Teach Abroad: Your Ticket to the World
Spurred by both the ready availability of information online and the economic downturn in most Western countries, teaching English abroad has become a viable job opportunity for more and more recent graduates. With too many liberal arts students facing a minimum wage desk job, unpaid internship, or unemployment if they stay in the United States, teaching English as a Second Language, (ESL as it’s known in the industry,) offers them a chance to interact with students of a subject they’re experts on while gaining valuable work experience and the chance to live in a different country.
Even if somebody has no formal background in teaching, with the demand for English classes higher than ever a native speaker can have more or less their pick of the market. Often simply having a college degree in English will be enough to land you a job, though of course having a teaching certification (TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA,) will help you bargain for a higher salary.
So where is the best place to start? Luckily, the internet is full of resources for the prospective English teacher. Websites like TEFL.com, Dave’s ESL Café, and Matador Network have excellent forums and international job boards, and many colleges offer TESOL certification courses, both in-class and online. If you’re impatient to start traveling, there are plenty of TEFL and CELTA courses abroad that will offer you a job placement afterwards.
Depending on your motivation for teaching English, there are a wide variety of options to choose from. The highest-paying countries are Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan, which can offer teachers a salary of $2,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on your experience. Bear in mind that Japan has a high cost of living, and there are many restrictions that come with living in Saudi Arabia, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Russia also has an enormous demand for native English speakers and many schools offer a slightly higher salary for jobs in less glamorous cities in Siberia. China offers less money by western standards, but its low cost of living can allow foreigners to save a decent amount of money by the end of their contract. There are currently over 100,000 native English teachers currently in China, ensuring that you’ll have a strong social network of ex-pats to fall back on. Countries in southeast Asia also have plenty of job openings for English teachers, offering gorgeous tropical environments as well as extremely low prices.
Of course there can be drawbacks to teaching abroad—aside from lower salaries and living conditions if you plan to teach in a developing country, you can run into obstacles involving red tape, visa issues, and employees’ rights, which may not be set in stone depending on how legitimate your school is. (When I taught in Moscow, I found myself having to leave the country every three months to renew my visa, as some minister or another’s ousting from power meant that they were no longer offering year-long visas to foreigners.) To be sure, teaching abroad is certainly not for everyone, and culture shock and homesickness can affect even the most adventurous. However, if you are energetic and open-minded, with a passion for teaching and meeting new people, it can be a fascinating experience (and resume-builder) that you will value for the rest of your life!