Everything You Need to Know About Teaching English Abroad

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

For most people who want to travel, teaching English abroad is a great way to both gallivant around while financially supporting yourself. For some, the thought of exploring and immersing yourself in an exotic location while earning some extra cash sounds appealing.

Rightly so as teaching English is one of the best jobs that you can take on while traveling. So, you’re convinced you want to take the big leap, but don’t know where to start? Well, you’re in luck as this post will tell you everything you need to know, including some real-life experiences of people who are teaching abroad.

Is Teaching English For You?

Teaching English-sounds easy, sign me up! Although everyone thinks it’s an easy job, it isn’t suited for everyone. Some people find sitting in a classroom and trying to teach basic English to kids/adults the most fascinating thing ever-while some might find it completely dull. Before you make the big decision of signing up for a TEFL course (the most basic qualification needed in most places), get a feel of what its like. teaching english abroad

This 10 minute sampler course will help you understand what the TEFL modules are, will let you do some activities from the course, and will give you an idea of what type of TEFL training you need and which destinations will be a match.

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What Certification do I need?

Every time you close your eyes, you think of yourself in a far-flung country enjoying your time exploring and meeting locals. Maybe it’s eating Pho on the streets of Vietnam? Or wandering around temples in South Korea during your off days. Whatever it is, you’ve decided you want to go. Next stop is figuring out the necessary qualifications that you need. teaching english abroad There are loads of information online that will give you an idea of where you can teach, a rough expected salary, and most importantly what kind of certification you need. In most places in Asia, a 120 hour TEFL course plus a Bachelor’s Degree would work, sometimes you don’t even need a degree if you’ve had previous experience. The certifications vary per country so definitely think about where you want to go when planning what course to do.

Which Company to Go with?

Now, I won’t lie. There is a lot of companies that offer various TEFL courses. We personally go with Premier TEFL because we feel they have the most comprehensive course out there that mixes both theory and real-life classroom experiences. They have created a user-friendly, no-frills practical online course that would teach the most valuable skills to those that are eager to learn. One of our writers just spent three weeks traveling Europe to become a certified English teacher with these guys for their Anglo-TEFL scholarship program.

Apart from that, Premier TEFL also helps you out with job placements where they will help you with your CV, give you letters of recommendations, and help you secure interviews with reputable employers

teaching english abroad

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How to Find ESL Work

Now the ball is rolling, you’ve done your course, you’re ready to fly out, heck, and you’ve maybe even packed your bags! What’s next then? How do you find work? Based on personal experience, although it the thought of hopping off a plane then just looking for work sounds appealing, research and plan ahead. Check job boards, read and research about the institution you are planning to work for. Although I also know a lot of teachers who just look for work when they get to a place.

Make use of the internet and read up on reviews from other teachers. Although you will always get negative reviews in every place, take caution when there are too many! I’ve heard many horror stories of long teaching hours beyond the agreed time in contracts or employers withholding salaries for months at a time. Whatever it is, look into the company, contact previous people who you know have worked there and try to get a good idea of what the experience is like. A good company should have a proper contract, should fix the necessary paperwork and visas, and should shoulder your accommodations, or at least have an allowance for it.


Insider Tip: READ your contract…over and over again and check for loopholes. Contact experienced teachers to get an idea of what standard contracts look like and make sure you know all the details necessary. Your contracts should say how often you get paid, how long you should give notice before leaving, if you will be working on weekends, etc. Listed below are some sites which may help you look for your next dream job abroad:

teaching english abroad

ESL Job Forums

In terms of forums, there are a couple included the ones listed below which have lively discussions by teachers who talk about prospective jobs, current postings, job scams, and a whole lot of useful information. I highly recommend using these forums to connect with other educators.

teaching english abroad

Why Teach English Abroad?

Apart from being able to combine work and travel, teaching English abroad is a great way to learn about other cultures while fully experiencing a particular place. It will change your perspective on how people around the world live. One of the best things about traveling is being able to immerse yourself in a culture that is completely different from your own. You will meet fantastic locals, possibly make lifelong friends, and experience a new way of life. Although you won’t get rich from teaching English, you can make a lot of extra income by private tutoring while still being able to travel the world! Sounds like a winner to me.

Still Not Convinced?

Hear what REAL teachers have to say about teaching abroad as they share their funny anecdotes and experiences.

Annie Speirs

Currently Teaching in: Korea

After teaching ESL for 9 years in Asia, it’s difficult to pinpoint what the “best experience” has been, as my time here has been nothing but a massively fantastic learning experience. Teaching in Korea for 6 years taught me patience and adaptability. Korean students are polite, hard-working and absolutely brilliant. One year of teaching in Thailand opened my eyes to diversity and to resign my preconceived ideas of what life would be like living there. My expectations were different than reality, but helped me to grow as a person and accept different realms of life. Finally, teaching in the Philippines for two years taught me to work hard but also keep a balance with living life to the fullest. Most importantly, it taught me that it’s possible to fall in love with a place you call “home”, even if it’s not where you’re from. It’s about where your heart will always be.

boracay sunset
Photo Source: Eric Estrada

Alice from Teacake Travels

Follow her journey: teacaketravels.com

Teaching English Abroad has been my life for the last five years and I’ve enjoyed every second of it! The satisfaction and success I’ve gained from teaching English motivates me to continue sharing the gift of language! I know that by learning English, my students will be able to travel, see the world, make amazing friends and get a really good job. How cool is that?! I have taught in South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Austria and China. It’s hard to say what my favourite job has been but my time at a kindergarten school in Shanghai was particularly joyous! My students began the school year not being able to speak a word. As time passed, they blossomed into confident, enthusiastic, curious and creative individuals, piecing together everything they had learnt to make their own sentences and conversations. It was amazing to see them develop so fast. I left knowing they are going to be English superstars in the future!

Teacher Alice

Josh from Peanuts or Pretzels

Follow his journey: peanutsorpretzels.com

Teaching English in China has been an incredible experience for me. When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher, but life my life went another direction. So living out my childhood dream, while traveling and experiencing a new culture, has been the ultimate adventure for me. I love teaching English to kids at First Leap and living in Guangzhou, China (just over the border from Hong Kong). It’s great to be immersed in the Chinese culture, learning the language, culture…and all the crazy foods! But I’m close enough to Hong Kong to get a dose of “western” culture and food when I need it! I really love my kids, and they always surprise me! However, typical schools in China are not so fun, and it’s really hard on the students. So I’m happy to be the teacher that makes them smile, encourage their creativity and individual personalities! Seeing them smile and laugh really makes my day.

teaching english abroad

Steve Alcoran

Currently Teaching in: Paradise English on Boracay Island, Philippines

I began my English teaching experience in London, around 2001, I taught students from Eastern European countries like Poland and Czech Republic. I did this at weekends and really enjoyed interacting with people from different cultures, some of those students are still friends today. I had no idea that 13 years later I would be teaching on a beautiful island at such a wonderful school, in the tropics. I not only love my job as a teacher, but I am fortunate in working with such talented and wonderful people, by that I mean my co-teachers. When you are in the classroom, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, the world is the classroom and the classroom becomes what you as a teacher make it. teaching english philippines
The students listen and will follow your advice but they will get restless or bored if you don’t maintain a consistent pace, reading body language, which is universal and keeping each student involved in the lesson is very important and can never be taken for granted. This is much easier if you love the work, respect the students and get to know them as individuals. I have found that there are so many things that connect all cultures and one of those is the desire of students to connect with each other, whatever their cultural background is. Teaching abroad is the most rewarding job I have ever had in my lifetime and I feel privileged to be working here at Paradise English Boracay. It wasn’t easy to find the right place to teach, so don’t think you will fall into the right post straight away, it took me five years to get to the position I am in now, but it was worth it.

Taylor from Once Were Young Travel

Follow her journey at: oncewereyoungtravel.com

Teaching abroad was a terrifying transition after a few months of vagabonding. Did I really come all this way to trade in motorbike adventures and whiskey buckets for routine, albeit an unfamiliar one? In a tiny town in Northern Thailand with over 700 students and one pretty monumental language barrier, there was no other option but to just embrace it.

What followed was a semester full of classroom antics, hectic field trips, weekend excursions, and spectacular school holidays that far surpassed the escapades of the months preceding. In just six months, I learned Thai etiquette, humor, bits of the language, and cultural idiosyncrasy in a way that it might have taken years to learn if I were not immersed in it. It was an experience of tremendous depth — certainly worth the trade-off, if you ask me!

teaching english in hong kong

Naturally, you also some pretty hilarious experiences like this:

Miguel Capistrano

Currently Teaching in: Hong Kong

“I was helping a group of 11-year-old ESL students prepare for a language proficiency exam. Most of these students are not fluent in English. We were doing a listening activity where they had to listen to an audio recording and answer a list of comprehension questions.  Their answers didn’t need to be spelt correctly.  As long as it sounded similar to what the recording said, it was acceptable.  One of the questions was “What is the name of Mr. Craig’s dog?”  The answer was Nipper.  The kids came up with strange answers that were kind of close to the real answer: Nippa, Lippa, Niba, Neper, Neeber, etc.  The best one was “Nipple.”  The worst one was “Nigar.”  Fortunately, they didn’t know what both word meant!

teaching english hong kong

At the end of the day, teaching English is a great way to earn money, immerse yourself in another culture, and live in another country while you’re at it!

Looking for more articles on Teaching English Abroad? Check out a few of our best ones

Inspired? Pin it! Teaching English Abroad | Ever wanted to get your TEFL cetification? Check out our complete guide on how to teach english while traveling all over the world. TEFL is a great way to work while traveling all over the world. Check out my tips on where to get #tefl certified, how to find ESL jobs, and how to make sure you land a good deal. #esl

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2 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Teaching English Abroad”

  1. Great advice guys. I’ve never taught English, but my boyfriend is very interested, so we might just have to give it a go. I loved reading the anecdotes at the end. Thank-you!


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