Exams done. Presentations delivered. Dissertations handed in. Three consecutive nights out amidst too much sambuca celebrating the end of university life – survived. But now what? As a follow up from an earlier globocation post concerning that minefield of choice students face when they graduate, I thought I’d write another piece, specifically about teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and why it’s such a cool thing to do when you’re abroad.
Let’s not stop at post-grad students as the only bunch that would benefit from the whole TEFL experience. Undertaking a teaching job overseas is also a cool thing to do if you’re stuck in a soul destroying job, yearning for a change of scene and desperate for cultural exchange with a different race of people who will be as intrigued by your presence as you will be with their whole country.
Jetting off overseas (whether post uni or after dumping that horrific 9-5 job) and mixing a spot of independent travel with a CV enhancing stint as a TEFL teacher can reward you with increased levels of self-confidence and character building skills in abundance. Unlike the backpacker who visits a place for 2 or 3 days, ‘does the sights’ before trotting off to the next place on the tourist trail, a TEFL teacher is based in a place for months or even years, giving them an excellent insight into local culture. Some TEFL placements are in schools so far away from the tourist hotspots it’s likely you could be the only English speaker (until you educate the masses!), allowing you the opportunity to forge some amazing friendships with the people of real China, remote Ecuador or perhaps rural Japan.
Not only would embarking on a TEFL course develop your own resume it would also accelerate your pupils learning’s and open up potential career opportunities in their own lives. In fact, the British Council estimates that there are approximately 1 billion people trying to learn English today, 75% of which are in countries where English isn’t even a second or third language. Even within the closed communist borders of North Korea, TEFL teachers are in huge demand because people are so keen to learn English to boost their own career prospects given the international acceptance of English, predominantly in the western world.
It makes a lot of sense to teach English abroad, especially if you’re hoping to become a teacher back in the UK once your wanderlust has subsided. TEFL teaching is solid, practical, classroom experience that future employers can’t ignore. However, even if teaching isn’t a long term career goal a TEFL position will undoubtedly give you key strengths that all employers seek such as communication skills, confidence in public speaking, thinking on your feet, and perhaps most importantly of all, the tenacity to solve problems when you’re literally thousands of miles out of your comfort zone!
Due to the global demand for TEFL teachers there are financial benefits to getting a teaching post in most countries across the world whether rich or poor. For example, it’s not uncommon to earn £1,000 per month in South Korea which usually includes free accommodation, a million miles better than a dull temping job in the UK. Likewise, in Japan earnings can be up to £1,750 per month and even at the other end of the economic spectrum, Indonesian TEFL vacancies are offering £500 per month, ample wages to live very comfortably. It gets better, depending on which company organises your TEFL placement, you’ll have your flights reimbursed and receive a cash bonus for completing full terms. In the example of Japan, it is such an expensive country to travel around that a paid teaching post will allow you to have an extended stay for months on end without burning a hole in your traveller’s wallet.
There are travel companies such as i-to-i.com, skilled in handling the practicalities of organising TEFL placements abroad, from weekend teacher training courses to the logistics of getting to your school which could be well off the beaten track. For more information try diving into this rather comprehensive guide on all things TEFL related: Graduate’s Guide to Teaching and Travelling Abroad.
Choosing the right TEFL course is important and as the guide suggests, some countries have varying qualification requirements so decide where you’d like to go and make sure you’re in the best position possible to apply for a post in your chosen country. Most schools recruit from May to July for the following September so what are you waiting for? Go and globocate yourself!