Last updated on March 30th, 2021 at 11:22 am
So, you want to teach abroad? That’s awesome! And although moving out of the country can be scary, it’s also very doable.
I recommend living out of the country at least once in your life. And teaching abroad is sometimes the most feasible way.
As someone who never taught a day in my life, but wanted this experience—I made it happen. I will say my journey was different from the average person. I came to Thailand without a job, but luckily, I had visited the country before.
Instead of going through a program, I figured everything out along the way. Which brought a level of uncertainty from the lack of job security. But I trusted myself enough to see it through. From extensive research, talking to people abroad, to just kind of winging it—everything worked out.
Many people don’t know where to start—which can be overwhelming—I get that. As someone who had doubts through my entire process and made teaching abroad a reality, my faith was greater. It was easier than I thought and all that stress was for nothing (ok, a little worry is normal.)
If you’re interested in this international experience, here are 7 steps you should take to make teaching abroad a reality.
Table of Contents
Pick a country
The first thing is deciding what country you’d be interested in moving to. Every place has different standards, processes, and regulations.
The moment I decided to teach abroad in Thailand was after I had visited and fell in love. During my trip I got the chance to talk to other expats, which gave me information I needed for the exact city and country I wanted to be in.
But sometimes people want to move abroad without having gone to that place, and that’s totally fine.
Most of my coworkers came to Thailand for the first time in search of a job. I’ve heard of people moving to places like United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Vietnam without ever visiting.
That also makes it much more exciting.
The world is full of opportunity, so just pick!
The more popular locations are the United Arab Emirates, China, Spain, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan; all places that pay pretty well. Thailand is popular too, but the salary is significantly lower, and so are the benefits.
Living in Thailand worked out for me. Although the pay is low, my expenses are a little less than half of what I make.
Network with people abroad
We have access to tons of resources, so let’s use them. If I hadn’t joined groups on Facebook, I’d be so lost. Not only did I ask people questions, but I also found my job on there.
You can easily find groups by typing in “teaching English in ____” (whatever country you’re interested in). But for places like United Arab Emirates, you probably should just apply online.
In the Middle East, you must have an education degree, whereas in other countries having a TEFL is fine.
Here are some Facebook groups to check out for different countries: Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, China, South Korea, and other teaching abroad opportunities. Use the search box to find answers about the process and people’s experience.
You can also ask for tips and maybe share your background.
Find a program
Or don’t, it’s not always necessary. It really depends on where you want to go. I’m sure it can reduce some worry, though.
I didn’t go with a program. People I knew that did a program in Thailand were NOT placed in the cities they wanted, but instead rural areas. And that was a hard “no” for me.
This isn’t the case for every program in every country, but it is for Thailand.
If you go with a program and get placed in a city you don’t want, you can always change schools. Doing a 6-month contract can help you get acclimated and see how you’re liking it. If you don’t like it, apply to other opportunities in the city you want to be in.
The demand for English-speaking teachers worldwide is never ending.
Some people in Thailand worked in a small city, then moved to a bigger city and were glad they did.
Programs will offer certification as part of their placement, but not everyone does. If you don’t go through a program or they don’t include it, then it’s up to you to get certified.
Again, different countries have different rules, which is why research is important. In Thailand you can’t get a work permit and non-immigrant visa without a bachelor’s degree. To be honest, having a bachelor’s degree is standard for most places.
Don’t let it deter you. Of course there are ways around it.
The school I teach at doesn’t require me to have a bachelor of education or a teaching certification (TEFL). Mostly because I’m a native English speaker and have a degree. I still got certified, even though it wasn’t required.
Everyone should, even if you have a background in education. The training helped me to understand and better prepare for teaching English for the first time.
You can pay $100s on this, or get one on Groupon for a cheap price.
TEFL — Teaching English as a Foreign Language is what I received my certification in and is geared towards breaking down phonics, pronunciations, and overall teaching English to someone who is a non-native speaker.
TESOL — Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages is like a TEFL, but specifically for teaching English to non-native speakers that are living in an English-speaking country.
Prepare for your move
How could you possibly prepare to move your entire life across the world? DOWNSIZE! You don’t need to take everything with you, more times than not it just holds up the process.
Sell the things you’re not taking with you like furniture, appliances, your car and clothes. My process began with me listing my furniture and appliances on Craigslist, Facebook market, LetGo, and OfferUp. Whewww, it took some time, and I still didn’t sell everything.
Sometimes letting go of things is hard, but remember this experience will be more valuable than those things.
You can sell your clothes at consignment shops such as Plato’s closet and buffalo exchange. Anything left, give it away to good ole Salvation army.
See your doctor
Because it’s so important to get the vaccines you’ll need and a physical.
All of this is a part of getting ready for your move. Some places you don’t “need” shots for like Spain, but for other places it’s highly suggested. Definitely if you’re planning to go somewhere more tropical.
For Thailand it’s recommended to get Japanese encephalitis, Typhoid, Malaria, Hep A and B, etc vaccines. But I didn’t get most of them. I wasn’t coming to Thailand blindly; I knew what I was getting myself into and that I’d be fine.
Do your own research and find out what’s best for you!
Check out Travel State for more information on the country you’re going to. There is a section dedicated to health.
Get a physical, just because the quality of healthcare differs in every country. Go to a doctor you trust to make sure everything is okay, and you’re good to leave.
Get Travel Insurance
DO NOT LEAVE THE COUNTRY WITHOUT GETTING IT! Most schools will provide insurance for you, but benefits more than likely won’t kick in until you start working. And some places are weeks after that.
Travel insurance can help with theft, sickness, missed or delayed flights, and more. There’s no excuse to not get it with many affordable options.
I’m all for budgeting, but this is not the time to be cheap. I’ve experienced being sick abroad, missing flights, getting robbed — my travel insurance SAVED ME!
God forbid something bad happens, you’ll end up paying more than the $60 you spend on insurance. Invest in your safety, please!
Going abroad will bring an array of emotions—nervousness, happiness, maybe some sadness, and fearfulness. But if you take the right steps, it will be okay. The process doesn’t have to be seamless in order for it to happen. Just start where you are.
These steps will help prepare you as you make that move, it’s time to spread those wings butterfly!
Is teaching abroad a dream of yours? Let’s make that happen.