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Monday, 3 November 2014

Questions to Answer before going to Travel and Teach

There are many reasons people decide to travel and teach. Once you are in an EFL environment and you start to interact with other teachers, you will find that their reasons will be similar to yours. Some people travel overseas to work simply because the pay is better. In an EFL situation, the pay may not be any better than what you could earn at home, but the cost of living is so low, and you receive so many benefits that it does work out more economical in the end.

Other people travel because they want to ‘get away’ from their life back home. This may seem like a selfish reason, however, everyone has stages in their life that they wish to put behind them. Travelling to an EFL country, starting a new career and learning a new language allow people to start a whole new, positive, chapter in their lives.

Another common reason why people travel is for the adventure. Young people in particular can feel as though they need to expand their horizons. Jumping headfirst into a TEFL position can provide these experiences which open minds in ways other jobs cannot. Nothing will give you an appreciation for other cultures and ways of life like travelling to another country where you don’t speak the language, and living and working there. It will force you to be independent and to take responsibility for your life.

While many people entertain the idea of travelling and working, how do you know if you can? It seems like such a commitment, and the pay seems low at first glance. But the truth is, the whole thing is actually quite easy if you prepare yourself.
 

“I want to travel and teach but I’m not sure if I am qualified” – This is a common thought that runs through many new teachers’ heads. The truth is that in the TEFL industry, the number one factor for determining your eligibility for work is being a native English speaker. It is not always necessary to have an absolute understanding of every aspect of grammar, but being able to provide real-world examples of the language is the first thing that employers look for.

“I don’t know which country to go to” – The trick to finding the perfect place for you is to shop around. In recent years, the most popular places for EFL teachers have been N.E Asian countries (China, Japan and South Korea). This is because their growing economies mean they are able to offer teachers attractive pay/holiday/benefit packages. They are used to dealing with native English speakers, so they know how to accommodate them.

Plenty of people wish to travel to other regions of the world (Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East). In these cases, individual schools can vary greatly and it is a good idea to contact them directly to find out exactly what their hiring processes are.

If you get the chance, talk to a few teachers who are already working there to get an idea of what life is like, and whether it is suitable for you.

“I want some training before I get there and am thrown into my first class” – This is completely understandable. No one wants to look under-prepared when they turn up to their first day on the job, which is why Teflen Training College courses provide students with the very latest in TEFL training. Good online courses require students to prepare lesson plans and give feedback on them. You should also ask your trainer any questions you think of while you are training. Remember that the only bad questions are the ones not asked.

“Do I need to have much money before I go?” – While schools may pay for your flights, it is usually through reimbursement, which means you will need to have the flight money up front. It is also a good idea to have some emergency money, as it may be up to a month before you get paid and you will need to get set up. Many schools offer their teachers accommodation, yet there will undoubtedly be some more things you will need to make yourself comfortable. Some schools may be able to advance you some of your first pay, but you should have some spare cash, just in case.

“I’m worried I won’t know anybody, or have any support” – Honestly, this can be the biggest problem for new EFL teachers. Hopefully, you find employment with a school that has other foreign teachers working there, so you will have someone to talk to who understands your perspective. Also, if there is one English school in a city, there are usually many more, and you will most likely meet other English teachers from a range of backgrounds. This community is typically quite strong and helpful, but if you still feel the pressures of culture shock, you can contact your friends and family back home for free over skype.

“What do I pack?” – This really depends on where you are travelling. Remember that most essentials will be available there (because the people that live there are able to get by, just fine). However, the climate could be quite different to where you are from, so pack appropriate clothes. Also, don’t hesitate to take some mementos from home to help keep you sane in the new environment.

“I’m ready to go!” – That’s great! But don’t jump the gun. Make sure your employment contract is acceptable, and your working visas are in order. Remember that schools want you there working and so they should be able to help you through every step of the way.

If you have any more questions or advice about travelling and teaching, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Top Reasons to Travel and Teach

paddle

Are you still deciding whether or not to make the commitment and become a certified TEFL trainer, travel overseas to a country where you don’t speak the language and work for a year or two? That’s understandable. It can be a daunting task for any first time teacher, and even experienced teachers struggle in new environments. However, if you are confident enough and prepare yourself before you go, there are many benefits to working as an EFL instructor. For information on preparing to travel and teach, you can check out our earlier blog posts. Making sure you are well prepared will help you make the most of your trip and ensure you experience minimal difficulties.

In this article, we will cover just a few of the perks, or bonuses that come with a good TEFL job, and with the experience of travelling and teaching.

1. Independence
One of the main reasons people travel overseas is to ‘find themselves’. It sounds cliché, but experiencing a new culture by immersing yourself in it definitely teaches you a lot about life, and a lot about yourself. One benefit of travelling and teaching is you need to take care of yourself, and overcome your problems (somewhat) on your own. Life is definitely more enjoyable when you know you don’t have to rely on others to get by.

2. Money
This needs to be close to the top of the list, because even though teaching English as a foreign language will not make you ultra-rich, it is a good way to save money while still having a good quality of life. In many TEFL countries you will be paid a modest amount compared to in your home country, however, it will most likely be a good amount for the country you live in. In most EFL environments, teachers are considered professionals and are held to a high standard. You will typically be paid more than enough to get by, and by preparing most of your own meals and living thrifty, you are able to save a good proportion of it.

3. Experiences
Travelling and working opens up a world of new experiences for any new teacher. In many cases, teachers will use their free time to learn a new skill (like a local sport, or art) or to get out and see something they have always dreamt of. If teaching in China, it is quite easy to spend a weekend hiking the Great Wall. If teaching in Switzerland, why not learn to ski? Working as an EFL instructor means you will have the money and time to have plenty of ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences. You can also expand your pallet by trying new food.

4. Welcoming atmosphere
As mentioned, English teachers are generally well respected around the world. In most cultures, teachers are considered to be intelligent and thoughtful. When working as a teacher in a foreign country, you will find a lot of people open up to you when they find out you are a teacher. People will go out of their way to speak to you. This can be overwhelming at times, but most of the time it is friendly and useful.

5. Change of pace
In our everyday lives, we tend to rush around and don’t get a chance to take in our surroundings. Typically, the teachers in EFL environments are not overloaded with work. In fact, many jobs only require teachers to work 5-6 hours a day, and most work contracts contain sections relating to holidays. Most schools will find you accommodation in close proximity to the school meaning there is no need to commute, as it is only a short walk away.

6. Meeting new people
The TEFL industry covers a wide variety of countries, and EFL teachers come from a variety of backgrounds. Depending on where you teach, you will have a chance to meet a whole new range of people. You will obviously meet a lot of people from the country you are working in, but your co-workers will also be a mix of nationalities, age groups, teaching skills and background. Even the city you live in will likely have a vibrant community of ‘foreign teachers’, who organize all types of fun activities, from parties to trivia nights. These connections will stay with your for the rest of your life and meeting people who share the same interests can pay off years later. Meeting friends from a wide variety of places means you will also have people to visit when you travel in years to come.

7. Get a fresh start
While it is generally not a good idea to run away from your troubles, sometimes the best thing you can do is pack up and get a fresh start. Some people travel because they want to get into a new career, others because they need a steady income. The idea of travelling overseas for a fresh start is not a new one, and can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

These are just some of the great things you can get out of a career in TEFL. In the vast majority of cases, the ‘pros’ outweigh the ‘cons’ and if you speak to EFL trainers, they will tell you how amazing the whole experience is.

Do you know any other great reasons to travel and teach? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.
 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Adventurous Cuisines of EFL Countries

When people travel to a new country, one thing that can prove to be a challenge is navigating the menus and supermarkets to find food that you enjoy. Human beings require a wide variety of nutrients, and different cultures get these from different sources and eat them in different combinations. This is just part of what distinguishes different cultures and makes life so amazing.

Unfortunately, some teachers struggle with new food, and find that the national cuisine is too different. In some cases, it can be too spicy, in other cases, teachers’ can find it hard to fulfil their own dietary constraints (such as being vegetarian, or allergic to shellfish). In these cases, it is best to prepare your own food, or find a group of other people who share your restrictions and work together to help each other find markets and restaurants which cater to your tastes.

For those teachers who don’t have any dietary constraints, travelling to a new country can be a chance to expand your pallet and try something new and adventurous. In this article, we will highlight some of the strangest cuisines available in EFL countries.





South Korea

The home of Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), South Korea tops this list as it has so many strange dishes for travelers to try. One thing it is well known for, is the unusual dish “poshintang” (or dog stew). This is a summer dish and only served in specific restaurants. While not typically a favourite for westerners, a truly adventurous eater may seek it out. More commonly available are “Bondegi” (silk worm larva), and if you make friends with some older Korean men, they might invite you on a trip to a national park to try “SanNakji” (live…yes, live squid).









China

China is such a huge country that different regions specialize in different foods and the cuisine can vary greatly between cities. One delicacy rumored to have been invented in Hunan, about 600 years ago, is the “Century Egg”, these are chicken, duck or quail eggs that have been preserved, turning the yolk green and the white, brown. If these eggs aren’t to your liking, you can always try “FengZhao” (Chicken Feet). These are growing in popularity and can be found in some bars as ‘beer snacks’, the way we eat peanuts in the west.










Mexico

Most people think of tacos and nachos when they think of Mexican food. However, like many EFL countries, there is a secret world of food to be discovered. There is the “cabeza de cabrito”, which is a whole goat’s head. This is prepared like a soup or stew, and is a lot tastier than the name suggests. People also eat “Huitlacoche” which is a type of fungus infected corn. While this fungus is considered a pest in most countries, some Mexicans harvest the infected plants and the fungus is used as a mushroom like filling in some quesadillas.









Sweden

Up in the frozen North of Europe, people have developed some ingenious, and stomach turning delicacies. “Lappkok” is a dumpling made of reindeer blood as well as some other ingredients. There are also blood pancakes. People also love “Surströmming”, which is a sour fermented herring. Be careful opening a tin of this indoors as the smell is overpowering.










Brazil

What we consider to be strange is often a normal part of life in EFL countries. Where many westerners dislike the idea of eating the organs of animals (preferring the meat), many cultures do their best to waste as little as possible. “Churrasco de curacao” are chicken hearts usually served on skewers. They are delicious if you don’t think about it. Less of a traditional dish and more unusual than horrifying, is sweet-corn ice cream. Brazil is a hot country, and has plenty of corn, so it is not really surprising that this has been invented.









Japan

It was only a couple of decades ago that sushi was considered a strange delicacy in western countries. Now, it has become one of Japan’s biggest cultural exports. While westerners may want to stick to flavors like teriyaki chicken and fried shrimp, in Japan there are many more varieties and flavors available. “Sashimi” is thinly sliced raw fish and many people find it refreshing. “Fugu” is a poisonous blowfish that must be prepared professionally to get the best flavor and avoid the poison. If you feel like Japanese cuisine is no problem and you enjoy the subtle flavors of sushi, you may also want to try wasabi beer.








Don’t forget that while these foods may be unusual, they are part of each country’s national identity and culture. If you happen to be served something you don’t like or is too strange for you, most people will understand if you are polite. Remember, however, that variety is the spice of life and you’ll never know how good food is until you try it.
 

What is the strangest things you have eaten? Do you have some experience with unusual cuisine? Let us know in the comments section.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Dealing with the Director of your School

directorTraveling and teaching is generally an enjoyable experience and living in a new country can be highly rewarding. Most teachers go through various stages of culture shock at different times, but most complete their contracts without any dramas. However, some teachers have trouble communicating with their bosses (typically referred to as a School ‘Director’), and end up getting in arguments, not establishing a friendly relationship, or even leaving the school before their contract is up.

These areas of miscommunication and misunderstanding can arise in many ways, and below we will discuss some of these situations and how you can reach an agreement with your director should they occur to you.

As TEFL teachers by definition come from different countries to their superiors, there are often problems that occur due to a ‘clash of cultures’. Different cultures have different ways of expressing interest/concern for people, so some teachers can find that their co-workers want to get involved in their personal life, and this can seem like a minor invasion of privacy. While you may prefer to keep some information private, you should take any personal questions with a positive attitude. If your co-workers are asking about you, it is probably because they are interested in you and are trying to cultivate a friendly relationship. Be accommodating, but they will likely understand if you tell them you’d rather not talk about it.

Teachers generally take their job seriously. They may feel pressure from their school to raise the English level of the students or they may just wish to deliver the best lessons possible. Unfortunately, some school directors are better equipped to look at the school as a business, rather than an educational institution, and focus on student numbers and student happiness as opposed to improvement in English. This is where a compromise must be found. A teacher cannot feel satisfied presenting a lesson which is not beneficial to the students’ education, and school directors want to make money. The best thing to do is to deliver the best lesson you can within the school’s framework. Talk to your director with suggestions and although they may not take them on, you can be happy that you have done all you can, and they will be happy that you are interested in helping the business.

The other main reason teachers have problems with their directors is because the school is attempting to cheat the teacher out of pay, or withholding benefits. This is difficult to fight if you are already working at the school and the best way to avoid this is to be very careful when choosing the school you are going to work for. Make sure you ask all of the important questions in your interview, and read your contract carefully before signing. If the school is willing to offer you a contract, they should also be happy to put you in touch with some of their other teachers, so you can get the best information possible. If your contract is solid, and the company is actually doing something illegal, contact the local authorities, and if this proves ineffective, contact your embassy. The last thing a school wants is a bad reputation from teachers, so if pressured, they will most likely do the right thing.

It is important to point out that not all problems are caused by the director, and they are not evil people trying to ruin your experience. There are several things you can do to help improve your relationship with your boss and enjoy your tenure as an EFL instructor.

Take part in office parties and festivities. Many schools will have little events for special occasions and it is a good idea to get involved. You may not completely understand the customs, or may not necessarily like the food, but it is a good idea to look at all school events as fun, learning experiences.

Be open and honest to your co-workers about your feelings. They can’t help you deal with your stress if you don’t let them know what is going on. As soon as you have an issue which may affect your teaching ability, go to your director and explain the situation. Remember that you are their biggest asset and it is in their best interest to have you feeling tip top and ready to teach.

Be responsible. In a lot of cases, the school will supply you with accommodation, office supplies and all manner of essentials. You should take care of these things and do your best to uphold the trust they have out in you. Work out how long it takes you to get ready in the morning and how long it takes to get to the school and always arrive on time. Dress neatly and act professionally at work as your director relies on his/her teachers to give the school a good image.

Be willing to compromise and adapt. The main lesson to take from this article is that being an English language teacher does have its professional difficulties. One of the most valuable skills an EFL teacher can develop is to grow and adapt to the type of class they have to present. The end result of your classes should satisfy you in having students absorb some real language, satisfy your director in covering the material they want and keeping the students happy, satisfy the students in keeping them interested and engaged for the lesson. It is a balancing act that all teachers must master.

 

Have you had any problems with your EFL director, or do you have any tips for getting along with your co-workers? We would love to hear about them in the comments section below.


 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Questions to Answer before going to Travel and Teach
























There are many reasons people decide to travel and teach. Once you are in an EFL environment and you start to interact with other teachers, you will find that their reasons will be similar to yours. Some people travel overseas to work simply because the pay is better. In an EFL situation, the pay may not be any better than what you could earn at home, but the cost of living is so low, and you receive so many benefits that it does work out more economical in the end.

Other people travel because they want to ‘get away’ from their life back home. This may seem like a selfish reason, however, everyone has stages in their life that they wish to put behind them. Travelling to an EFL country, starting a new career and learning a new language allow people to start a whole new, positive, chapter in their lives.

Another common reason why people travel is for the adventure. Young people in particular can feel as though they need to expand their horizons. Jumping headfirst into a TEFL position can provide these experiences which open minds in ways other jobs cannot. Nothing will give you an appreciation for other cultures and ways of life like travelling to another country where you don’t speak the language, and living and working there. It will force you to be independent and to take responsibility for your life.

While many people entertain the idea of travelling and working, how do you know if you can? It seems like such a commitment, and the pay seems low at first glance. But the truth is, the whole thing is actually quite easy if you prepare yourself.
 

“I want to travel and teach but I’m not sure if I am qualified” – This is a common thought that runs through many new teachers’ heads. The truth is that in the TEFL industry, the number one factor for determining your eligibility for work is being a native English speaker. It is not always necessary to have an absolute understanding of every aspect of grammar, but being able to provide real-world examples of the language is the first thing that employers look for.

“I don’t know which country to go to” – The trick to finding the perfect place for you is to shop around. In recent years, the most popular places for EFL teachers have been N.E Asian countries (China, Japan and S. Korea). This is because their growing economies mean they are able to offer teachers attractive pay/holiday/benefit packages. They are used to dealing with native English speakers, so they know how to accommodate them. Plenty of people wish to travel to other regions of the world (Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East). In these cases, individual schools can vary greatly and it is a good idea to contact them directly to find out exactly what their hiring processes are. If you get the chance, talk to a few teachers who are already working there to get an idea of what life is like, and whether it is suitable for you.

“I want some training before I get there and am thrown into my first class” – This is completely understandable. No one wants to look under-prepared when they turn up to their first day on the job, which is why Teflen Training College courses provide students with the very latest in TEFL training. Good online courses require students to prepare lesson plans and give feedback on them. You should also ask your trainer any questions you think of while you are training. Remember that the only bad questions are the ones not asked.

“Do I need to have much money before I go?” – While schools may pay for your flights, it is usually through reimbursement, which means you will need to have the flight money up front. It is also a good idea to have some emergency money, as it may be up to a month before you get paid and you will need to get set up. Many schools offer their teachers accommodation, yet there will undoubtedly be some more things you will need to make yourself comfortable. Some schools may be able to advance you some of your first pay, but you should have some spare cash, just in case.

“I’m worried I won’t know anybody, or have any support” – Honestly, this can be the biggest problem for new EFL teachers. Hopefully, you find employment with a school that has other foreign teachers working there, so you will have someone to talk to who understands your perspective. Also, if there is one English school in a city, there are usually many more, and you will most likely meet other English teachers from a range of backgrounds. This community is typically quite strong and helpful, but if you still feel the pressures of culture shock, you can contact your friends and family back home for free over skype.

“What do I pack?” – This really depends on where you are travelling. Remember that most essentials will be available there (because the people that live there are able to get by, just fine). However, the climate could be quite different to where you are from, so pack appropriate clothes. Also, don’t hesitate to take some mementos from home to help keep you sane in the new environment.

“I’m ready to go!” – That’s great! But don’t jump the gun. Make sure your employment contract is acceptable, and your working visas are in order. Remember that schools want you there working and so they should be able to help you through every step of the way.

If you have any more questions or advice about travelling and teaching, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.



 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Experience the Culture of Thailand while Teaching

Thailand is emerging as a vibrant EFL environment. Once, this country was not a popular destination for teachers, as it was seen as a developing nation, able to offer little in the way of benefits and decent pay. However, more recently, Thailand’s economy has been growing and TEFL schools which hire native English teachers are growing in number. In the capital city of Bangkok, English schools are common and are geared toward helping younger students prepare for university, and in the tourist centers such as Chiang Mai, English is important for the local economy. For a TEFL teacher, Thailand provides uncountable chances to expand your horizons, have fun, and gain experiences that will stay with your for the rest of your life.
 

The most recognizable landmark in Bangkok, and one of the most spectacular sights in Thailand, the Grand Palace stood as the center of administrative life in Thailand. While it is no longer used as a palace, it is still an important part of Thai culture. Because structures have been added to the complex over the reign of each King, the architecture itself is a stroll through Thai history.

Grand Palace, Bangkok

Heavily affected by the tsunami in late 2004, this must see island has bounced back and grown in popularity in recent years. SO much so, it is almost essential to travel there out of season to avoid high prices and crowds of tourists. The island is best used as a ‘jumping point’ to go out and visit the other smaller islands, such as Mosquito Island and Bamboo Island with their stunning cliffs, beaches and tropical forests.

Koh Phi Phi

If you happen to be up in northern Thailand, you cannot miss Chiang Mai. The main industry is tourism, so you can expect some modern features, and the occasional annoying tourist. But don’t despair. Chiang Mai still has plenty to offer eco-tourists, backpackers, and of course, TEFL teachers. Along with the temples and rainforests, Chiang Mai hosts many local festivals including Yi Peng, where locals release paper lanterns down river, and up into the sky.

Chiang Mai

Phuket is located in the South of Thailand. Another tourist city, like Chiang Mai, it features the same creature comforts western travelers crave, but in a totally different environment. It is a beach-lover’s paradise with every kind of water activity available; swimming, snorkeling, diving, parasailing and so many more. If you are not the adventurous type, there is plenty of lazing in the sun to be done while you sip fruit cocktails.

Phuket

When in Thailand, it is hard not to visit at least one temple. In fact, after seeing so many, it is easy to get the feeling that “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seem them all”. This is not the case with the temple at the Phanom Rung Historical Park. Built on the rim of an extinct volcano, 400m above sea level, the architecture and layout of this Hindu shrine are like nothing else. It is also a place that most tourists are unaware of, so it is peaceful as well as beautiful.

Phanom Rung Historical Park

The floating market at Ratchaburi remains a traditional style floating market. There are lots of small shops set up that sell tourist items, and quaint restaurants run by friendly locals. On of the biggest attractions here is the stage show which highlights traditional dance and martial arts. If you need to relax, there are also ‘Doctor Fish shops’ where tiny fish give your feet a tingling cleaning by eating off the dead skin.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

This is one of those secret spots that many tourists miss, but if you want to see something truly amazing Emerald (Morakot) Cave provides that unique experience. Located on the western side of Koh Muk is a cliff range with an opening, and if you swim the 70m through this gap, you come to Morakot cave. This secluded cave opens onto a clear white beach and the stunning green-blue water that give it its name. If you’re not much of a swimmer, you can always go out fishing with the locals.

Morakot Cave

In the middle of Bangkok, directly across from the Grand Palace is the Rattanakosin district, which houses the Wat Pho temple, and the giant golden Buddha that reclines there. The Buddha is 43m long and 15m high, and the soles of its feet are inlaid with 108 auspicious symbols in mother of pearl. The statue is also surrounded by 108 jars where visitors drop coins for good luck. This is also the traditional home of Thai massage and the small massage shop is always popular with weary tourists.

Wat Pho

Also in Bangkok, is Wang Lang Market. The main attraction for most tourists here is the food. There are countless stalls selling authentic street-food. When in Thailand, it’s safe to say that if the locals are flocking there, the food must be pretty good. There are also restaurants which offer fantastic views of the surrounding area and the spires of the Grand Palace. The shops here also sell vintage (and faux-vintage) clothes, shoes and accessories and is a must see for anyone into retro fashion.

Wang Lang Market

Many people want to see animals when they come to Thailand. Thailand is famous for elephants, tigers and monkeys. Unfortunately, many of the places where tourists can see them are run for-profit, and the animals are not always treated to the standards we expect. Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is different in that it is a wildlife reserve and protected area first and foremost. It is not a place that encourages high volumes of tourists, however, a savvy traveler can visit and experience the true nature of Thailand.

Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary

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