The prospect of working abroad can be a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing experience for a lot of people. Uprooting one’s life and leaving behind a support base of family and friends is a life-changing decision, but one which my girlfriend and I decided to make in the summer of 2013. After completing our 120 hour TEFL certificate we immediately began the job hunt. Ever ready for new experiences, we decided to look at teaching in Indonesia, as we had already traveled around much of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We were rewarded with two early morning Skype interviews, one for positions in Solo, Java; the other for positions in Makassar, Sulawesi. The latter city we knew nothing about, apart from reading Lonely Planet’s description of it being an “unnerving place”. After much deliberation, we decided to go for the path least trodden, despite the fact that the school, Fluo Institute, had no website and very little online presence. So it was with TEFL certificates in hand, slight trepidation and much praying that it wasn’t a scam, that we left rainy old England at the beginning of 2014 for a year’s long teaching contract in Makassar. It would turn out to be the best decision of our lives.
Like a great many teachers, my application to teach in Saudi Arabia was made on a whim. Facing another year of professional uncertainty, my credo was: ‘apply and see what happens’. I was more than a little surprised when within a week, and without any ‘official’ interview I’d been offered a teaching post at the largest female only university in the world on the edge of Riyadh. A year on, after circumnavigating my way through the extensive highs and lows as life as a single woman in KSA I feel that it is time to pass on my experiences, especially as Saudi related advice can be thin on the ground, and rarely constructive; in this area of EFL horror stories abound. Indeed, once I made my decision to go, I struggled to find a single constructive anecdote to guide me, which only added to my anxiety; the reality, however, was not exactly as I’d imagined.
By yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany (Gili Meno, Indonesia Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Indonesia is a vast archipelago comprising more than 17000 islands. With a large variety of languages and cultures in addition to volcanoes, beaches, valleys, jungles, mangroves and cities to explore, what better place for a TEFL teacher to spend a year or two?
Surabaya is Indonesia’s second most populous city, and is home to several English language schools. Described by Lonely Planet as “a hot and dusty, crowded city with precious little to see”, a description with which I would concur, you may wonder why I have spent almost two years here. Despite the downsides, this is a place where one can experience a real Indonesian city largely untouched by tourism. As a result, the locals see you more as a source of fascination and entertainment than as a cash cow. Travel to Bali or Yogyakarta, and you will be plagued by people harassing you to use their taxi, or buy their products. Often they will walk right up and interrupt you while you are talking to a friend, demanding to know where you are going and waiting impatiently for an answer. It can be very frustrating as one doesn’t want to be rude, yet offering even the most basic politeness in refusal will often lead to more harassment.
No such problem in Surabaya, where the local people have never had tourists to make a living from. They don’t rely on making as much as possible during high season to see them through the rest of the year. Instead when they see a foreigner, they just want to be as friendly as possible, and they are very easily amused. Some find this patronizing, but I find it quite endearing. It is not unusual to be “drive-by Hello Mistered” as I have termed it. You are walking along the street and hear “Hello” behind you followed by “Mister” in front of you as a motorbike whizzes past, its driver looking over his shoulder at you, evidently more concerned with addressing a foreigner than keeping an eye on the road.
By ntt (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in 2006 with plans to achieve 3 long-held goals:
1. set up a brilliant ‘teaching English to speakers of other languages’ (TESOL in Vietnam) program;
2. ride a motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi; and bizarre as it may seem;
3. to take a day trip on a Vietnamese cyclo.
The TESOL in Vietnam goal was achieved a few years ago and I completed a motorbike trip to Hanoi in 2012. It’s the cyclo adventure that has eluded me for the past 8 years – until last weekend!
By Stefan Bauer, http://www.ferras.at (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
For EU citizens teaching English in Europe is an easy way to start a new life overseas. The beauty of being able to work anywhere in Europe visa-free makes applying for jobs overseas nice and simple. However, for native English speakers from the likes of USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – things are bit trickier. For Europhiles, the best option is Eastern Europe where the demand for English is higher and employers are willing to help sort visas and permits for worthy teachers!
When most people think of Europe you often picture Venice, Barcelona and Paris but Eastern Europe is home to plenty of work, unhampered beauty and heaps of culture! Here are the top five destinations to teach English in Eastern Europe:
As the plane began it’s descent into Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, my breathing was shallow and my palms sweaty. The ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign lit up and I gulped. Loudly. No, I am not a nervous flyer. In fact, I quite enjoy flying. No… it was much more terrifying than that.
Making the decision to pack up and move to Vietnam in search of English Teaching work, without ever having actually visited the country (or Asia for that matter), was one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve ever done. Armed with my 150 hours of TEFL training and a copy of my degree certificate, I was hoping for the best… and preparing for the worst.
I had heard mixed reviews about Vietnam: the life threatening traffic, the barbaric practice of eating dog, the unhygienic food and questionable manners of the locals. I needn’t have worried. As true as a lot of this may be, I loved it as soon as I arrived.
Yes, Vietnam takes a little bit of adjusting to and there are certain things which I will never understand. This, however, is all part of its charm and if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone considering Vietnam as a TEFL location, it would be: do it!
By Dhilung Kirat (originally posted to Flickr as High Dynamic Peace) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
There’s been a growing interest from travellers to volunteer as teachers for quite some time now. Only a decade ago, school leavers would simply laze around on the beach in South East Asia, or grab a cheap rental car and speed around the Australian coast; but now, the younger generation are turning their hands to selfless work in countries more suited to structure than sunbathing. Volunteering is now seen as a learning curve prior to university – and afterwards, too.
The issue with volunteer teaching, though, is the expectation that it will be easy without any training. While an amateur teacher may have a classroom’s best interests at heart, how easy is it to actually throw yourself at the mercy of a group of children and hope that you can impart some worthwhile knowledge?
So, you’ve gained your TEFL qualification and started processing which area of the world you want to start making a difference in, am I right?
If money is not your main desire, but fascinating culture, mind-blowing food, incredible people and insanely confusing political situations are…then Bienvenida Mexico!
From the hot and dusty cartel controlled areas around Nogales and Chihuahua to the surf loving South West of Oaxaca this is a vast and wide land that promises you more than just teaching others English, but learning about yourself.
If you have been looking online and cannot find a job through a reputable website or will not be considered due to being out of the country then the route I have taken (which has proven successful and fun on the way) is just to turn up!
At the airport you are immediately granted a 180 day visa and then you can decide where you want to travel and where you want to try and gain employment.
Argmda at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
Rio, Buenos Aires, Quito… ahhhh starting a new life teaching English abroad in South America sure does sound tempting! If, like thousands of other TEFLers, you are longing to make the big move to South America then you’ll need to make sure you get clued up about how to make it happen!
Done the ‘TEFL jobs in South America’ Google search? Not brought up loads of jobs? Don’t panic – this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand for TEFL teachers. Instead, a lot of job opportunities tend to be advertised on the ground – many TEFL teachers seeking employment visit the employers in person!
Here’s a short guide to landing your dream TEFL job in three of the most popular South American destinations!
By Liuchoi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Every person who has travelled a bit has a taxi story to share. Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been travelling, I can safely say that I’ve heard a taxi story from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.
Some taxi-tales are a good news story – the birth of a baby in the back seat and alike – but most are about the kind of situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, ‘lead foot’ taxi drivers, arguments about tips, traffic accidents and much, much worse.