In recent years, an increasing number of people have been motivated to leave their home countries to seek employment across the world. Teaching English abroad is one of the most common target jobs, and the growth of the TEFL industry has continued almost unabated since the 1960s.
So, what is it that attracts people, often with no of history working in the education sector, to set forth and teach English? It’s certainly not the benefits which, although often adequate for a comfortable standard of living in the host country, are seldom stellar. Long gone are the days when graduates could pay off their student loans by spending three years in Japan. It’s probably not for the sheer enjoyment of teaching either, as the industry is often wracked by bureaucracy and teachers can sometimes become numbed by the tedium of unimaginative and inflexible programs.
In truth, most people enter the world of TEFL as a means of exploring the exotic cultures of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. It’s particularly appealing to university graduates itching to see the world after years of study, but restricted from simply taking a year out by the debts they have accrued.
Of course, even today it takes courage to simply uproot and set off into the unknown. Not everyone is capable of going through the process of adjusting to an alien culture, but most people find their feet eventually. They soon find that the citizens in their host country will invariably go out of their way to help them settle. Not only that, but the large ex-pat communities, that exist in most places where English is taught, help to alleviate any feelings of home-sickness. In general, those who are more open-minded towards foreign cultures and a different way of life will settle more easily and are more likely to prosper.
Teach English in Asia
Teaching English in Asia, for example, can be rewarding experience. In Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan, English-speaking foreigners make up a relatively small minority of the population. Teachers, and westerners in particular, are held in high esteem. Even those without teaching experience are often considered to be experts in their field, simply by virtue of being a native English speaker. Even in the current economic climate, jobs are plentiful, salaries are reasonable and students are generally quite motivated.
Teach English Around the World
The Middle East is another popular destination for English teachers. Salaries are comparable to those in Japan but are usually tax-free, and employers generally provide very comfortable living accommodation free of charge. There are also many jobs to be found in North Africa and Latin America. In these parts of the world you can expect salaries to be somewhat lower but still excellent compared to local wages, and you must take into account the low cost of living. You will also find that the students themselves are even more highly motivated, as a strong command of the English language is almost a prerequisite to obtaining a good job.
Teach English in Europe
Job opportunities in the traditional TEFL hotspots of western Europe – Spain, Italy and Portugal – have deceased somewhat in recent years, and the economic downturn isn’t helping the situation. Potential employers are likely to be more fastidious in the hiring process and are looking for more experienced and better qualified teachers. The opposite is true in Eastern Europe, however. Again salaries don’t compare with those being offered in Asia and the Middle East, but they are more than adequate for a comfortable lifestyle. It should also be taken into consideration that the culture will seem more familiar to most westerners and that the period of adjustment is likely to be easier. If you fancy something a little more exotic, there are abundant jobs available in Turkey.
For a truly invigorating experience, there are also opportunities for experienced teachers to work in the more remote parts of the world with organizations like the British Council. They have centers in more than 100 countries worldwide and, in many cases, salaries and benefits are paid in UK Sterling. Their employees are generally career teachers and there are possibilities to advance to management positions.
It’s probably fair to say that a large number of EFL and ESL teachers around the world entered the profession for reasons other than a love of education. They come from a variety of backgrounds and surprisingly few studied English or linguistics at university, or possess any kind of teaching qualification. Often they are graduates who intended to take a year out to see the world before embarking on their chosen professions. But it’s also true to say that a large percentage choose to continue teaching beyond their first contract.
For many people, within a few months they begin to feel at home with their new country, culture, students and even with teaching itself. They start to consider English teaching as a long-term career option, and perhaps go on to obtain recognized TESOL qualifications to improve their prospects. One of the advantages of teaching English is that it’s an extremely portable profession. The experience and qualifications that you acquire over time will be recognized equally from one country to the next, so it’s entirely possible to spend your life traveling the world whilst building a career at the same time.
Others will see their time spent teaching as nothing more than a stepping stone. Even just a year spent working in a far-flung part of the world can be an impressive entry on anyone’s resume, regardless of their intended career-path. The bottom-line is, the experience a teacher gets when teaching abroad is unique and beneficial to both students and teachers. And you never know, you might just find the career you have been looking for all this time!