[VIDEO] Expert Advice on How to Teach English Abroad

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Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate, recent graduate, current student, career changer, or long-time teacher looking for a change of scenery, teaching English abroad is a great option for you. Since you’ve clearly figured that out already, now you’re probably busy asking yourself, “How do I teach English abroad? Where do I even start?”

Well, you start right here

We asked our teach abroad experts to give us the inside scoop on how to teach english abroad— why you should teach English abroad, how to pick reliable teaching english abroad programs, what the application process looks like, all potential teaching English abroad requirements, and ways to finally answer: “How do I teach English abroad?” As masters of the classroom, this certainly isn’t their first rodeo, so find the transcript below and soak up all the amazing advice our ESL teachers have to share!

How to Teach English Abroad - Video Transcript

Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” - Colleen Wilcox

Hi, I’m Steph Dyson, I taught abroad in Bolivia. Hello, my name is Mary Ellen Dingley, I taught abroad in Georgia, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. Hi, my name is Jennifer Bangoura, I taught abroad in Mali. Hi, I’m Mariel Tavakoli, I’m teaching abroad in the Czech Republic. Hi, I’m Kerianne Baylor and I love teaching English Abroad. I taught abroad in Colombia and Brazil.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Teach English Abroad

Teaching English abroad is a great way to see the world while making a little money, as long as you’re also committed to your students. Something that I really really love about teaching is that it put me in a new environment. It was a great way to kickstart my career. I think for those looking to teach English abroad, there’s various ways of actually getting into doing so.

empty desks and chairs set up in a classroom
You probably won’t start the Dead Poet’s Society, but you sure will get a lot out of teaching English abroad.

Things to Consider When Picking a Program

When looking for a teach abroad program, you have to take tons of different things into account. Do your research and see what kind of programs you think would suit you. Is there a certain area of the world that you want to explore? Or do you want to learn a new language? Is this about making some money? You might need a placement where you’re going to get paid an amount that you can live comfortably and also pay off student loans.

You can have these very vastly different experiences really depending on the program as well as the country.

Teaching in Japan is a very different experience than teaching in Peru, for example. It depends on what kind of teaching environment you’re in, what kind of educational environment you’re in: Are you in the classroom? Are you a co-teacher? Are you in a private school, public school? Or, are you teaching at the university level? It depends on whether you want to be working in a rural place or in a big city. They’re very different experiences— working somewhere rural often means you get more of a chance to get to know the local community. And really engage with a foreign culture because when you’re in a school you are really IN IT. Whereas in a big city, I guess it can sometimes feel more anonymous, but you’re most likely – and you should check this – to be surrounded by other people teaching, as well.

So, you can have those really strong networks regardless of where you are. But, the world is really your oyster. There are so many countries that need qualified English teachers.

But...How Do I Actually Pick a Teaching Program?

I think that you should be looking for a program that has a credible website, that has really responsive staff, that has people that actually are really invested in helping you succeed in that program. Because there are English teaching programs out there that aren’t supportive of their teachers, so be careful of that. A reliable program is one where they provide you with training or they do require that you have some sort of teaching certificate— whether that’s TEFL or whether that’s a qualification as a teacher back in your home country (here’s why you should take a TEFL course before teaching abroad, no matter what!).

You should talk to different program providers, talk to different companies that offer teach abroad programs, different schools. See if you can get in contact with different teachers from that program. I read a ton of blogs from other teachers about their experience. And you should definitely talk to past participants because they are the number one way to find out what it’s actually like to be in that specific program. Because while other people’s experiences won’t be the same as yours, they will be able to give you some really important advice about what you can expect.

girl in school uniform speaking into a microphone in front of other students
Get ready to inspire confidence in your ESL students, then sit back and watch them shine.

I’ve Picked My Program…Now What?

The application process to teach English abroad is really straightforward, and my number one recommendation is to start online. Of course, you need references usually— people you’ve worked with in the educational setting, or if you’re teaching kids you definitely need childcare references, or just some sort of professional or academic references. If you’re already a qualified teacher then there’s nothing stopping you from going abroad and teaching English as well, and it can be a really, really great challenge.

How Can I Fund My Teach Abroad Program?

Funding your teaching experience? Well if you’re teaching English you might be paid and then you’d be funded, of course, through your salary. Those programs where you get monetary compensation, so you’re getting some sort of stipend each month, can really cover all the expenses related to living and teaching abroad. If it’s a volunteer program then you often might need to raise money or find some sort of grant. They might even include housing or flights and tons of stuff that are really expensive normally, but when included in a program makes it that much cooler.

I saved up for quite a long time when I was working back in the United Kingdom, and I think it’s just about discipline and having your eye on that prize.

Let’s Recap: How to Teach English Abroad

  1. Get TEFL certified. 
  2. Pick a location. 
  3. Read reviews & talk to alumni. 
  4. Consider costs & choose your program. 
  5. Change lives— yours AND theirs.

Any Words of Wisdom for Future ESL Teachers?

It is an amazing opportunity to immerse in another culture and really meet people who will change the way you look at things. Was it hard? Yes. Did it test my patience? Yes. Was it fulfilling and exciting and an opportunity for me to grow as an educator? Definitely.

I always tried to bring in something new, and include pop culture and music and movies, and stuff that they could understand and relate to. Because teaching isn’t just about standing in front of people and showing you know a subject; it’s so much more. It’s so much more complicated than that.

And making other people love that subject as much as you takes work. Make sure you’re doing it with also your students in mind. Wherever you go around the world, like kids are the same. They’re silly, they crack really bad jokes, they just make you laugh. So, I would definitely, definitely, definitely, teach abroad again.

man and woman close up on devices, sitting working on tablet and laptop
Start by getting TEFL certified.

Next Steps to Finding Teaching English Abroad Programs

Now that you’re well versed in all the potential teaching English abroad requirements and the ins and outs of how to teach English abroad, we want to help connect you to one of hundreds of English teaching jobs wherever your heart (and push pin) may lead you on the map. Here are some resources to check out:

Start with these Reputable Teach Abroad Programs for 2017-2018

Short Term Volunteer Teach Abroad Opportunities

Year Long Teaching English Abroad Programs  

Highly Recommended Teach Abroad Organizations 

A big THANK YOU to our video contributors for sharing their wonderful words of wisdom — Jennifer Bangoura, Kerianne Baylor, Mary Ellen Dingley, Steph Dyson, and Mariel Tavakoli (Learn more about each of them here!).