Starting Your ESL Adventure Abroad

I’ve had several people ask me recently about how to find an ESL (English as a Second Language, in case you didn’t know) teaching  job overseas, so I thought I might share my wisdom, if it can indeed be considered wisdom. :]

I think the first step is to narrow down where you want to be. You’re not going to find a job by simply saying, “I want to teach ESL abroad.” Narrow it down to a part of the world- Asia, South America, etc. Do a little research and decide on your country. If you already know that, you’re doing well! Then on to the city. Consider things such as cost of living, average ESL teacher salary, weather, etc. Would you enjoy living and working in that city? Ok, you’ve got it narrowed down to a city. Some people can skip this step, because when they think of teaching overseas, they already picture themselves in a certain place.

Let’s take Shanghai, China as an example. As you probably know, Shanghai is huge (a mere 23 million people live there!), so think about what area of town you would like to be in.You don’t want to accept a job that you think is in the city-center of Shanghai, and it turns out to be on the outskirts 2 hours away from downtown.  After you narrow that down to one or two areas, research what schools are located there.  Are you wanting to teach at a university? An elementary school? A private language center?  Most schools advertise their foreign teacher positions on their website, and you can go from there. It’s difficult to just do an internet search for “ESL jobs” or even a search for “ESL jobs in China”; the results will be overwhelming!  So the more specific you can be, the more success you will have.

Finding a credible job can also be done through some organizations. Are you a member of LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a social networking site that is used for professional purposes. People post and look for jobs and just make connections with people in their field of study or field of work. Both professionals and students have accounts. LinkedIn also has groups that you can join. Groups such as TESOL International, ESL International, and even ESL Teaching Jobs would be perfect for you to look at. It could also connect you with others who have either already taught abroad or are planning to. Here is the link to their homepage. http://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=hb_home

Have you heard of the organization TESOL International? I am a member, and it is such a great resource! They give practical teaching information but also open ESL job positions around the world, everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Thailand to Costa Rica. And the best part is, they only post jobs from trusted employers.  You can become a student member at a cheaper rate, so if you’re a student, look into that. Check out their site: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/index.asp

Once you are seriously considering a job at a specific school, TALK TO SOMEONE who worked there. This is by far the best thing you can do. The school will talk itself up to the high heavens, but someone like you, a person leaving their home country to teach in a foreign land, will be able to tell you the truths and the myths, the pros and the cons, and answer any questions you have. Ask them all the important questions- did the school always pay them and pay them on time, did they provide a place to stay, did they give any travel stipends, did they give paid holidays, if so how many, did they treat their teachers well, etc. Ask anything and everything. Your potential school should be willing to give you the e-mail address of  a former teacher. If they are unwilling, there’s your first sign!

I think that if you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to finding an ESL job. I can see you now…teaching ESL during the week in a Thai university and relaxing on a sunny beach on the weekends. Ah, that’s the life! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! I’d love to help. Or are you currently or have you been an expat teaching abroad and have some tips on finding an ESL job? Please share with us!

Love,

Your resident ESL expert :]

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2 thoughts on “Starting Your ESL Adventure Abroad

  1. Very true! I hate when I hear stories of people going to another country to teach English and once there find out it was a scam, or that it was a real job but with bad living conditions, poor pay, etc. You’ve got to do the research!

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