So you want to teach abroad, huh?

Great idea! Only, there are some questions you should probably ask yourself (and the experts) before taking a big step like this; questions ranging from the plainly practical to the mildly philosophical. Like: Where do I want to go? How much is it going to cost? What kind of paperwork and qualifications do I need? How will they feel about people from my country in this new place? Will I like it? Will I be safe there? Who’s going to feed the cat while I’m gone? Will my mom be worried about me? What if I get homesick, arrested, pregnant? Or all three? Hmm.

Oh where shall I go, what shall I do…?

As with any new venture, location is key. It’s not just for the teaching, this will be your life for the next year or so. Where do you see yourself? Do your research and try to learn a bit about different countries and cultures before you start applying for jobs. E.g. If you are a vegan, you may be hungrier in some parts of the world than others. If you want to surf, give the landlocked countries a miss. If you are LGBT, you‘ll want to choose a place with reasonable tolerance and an open community you can connect with. If you are in recovery, make sure you can get the support you need while you‘re away. Sort of thing.

One dreaded question, can I afford to just up sticks and go live somewhere else for a year or two? What are the start-up costs going to be? What about my student, car or mortgage loans? Maybe this means you will need to save up a little first. It’s good to have the cushion of a bit more money than you think you‘ ll need. Say a thousand dollars-ish above what you expect your immediate expenses to be. It‘s can be tricky when you don’t know well what stuff should reasonably cost. Look at cost of living indexes for your destination, or better yet, get in contact with someone who already lives there via social media.

May I see your papers, please?

Requirements and qualifications are, of course, going to differ depending on where you are looking to go and what kind of teaching you‘ll be doing. Generally they are: native or proficient langauge ability, at least a BA (usually in most any subject) and some kind of TEFL certification. Some schools aren’t as fussed about previous experience. Some are. Others still won’t accept teachers with on-line TEFL certificates, so ask. Immigration restrictions can be differently specific from country to country. Read the job adds carefully, or send an email to the HR or director asking if you qualify for that region or school. Have digital copies (for visas the real McCoy) of your diploma, TEFL (and language) certificates ready to be sent when asked for, in addition to taking them with you. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you’ll want to check out the health insurance situation where you are going and sort out coverage beforehand if you need to.

Teaching abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, whether you just want to spend a year or two learning about the culture and language of a new place or are planning to make TEFL teacing your career. Take the time to be as informed and prepared as you can be before you decide to leave. The experience will that much richer and both the cat and your mom, will sleep easier.

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