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Occasionally dreaming about leaving familiarity for a new life abroad is fairly common, but for some people, it becomes much more than just a fantasy. In fact, the number of US citizens living abroad was around 2.8 million in 2020. What makes so many people pack up and leave?
How do they choose their destination? More importantly, how do they fund their new life?
As you can imagine, there are many reasons for moving to a foreign country, and it isn’t always about wanderlust. Sometimes, travelling is the best option when you need time and space to find yourself.
Other times, living abroad offers professional or personal opportunities that you might not be able to find in your own country.
Whatever it is, the purpose or the cause that motivates people to live abroad is very personal to them, and so is their choice of where to go.
The financial aspect of supporting a new life abroad, however, is something that most of those willing to take the plunge have in common. Some have been able to successfully make a living with travel blogging, but this requires being constantly – or frequently – on the move, and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Another way of earning money while living abroad is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). According to those who have been involved in this industry, teaching English abroad can be the biggest and boldest adventure of your life.
There are incredible opportunities in TEFL and never a dull moment. You can experience living abroad, meeting new people daily, learning about the local culture, and helping your students achieve their language goals. It might sound like hard work – and it is! – but it’s incredibly fulfilling.
As well as learning about others, you will learn a lot about yourself: you’ll develop resilience and compassion, resourcefulness and understanding, and you might also learn the local language among other practical skills.
Do You Have What It Takes to TEFL Abroad?
Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation: not everyone has the calling. Here are a few key features of good TEFL teachers:
They’re life-long learners. Being curious and eager to learn will broaden your mind and make your foreign adventure more exciting, but you will soon realise that you don’t need to go far to discover something new – your students can teach you just as much – if not more! – as you can teach them.
They’re flexible. Thinking on your feet will become second nature – in and outside the classroom. Lessons don’t always go to plan and your work environment might be different from what you expected. You might face all sorts of challenges, from basic technology to scarce resources, but you will strive to deliver a successful lesson nonetheless.
They’re engaging. Nowadays, teaching and learning are a dynamic process that involves all participants: lecture-style lessons in a class full of quiet students are – mostly – a thing of the past. It has been shown that genuine interest and engagement from the learners maximise learning potential, so your lessons should be practical and engaging.
They’re culturally sensitive. You will experience customs and traditions that you might not be familiar with. You might not understand some of them, while you might not agree with others. Always remember to be respectful of a country that has welcomed you as its guest.
Are You the Right Fit for the Job?
In many countries, a university degree is a visa requirement for international workers, but there are still many options in countries where you don’t need one. Some European countries, like Greece, Romania, Spain, and Italy, for example, where you can teach English as a foreign language at private language academies, without a degree.
If you are interested in exploring continents other than Europe, you’ll find that Mexico, Cambodia, and India welcome international teachers without a degree. However, if you are planning to teach at the university level, or even in certain public or private schools, a bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement.
Nowadays, the most important qualification you’ll need to teach English as a foreign language abroad is an accredited 120-hour TEFL certificate from a reputable provider. Finding TEFL jobs without a relevant qualification might be possible, but it’s not recommended.
Reliable and trusted schools are quite selective and prefer to hire educators who have solid teaching foundations: a TEFL course will do just that. It’ll give you the knowledge necessary to start your teaching career with confidence.
Upon successful completion of the course, you will receive a certificate as evidence of your newly acquired teaching knowledge, which covers areas such as methodology, the mechanics of the language, how to teach language skills, classroom management, lesson planning, and materials writing. Most course providers will also guide you during your first job application.
What Should You Be Aware Of?
Some countries have a strict policy of hiring only teaching staff with a passport from the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa, where English is the native language. However, this is unfair and discriminatory, and some progress has been made toward equality between native and non-native English teachers.
If you are a non-native English speaker looking to teach English abroad, don’t despair. Chile, Thailand, Cambodia, and Spain are among the many countries that employ non-native English-speaking teachers, as long as they are fluent.
Age is another aspect to consider when looking for TEFL jobs abroad. Although some countries apply an age limit to both local and international teachers, there are others, like Nepal, India, and Thailand, that don’t have any age restrictions.
It’s also important to think about who you want to teach and potential class sizes. You might be comfortable in a class with five kindergarten-age children, but how would you cope with twenty of them?
Would you be confident teaching in a state school with 50 teenagers per class? Or would you prefer teaching young adults or professionals? This should also be taken into consideration when you choose your destination.
Are You Ready to Take Your First Steps into TEFL?
Whether you choose to teach English as a foreign language as a temporary role or you want to turn it into your life-long career, the TEFL industry has a lot to offer and there’s something for anyone who is passionate about travelling, learning, and – of course – teaching English.
To find out more, have a look at what is TEFL strategies and what is available online to help you in your adventure abroad.
Author Bio: Daniel Thornton has been a TEFL instructor and trainer since 2011. In that time, he has work across three continents, and in a range of countries. Using this experience, he has become comfortable and confident in adapting to new environments, meeting new challenges, and learning new things quickly.
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