indonesia. I also plan to do my Masters in a couple of years (I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being abroad haha) and to try to find a good volunteering or internship position (perhaps in Africa).

What are you most excited about in moving to Taiwan?
Definitely the culture. I want to experience culture shock – as much as it sounds ridiculous, I want to go out of my comfort zone and to experience the many ways that people live their lives and I’m willing to embrace it! Also, I’m pumped for the kids. I can’t wait to have my own classes and to teach there. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the food. Bubble tea? Yes, please!

What are some tips you have for others who wish to teach English in Asia?

Make sure you talk to lots of people who have taught English in Asia.  Talking to teachers who have already been to Taiwan has been so invaluable. Stay on top of the paperwork too! It’s a lot (and never-ending!) but when you’re going somewhere for such a lengthy period of time, especially as an amateur traveler, you’ll feel so much more relaxed, knowing that you’ve got things figured out and that you can really enjoy! Also, if you’re going through an agency, make the best use of them as you can. Sure, I bombard them with questions, but they’re there to help!

What are some resources you used to research about teaching English in Asia?

I scoured through many blogs (thanks to all of you!) and tried to contact as many people as I could who live there (i.e. conversationexchange.com), have taught abroad or are currently there teaching! I find that the best information comes from the people who have had the experience, not so much the little impersonal travel books.  A couple of the best questions that I like to ask people are: What is something that you didn’t expect (could be positive or negative)? Also, what is one thing you would do differently knowing what you now know? I’ll be able to answer those questions before you know it :)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ronald June 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Hi Michelle, I think you will be successful on traveling around the world specially if you can teach English language because you will always have a good job when you live in a country that needs people who can teach English language.

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Michelle Michelle June 20, 2012 at 3:14 am

Yes, that’s true! teaching English can be great for travel :)

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George June 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

Unfortunately if you are not native English speaker, chances that you will get a job are quite low…

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Michelle Michelle June 29, 2012 at 3:49 am

Yea, that’s true…but there are always other job opportunities as well for other things!

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