It was the best of classrooms, it was the worst of classrooms. With its snow-capped sierra and arid desert, Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, virgin rainforests and sprawling urban jungles, unimaginable wealth and abject poverty, Colombia is a country of contrasts. Similarly, your time teaching English in Colombia will be punctuated by highs and lows.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so this article aims to arm you with the information that will help you accentuate the highs and make the best of the lows.
Last summer I learnt something that I wish I’d known all those years ago when I first started out as a traveling English teacher. Now, because teachers find it practically impossible not to share our knowledge, I’m going to pass this valuable secret on to you right here.
More years ago than I care to mention I’d landed my first official contract, teaching in Andalucía on the golden shores of the Costa de la Luz. For me starting in September it was a low season paradise; devoid of tourists, the beaches were deserted and the townsfolk were happy to have their home back so it was much easier to become a part of their community. My Spanish was improving and they made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile rather than just passing through with my backpack.
Myanmar is an enchanting and mysterious country that has a tumultuous background. Formally known as Burma, Myanmar has been isolated from the rest of the world for the last twenty years due to inner political turmoil.
Recently Myanmar has opened it’s borders and joined ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). They are a nation on the rise, with both domestic and foreign investors building a bigger economy.
With the rapid flood of investment and opportunity, and the fact that English is poised to be the official business language of ASEAN, the demand for English language education is extremely high in Myanmar. It’s no wonder then that Myanmar is becoming a hot new destination in the ESL teaching world.
In this article, I’ll cover just about everything you need to know about teaching in Myanmar. So let’s start with the types of jobs available.
For years now it seems that China has long been one of the best and most popular options for teaching abroad, and it’s easy to see why; the vast landscapes, the fascinating mix of ancient cultures, the world-class cuisine, and of course, the professional opportunities.
Chinese demand for foreign teachers over the last twenty years has been massive. A 2006 article in the Economist purports that “China is already the world’s largest market for English language services.”
With many teaching positions offering over 15,000 RMB, free accommodation, airfare bonuses, and even paid vacation, it’s not hard to understand why so many young adventurers have left their western abodes to teach in Google-less and delicious China.
Yet now it seems that China is making strides to refine their selection process and tighten up the regulations on who they’re letting work in-country. Whether it’s the result of desperate employers continually hiring inexperienced professionals to meet the hungry demand, or an update to immigration policy in an increasingly bordered world, it’s impossible to say.
What’s Granada like?
Granada is a remarkable city. It’s not particularly large (around 240,000 inhabitants) but it’s full of things to see and do. The Alhambra Palace, a Moorish citadel, is the main attraction, but part of the joy of Granada comes from simple pleasures: strolling around the winding streets with the distant sounds of flamenco guitar, meeting friends for a beer and tapas in one of the hundreds of bars scattered around the city, or just gazing at the backdrop of the wonderful Sierra Nevada mountain range.
By Carlos Adampol Galindo (Flickr: San José, Costa Rica) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Back in naivety of my youth I dreamed of working in a paradise of golden beaches and Celeste, cloudless skies where I’d teach English to kids on the beach wearing flip flops and bermudas, then fall asleep against a coconut tree for a siesta at midday. In reality ESL teaching is not quiet like that and working anywhere in the world is still work, however Costa Rica is a magical place to do it and the free time that one has to explore and enjoy the beauty of its treasures, makes up for the time spent in a sweaty classroom with no air conditioning. Fundamentally, it’s Costa Rica’s outstanding natural beauty that has made it one of the world’s prime eco-tourism destinations, with visitors flocking here to hike trails through ancient rain forest, climb active volcanoes or explore the high-altitude cloud forest, home to a multitude of wild and endangered animals. This country needs to be on everyone’s ‘to do’ list.
When I took the CELTA and dared to dream of the many foreign lands I would travel to with my qualification, Saudi Arabia was not on the top of that list. In fact, it wasn’t even in the top ten. That was over three years ago, and still I live in this hot, sandy and conservative country. I’m sure you know about the financial benefits, but what else is there? Why did I stay?
Well, for a start; Saudi is not for everyone. I have seen handfuls of young men and women who have come here and left soon after, or been miserable because they either had misinformed expectations of Saudi Arabia, or had read ‘tax-free’ rather than ‘conservative home of Islam’.
What brought me here?
When I started my 5 week TESOL course back in 1997 I had no idea of the journey it would enable me to take. I was certainly not aiming to be teaching in the capital of Europe several years later and at that point, nor would I have chosen to be doing so. Brussels might be the capital of the European Union and home to the European Parliament where surely English is needed but it doesn’t have a reputation for an exciting life, indeed the opposite is more likely to be heard.
Having finished my TESOL, I spent a year in Moscow learning the ropes and exploring the intricacies of the English language before leaving for Italy to spend a couple more years teaching. This experience led me to volunteer as an EFL teacher for 2 years in Rwanda before returning to Italy for a short time. All this time spent teaching motivated me to continue with my own learning curve, I completed my degree in psychology before going on to graduate with an MA in TESOL from Brighton University.
Where to go from there? With no specific plans I jumped at the chance of moving back to Europe, newly married, my husband’s offer of a job in Brussels seemed like an ideal opportunity for both of us to start work overseas, for him to embrace learning French and for me to put my knowledge of the language into practice again.
If you are contemplating moving abroad to teach English, and fancy a dose of la vida loca, Spain could be just the place for you; a country with a knack for being ridiculously successful at sport, a dedication to good food and drink, and where to fiesta until the very early hours is the norm not the exception. Add to this a large demand for EFL teachers and Spain is without doubt an excellent location for the EFL teacher.
As you can’t help but be aware, Spain has had a pretty rough deal recently, a huge economic crisis has resulted in scarily large unemployment figures particularly among young people. The generally agreed view among the Spanish is that one way to resolve this crisis is to improve their level of English. Unemployed workers are admirably committing to learning English while they search for work. Likewise employed workers are keen to take English classes to help secure their jobs as are their companies equally committed to providing English classes for their staff. Also the Spanish education system has re-examined the way English is taught and is now very much geared to having native English speakers present in schools. This is a general rule for the whole of Spain, with the highest demand for EFL teachers in Madrid and big cities (with the exception of Barcelona). This explosion of EFL work in Spain over the last few years means not only is it relatively easy to find work but you also have choice over they type of EFL work you want to do.
Whether you have tired of the 9 to 5 office life, or you’ve just graduated from college and have no idea what to do with your English degree, something has drawn you to the possibility of moving abroad to teach English in Thailand.
After all, who wouldn’t want to move to a place nicknamed the Land of Smiles? But what is it really like to live and teach in Thailand, and how will you know if Thailand is the right overseas teaching destination for you?