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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


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.