Teaching Abroad is Always an Option

Hi Everyone!

I’m currently in the process of editing several posts surrounding my journey through the UVic Education Program which I’ve just completed.

I’m excited over the next weeks to help people learn about the steps and what to expect, but before I do, I also wanted to make this post about teaching abroad to point out that no matter what you hope to ultimately do, going abroad to teach is always an option, and a good one at that.

How I Started Teaching Abroad

After I graduated from my first degree in Pacific and Asian Studies and Indigenous Studies in 2011 (link to previous post), I landed a job through the JET Programme to teach in Japan as a Assistant Language Teacher for the public school system.

Later on, I joined the EPIK Program (English Program in Korea). In my case, I really felt like it was my calling; indeed, it was a great testing area to see whether teaching was the right career for me. At the same time, I also had the chance to make friends with many people who did not see teaching as their ultimate destination, but rather a stepping stone on the path their future career.

I met scientists, performers, mathematicians, programmers, personal trainers and more. Some of these people would save up some money abroad and later return to their main area of study, while others discovered a new budding passion and let it develop.

The main point here is that there are opportunities around the world for would-be university graduates to go and explore the world while saving up and paying off their student loans. While the wages aren’t stellar, a respectable wage sometimes coupled with perks such as free healthcare and accommodation make this make this a very good option.

I have some friends who even decided to stay long-term and are living comfortable lives with their families abroad. That being said, most people decide to go for a period from between 1-5 years. Teaching programs are often designed with this point in mind. Some programs do not allow for longer stays than 4 years, so any longer than that most people will get a Master’s Degree and and teach in post-secondary.

So what do you need to teach English abroad?

First and most importantly, it is a legal requirement for many countries such as Japan and Korea to have a 4 year university degree in order to qualify for the type of working visa needed to become a teacher abroad.

This is a technical requirement, so it is also a reason why the details of the degree don’t matter as much. Some government sponsored programs are quite competitive and there are always more applicants than positions; however, these programs are relying on your skill as a native speaker of English rather than your teaching prowess at this level. For example in the JET Programme, they are more concerned in your attitude towards life, adaptability, and the factors motivating you to live abroad than your teaching experience.

Programs will almost certainly require an accredited TESL Certification course such as CELTA, and I really recommend investing in a good one for a few reasons. First, the course itself can be a treasure trove of information that will become invaluable in the future. Second, courses are a dime a dozen these days, so taking a properly accredited course ensures that the quality of education is on par with what you’re paying for.

Finally, taking a good TESL course is a good idea because it sets you up with more options domestically and internationally. While standards vary across the board, acquiring employment to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) in Canada, USA, and Europe will certainly require CELTA or equivalent, so it is better (in my opinion) to take one that will endure as a hiring opportunity after returning as well.

With a university degree and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate in hand, you’ll be in a great position to live and work abroad, but this begs the question: are you willing to be adaptive? I mention this because while thousands go to live and work abroad and love it, there were always the people I met along the way that clearly shouldn’t have gone abroad in the first place.

There are many reasons for this. Some cases were as simple as having important stuff back at home that need to be attended to. Through the grapevine I also came to hear of more extreme cases of racism and closed mindedness.

It is worth mentioning that when we go abroad, we suspend our lives in Canada for a short while to experience life in another area of the world as a guest. If you aren’t able to accept being a respectful guest, then perhaps this isn’t the best choice after all. This likely won’t be an issue–instead you’ll be having too much fun making friends, teaching kids and exploring the world around you.

The last thing you will need is patience. Depending on the program, it can take anywhere from a month to a year to get to where you want to go. Government sponsored programs such as EPIK and JET take about a year to go through the entire process, and there’s a lot of investment in both time and effort with things such as statement of purpose essays, interviews with consulates, and trips to get documents notarized. As your trip date comes closer, you’ll be tying up loose ends in Canada, building your lesson plans, attending training seminars and more — but in the end, it’s all worth it!

Life is but a flash in the pan — a blink — and then before we know it many years have passed. I’ve always had the motto to try to live life without regrets. Time may feel slow in the moment, but as it accumulates it can be surprising how days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and years slide by like nobody’s business.

The time is going to pass, so we might as well actualize in a way that brings us closer to our dreams — and this applies to you as well! If you’re finishing up that Math degree, but you know you’ve always wanted to learn how to scuba dive in Thailand, why not go there for a year and make it a lifelong memory which you can later recount to friends and relatives? Options like this are always waiting for us. All we have to do is decide.

…of course a healthy dose of research on an important life decision never hurt anyone either. 😉

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