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Teaching English in Brussels, Belgium

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.

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Images of Spain by Claire Woodall

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.

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Thai Classroom

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?

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teaching English in Turkey

I loved living and working in Turkey.  It is a fascinating country that merges both Western and Eastern cultures which makes life there both more challenging and interesting.  I also enjoyed working in both Ankara and Istanbul which are very different from each other.

Ankara is the capital city of Turkey.  Most of the jobs for Turks there are civil jobs.  As such most people earn the same amount of money.  Maybe because of this and because of the type of person who is drawn to working for the government, Ankara even by its own citizens is described as “boring, but easy to live in”.  It has good public transportation that normally is not too over-crowded and the standard of living is good.  It’s also often possible to live within walking distance to your job.

Most English teaching jobs in Ankara will be in Kizilay.  Kizilay is considered the hub of Ankara.  It’s where the main bus stop and the subway merge.  It is also where quite a few of the government buildings are.  Kizilay is also where more of the night life is, so if you like being close to clubs and restaurants it is the place for you.  If you don’t want to be in the middle of everything then there are areas such as Dikmen, Kavaklidere, etc.  Also, as you look for apartments further away from Kizilay you will find cheaper places to live.

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Teaching English in Portugal

Images by David Brown

Lisbon slopes down towards the sea, and following the hills to their natural conclusion you can stand in the flat expanse of the praço do comércio and gaze out across the Atlantic at the seemingly never ending expanse of sun, sea and sky.

In comparison to dusty Spain, Portugal seems fresh. Although on the edge of western Europe, it boasts a mix of peoples that the big central countries just cannot offer. It’s principal cities are all coastal and in them you can find an outward looking attitude as food, culture and accent are interwoven in waves of multiculturalism.

Add to this beautiful countryside, spectacular beaches and good flight connections back to the UK, not only from Lisbon but also southern cities like Faro and well… you might never leave.

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Bangkok Thailand

Ampawa, two hours outside Bangkok, is a little-known destination for foreigners, and well worth the trip for its friendly floating market and the giant river prawns cooked to order and delivered to your door by boat.

How do you define the intense assault on your senses that is Thailand?

It is vibrant, crazy, impossibly romantic, quirky, hilarious, spiritual, – and corrupt.  There are many countries, which can claim these adjectives as theirs, but in Thailand you get to experience all of them every day, and it is the intensity of this, which makes the country so unique and, for many visitors, unforgettable.

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