Unleashing the Power of Travel: A Guide to Teaching English as a Second Language

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Key Insights

  1. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) is a cost-effective method to globe-trot.
  2. Both novice and retired teachers can seize the opportunity to teach English overseas.
  3. Participate in a certification program to master the nuances of language instruction.
  4. Numerous government initiatives help cover expenses and reward teachers with benefits like complimentary flights and lodging.

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) abroad is an experience that many educators cherish, not just for the substantial travel benefits it provides. Travel is undeniably a part of the deal, allowing you to explore not just your host country but also other destinations. The income you earn can supplement your travel budget or even fund your entire journey. In essence, accepting an ESL teaching position abroad is a cost-effective way to satisfy your wanderlust.

Who Can Apply?
Age is not a barrier. Young teachers might find the prospect appealing before they establish themselves in a local classroom. Overseas opportunities might also attract mid-career teachers seeking a change, depending on their home responsibilities. Moreover, retired teachers need not worry about age bias. Some regions, like the Middle East, specifically seek seasoned educators and offer competitive salaries to lure them.

What Are the Prerequisites?
Even if you’re not a language teacher, your teaching certification gives you an advantage. However, you’ll need to join a certification program—there are several—to learn the intricacies of language instruction. CELTA, TESOL, TESL, and TEFL are some of the programs and acronyms you’ll encounter in the ESL teaching industry. Also, familiarize yourself with the term EFL (English as a Foreign Language), as teaching English in non-English-speaking countries is referred to as EFL, not ESL.

The University of Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) enjoys high regard. Alison Wofford, Associate Director of Academics at Pace University’s English Language Institute in New York City, and a former overseas teacher in Zimbabwe and Italy, describes it as a “golden ticket” for teaching abroad.

For information on certification programs, check out TEFL.com, a valuable resource for teaching abroad that includes a comprehensive, regularly updated job board. Other websites like Teach Away, Reach to Teach, and Dave’s ESL Café are also worth exploring. If you’re interested in teaching at a top international school, recruiters like Search Associates and International Schools Services (ISS) can help.

Where Can You Teach?
A plethora of countries are on the lookout for English teachers, offering a wide range of teaching positions. You could be teaching English to adults in a corporate environment, as Wofford did in Milan, or leading a middle school class in Beijing. Some roles require a year-long contract (often with a completion bonus), while others are more freelance, allowing you to choose your workload. However, align your holidays with your host country’s vacation schedule to avoid income gaps.

When deciding where to teach English, consider the quality of life. Don’t dismiss a moderate salary without considering the cost of living. Countries like Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam offer a high standard of living for less, allowing you to enjoy a unique culture, live comfortably, and save for additional travel.

What Are the Perks?
If you’re keen on a country with a high cost of living, don’t lose hope. Many countries have government schemes that help cover costs and provide benefits like free flights and accommodation. Consider programs like the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program or the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). Even countries with a lower cost of living have initiatives to attract teachers, like Columbia’s Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) and the English Program in Korea (EPIK). Most of these programs also assist with the visa process, a crucial consideration. Always ask your employer if they can assist with the visa.

Finding ESL Jobs
There are numerous online platforms where you can find ESL jobs. Websites like ESL Jobs World, ESL Employment, and ESL Cafe regularly post job listings for both in-person and online ESL teaching positions. For online teaching opportunities specifically, check out VIPKid, Qkids, and EF Education First.

Final Words of Wisdom
“There’s a fear of hiring the backpacker teacher,” warns Wofford. Employers are cautious about hiring individuals who might abandon their teaching assignments to travel. Expressing a desire to travel during an interview can be a red flag. While it’s evident that you enjoy travel if you’re willing to relocate, it’s crucial to convey your commitment to teaching.

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