Why Teach Abroad?
For everybody who travels, going to another country is an amazing opportunity. You get to experience other cultures, explore exciting places and escape from the normalcy of everyday life. But for teachers, teaching in another country is an educational experience in and of itself. It gives them the chance to learn more about education, to see how students in other countries learn, to explore different methods and gain teaching experience most educators don’t have. Something people often assume about those who go abroad before starting their “real jobs” is that they’re wasting their time, that they’re evading responsibility by going off on some silly adventure. That’s simply not true. Teachers in other countries are earning a living educating students while they explore. But they’re still teaching. They’re still making a difference. A lot of teachers even fall so in love with their new country that they decide to stay there permanently.
Teaching in other countries is like teaching in other states, insofar as you need to thoroughly research the requirements for the place you want to work. There are many programs that don’t require any teaching experience whatsoever. Programs like this are very popular among people who don’t really want to teach but are looking for the abroad experience. If you want to become a teacher though, these programs also offer an invaluable teaching experience that you can carry with you throughout your entire career.
Recent graduates who are not yet sure where they want to teach can participate in these programs for guidance. They can also use the experience to strengthen their application to graduate school to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching or Masters in Education, or to a teacher education program. Experience like this is almost always a huge selling point. Whether you’re looking to continue your education or find a teaching job, this line on your resume shows you’re serious about teaching.Return to the top
The first step is deciding where you want to teach. Which country has always fascinated you? What have you always wanted to see? These answers are as personal to you as your reason for teaching, but it’s important to know exactly where you want to go, otherwise you could potentially have an unhappy experience. Research the culture of the country, the climate, the political atmosphere. No matter how exotic a place may look, the most important thing is that it’s safe. The U.S. Department of State has some great advice about health issues, safety issues, and even current travel warnings for certain countries. Once you know where you want to teach, you need to see what that country offers for American teachers. GoAbroad.com and Teachaway.com is an excellent tool for this.
There are one of two general routes open to you. First of all, you can apply to a teaching program. Teaching programs are ideally suited for recent graduates looking for experience before becoming teachers. Most programs are for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and countries are actively seeking native English speakers who are young, talented, mobile and eager to teach. While every program is different, most run for one year and offer a monthly salary, some benefits, housing accommodations, travel assistance and vacation time. One of the best parts is that most places don’t require you to know the local language, so your possibilities are endless. GoAbroad.com has a teach abroad search, and the Department of State also has great resources for teaching overseas and information on international schools. The Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program has the Teacher Exchange Program that lets working teachers have an abroad experience.
You can also apply directly to teaching jobs that are not through a program. When doing this, you need to pay closer attention to the requirements of that country. Most jobs are by contract (usually a year), salaried and many still provide the amenities that teaching programs offer, such as housing, airfare, vacation and benefits. You apply to these jobs as you would any job in the United States. GoAbroad.com and Teachaway.com have online job boards for teachers in other countries, and the Department of State has contact information for international schools. There are also sites dedicated to posting international teaching jobs, like The International Educator, and sites that are specific to certain countries, like worknplay.co.kr, a site that posts teaching jobs in Korea.
Once you’ve secured your teaching position, be it through a program or job listing, you need to get the proper authorization to travel abroad. Because you’re going to be working in another country, you don’t just need a passport but also a visa. This can be a complicated process, and every country has its own guidelines for issuing visas, so pay close attention every step of the way. Observe all important deadlines, gather the proper documentation and fill out every form they ask of you. Some countries, particularly in South America and Africa, require immunizations and vaccinations before they issue a visa. All will require you to set up a meeting at their embassy in the United States. The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs offers country specific information for Americans traveling abroad.Return to the top
You can have a successful teaching experience virtually anywhere. A lot of what will factor into your decision is the country’s demand for teachers, the opportunities they make available and the benefits they offer. Asian countries are usually the most popular among American teachers because they pay the most. Korea, for example, often pays for travel expenses, makes accommodations for housing and pays the equivalent of $2,000--$3,000 per month. The cost of living is also affordable, so your salary goes farther. A place like Japan, on the other hand, pays a comparable salary, but the cost of living is much higher. Again, consult with the Department of State to learn about any safety issues, and for some people who are a little weary of the culture shock, teaching in a developed nation may be less jarring than teaching in a developing nation. If adventure’s your thing, though, then go for it! CertificationMap.com has some great information about international teaching and the different countries where you can teach.Return to the top
The subjects taught in schools in other countries are as varied as in the United States, and what you teach will depend on your job. You may apply to international teaching jobs based on your subject of interest or you may be asked by your employer to teach a certain subject. The subjects in high demand vary by country, but one thing is almost universally true: English is always in high demand. English is often called the “global language,” and it is one of the most valuable and influential languages in the world. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is the most common area teachers abroad go into. Native speakers of English are the most sought after for TESOL programs, though your country of origin may play a factor in your desirability. Many countries in Europe prefer British English, so you’ll be competing for TESOL jobs with teachers from the United Kingdom. This isn’t always the case, just something to keep in mind. Regardless, if you’re a native speaker of English, you have already fulfilled one of the fundamental requirements for most TESOL programs in other countries.Return to the top