So, you came back from your study abroad trip. It was one of the greatest experiences of your life, something that you will never forget. What’s next though?
First, you probably have some school to finish up. Enjoy this final period of student life. Like all of us who’ve studied abroad, that time in a foreign land always lingers. Standing on the edge of the rest of your life, looking out at your potential career future, where to now?
The next time you get to gallivant around a foreign country on an incredible adventure will be after you retire. 40 years isn’t that long, is it? Actually, it is. So, do not wait, your next adventure abroad happens to be awaiting your undergraduate graduation ceremony.
You have the opportunity to rekindle the magic of your study abroad sojourn through working abroad. More specifically, teaching abroad.
Advantages of Teaching Abroad
1. Paid Travel
Everyone loves to travel (especially those who have studied abroad), but most cannot reasonably pay for extended travel periods. Travelling in another country only exacerbates this problem even more.
While teaching abroad, you will have ample opportunities to travel internationally. Obviously, you should be interested in further exploring the country in which you are teaching. Daily outings become ‘travel’ at that point, though this will wear off after a period. Weekend trips throughout the country also become cheap and affordable,
You also have a great hub for traveling to other nations. Have an extra long weekend? Booking a flight to Beijing would be impossible from the US, but fairly easy from Seoul.
Although you will not have unlimited travel time, as vacation days can sometimes be tight. You will have extended periods of time off, national holidays, and random long weekends. Aside from this, the period just after or just before your time teaching will offer a great chance for a long travel session.
2. No Gaps! Real World Experience
Even for those financially secure enough to travel for an extended period, there is one problem to face once they return home: potential employers can be leery of large gaps in your employment or educational history.
Teaching English abroad can be a great way to both boost your career and itch that travel bug. For employers, this interesting experience can be a valuable addition to an organization in this ever interconnected world.
Even if your desired career is not in education, there can be nuanced ways to spin your session teaching aboard so that there is value for any potential sector. Plus, this is much easier to swallow for future bosses than the alternative of simply vacationing for a year or so.
3. Rekindling the Magic
This one is obvious, but must be mentioned. Remember the first time you stepped off the plane in the country or city that you were studying abroad in? That was an amazing feeling. The freshness, the newness, the adventure. All of these things will come rushing back. Isn’t this why we all studied abroad in the first place?
After coming home, there can be a noticeable void where experience of studying abroad filled, the memory nagging. Perhaps, even a large disconnect from friends who did not share your life changing session abroad. Teaching ESL will give you these feelings back, and even strengthen them at times.
You will also easily connect with likeminded individuals who were also brash enough to go to ESL abroad. These people you meet, not unlike your study abroad friends, will be connections that can last a lifetime. Plus, all of the locals you will interact with along the way. Your network will truly become global.
Where to Teach?
Europe is the most popular hotspot for study abroad. Unfortunately, it is not the same hotspot for teaching English abroad. For one, visas are more difficult to get. Why would they spend resources getting an American a visa when they could get an E.U. citizen visa free (blame our UK brethren for this one)? This isn’t to say that there are no English teaching jobs in Europe for Americans, or that you will not be able to find a job.
Here are some tips for European job search:
• Look at Eastern European countries, as they may have a higher need for teachers.
• Boots on the ground! Go to the country where you are looking for a job.
• Learning a little (or a lot!) of the language can go a long way in landing a job.
• Get a certification. A TESOL certification will boost your marketability in all ESL sectors.
The land of opportunity for ESL teaching is in Asia, and specifically East Asia—China, South Korea, and Japan. This region offers a wealth of opportunity for those who want to stretch out their study abroad experience, and roll it into a job.
These English and educationally hungry nations offer the most jobs, as their citizens allocate more funding to these sectors. Even as the market for English teachers has been inundated the past few years, there are still plenty of opportunities for teachers, and even fresh ones.
In both South Korea and Japan, the governments have even set up their own English teaching training and placement programs: EPiK and JET. These programs offer more stability and self assurance as they are sponsored by the government. Though, there are plenty of non-government connect jobs, which may actually pay better.
China does not have the same government sponsored program as its East Asian neighbors. However, because of its ever expanding economy there is a plethora of opportunity in almost every city throughout the world’s most populous nation.
These places might not be the top of your study abroad list, but they are amazing countries and might offer a greater sense of discovery than found in a more familiar Western nation. Check out the listed government sponsored sites for more info, or the American International Education Development Council for China postings.
Not a Vacation, a Journey
Even while you were studying abroad, you had exams, homework, or assignments. After all, you were getting credit. Some programs, though, were perhaps less challenging than others. This is no different in the ESL teaching world. Some jobs are easy, with little effort involved, like acting as a mere “tape-recorder” for students. Others can be quite intense, like creating an entire curriculum for a school.
Even as aspects of this experience feel like a vacation (I.E. travelling, trying new food, meeting new people, etc…), the job itself is very real. This will be clear once you start receiving a paycheck. “I’m really getting paid to do this?!” Yes, it really is a job.
English will not be this in demand forever, and certainly ESL teachers from other countries will eventually go out of fashion. We are lucky that we have this opportunity, and fortunate to be from where we are from! Cherish this experience. Take a chance. Rekindle that study abroad experience.
About the Author
Ryan Allen formerly studied abroad in Paderno del Grappa, Italy through the CIMBA program. He then later moved to South Korea to teach English at a high school in Incheon. While there, he completed an MA in international cooperation at Yonsei University. Currently, he is studying politics and education at Teachers College-Columbia University. He is also an adjunct lecturer at Berkeley College and the communication specialist at AIED Council.