Choosing the Best Place to Teach Abroad

by Lexa Pennington /
Lexa Pennington's picture
Jun 28, 2012 / 0 comments

You've invested in your TEFL qualification, found the cheapest flights to your favourite place in the world, and now you're keen to flee your daily grind and start teaching English to eager, responsive students. If your course wasn't sponsored by an organisation with a placement already prepared for you, it's time to get realistic.


What do you really want?
Be honest with yourself. Which appeals to you more - a classful of cheerful Japanese kids or a boardroom full of studious Beijing bureaucrats? Edgy upcoming Colombia, or sunny familiar Cyprus? You're going to be out there for a while, and may well be signed into several months' contract in order to get a work visa, so - if this is your first time teaching abroad - perhaps you shouldn't force yourself too far out of your comfort zone to begin with. Being brave is laudable, but setting yourself up for failure is silly. Set yourself up for success, instead, and choose somewhere that doesn't scare you too much.


What are your objectives besides being abroad?
Do you want to learn another language yourself, while you're out there? In this case it's pretty obvious that you'll need to choose a country that not only speaks this language, but has a reputable language school near where you're teaching. If it doesn't, you could go out anyway and look for a private teacher - more expensive than a school - or make friends with someone who's looking to exchange languages, which sometimes works brilliantly and sometimes results in awkward coffee meetings, and you wondering why you're not being paid to do what is, the rest of the time, your job.


Will you be able to save money?
The importance of this one depends on how much you have stashed away already. Perhaps you've set aside enough for your return flight home, in which case you only need to ensure that you're earning enough to pay for rent, bills, groceries, and hopefully some exploring on your days off. But if you're on the road, unsure where you're going next or for how long, or you plan to spend all your savings on a single plane ticket and your visas, you must make certain that you'll be able to save up enough to get home, or at least to your next destination.


Your best bet is to contact teachers who're already out there, particularly with the school you're looking at, and ask whether they're paid on time, and also whether they're paid as much as they were expecting from the school's literature. Some teachers get themselves out to China or wherever, only to find that the advertised wage did not factor in taxes - suddenly they're earning much less than they'd counted on, with nothing left to save after monthly necessities.


Can you handle the climate
If you get heat-stroke easily or slip into mental lockdown the moment you get too cold, make sure you know what the weather and climate is like wherever you're hoping to go. For the whole year. Even born and bred Tokyo residents struggle with its muggy hot summers - you might've loved it there in April, but come August and that classroom's air-conditioning had better be working, especially if your employer expects you to keep your sleeves rolled down or even your jacket on throughout the day.