Prepare Yourself to Work Abroad

If you’re considering working as a primary or secondary school teacher overseas, then there are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself, both for the application process and the experience itself!  Here are our top ten tips.

#1. Organise your education

Finish your degree and enrol on a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course.  This will make it easier to apply for English teaching roles and programs – not all require this qualification, but it will definitely help to set you aside from the competition.

#2. Tidy up your CV

Your CV is ultimately what stands between you and your dream teaching role abroad, and it’s a vital part of the application process, so now is the time to work on it!  It needs to demonstrate your experience working with children (if any) as well as outlining your qualifications.

#3. Consider your motivations

Think about why you want to teach and what you’d like to get out of the experience.  People’s motivations can be very different – some are in it mostly for the travel, whilst others are more interested in making a difference to a rural community’s standard of education. There is no ‘right’ answer to questions you’ll be asked at interview, just be honest and explain why you want to teach abroad!

#4. Think about your role

What do you want to teach, and where? Would you be happiest teaching English to children in a remote mountain village in Tibet?  Or would you prefer a varied role teaching older pupils in a bustling city in Thailand?  Programmes often look for teachers with more unusual skill sets, so if you’re passionate about woodworking or love music, you may be able to use these skills in your new role.

#5. Find a programme

There are many programmes offering teaching opportunities abroad, from gap year programs to travel companies aimed at the under 30’s market.  Most programmes will help you with everything from finding a job to organising a homestay or local accommodation, and sorting out your visa and paperwork.

#6. Consider a homestay

When you touch down in your new location, you might be tempted to find your own apartment, but there are a number of reasons why a homestay is a great choice.  You’ll become part of a family and have the opportunity to experience local culture and cuisine – you’ll eat together and share language skills and stories.  Even a few months in a homestay until you find your feet can be a great experience.

#7. Embrace local life

Once you’re teaching, try to get as involved as you can.  Sign up to clubs and social activities and get to know the local teachers.  You could become involved with conservation projects, assist with extra-curricular activities for the kids or just spend time getting to know your colleagues.

#8. Don’t be stuck in a rut

Some people arrive in a foreign country and expect it to be like home.  They spend all their free time communicating with friends and family on social media, buying western food in the supermarkets and restaurants and never really experiencing local life.  Don’t be afraid to try new food, new experiences and find out more about the country you’re in!

#9.  Get saving

Perhaps one of the most important aspects is saving enough money to travel and support yourself in the early days in your new job.  It helps to have enough money for a month or two, whilst you find your feet and settle into your new role – of course you’ll also have other costs such as flights and your visa.

#10. Pack the essentials

It can be tempting to pack everything you could ever need for your time abroad – don’t!  You’ll need the basics such as your clothes, toiletries and a first aid/medical kit, but anything else you can usually buy locally, unless you’re teaching in a very remote area.  Try to travel light wherever you can.

Teaching abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have – enjoy yourself!

Sarah Nichols has taught English as a Foreign Language abroad in China and Vietnam as well as in the UK.

Ghana Teaching Project photo by Andrea Aach-Gries.

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