Why consider teaching English as a foreign language?
Working as an English Language Teacher in another country can be both an exciting and a daunting prospect. The thought of taking the big step of moving to another country and adopting a new way of life, can scare many people and understandably so. You might have to learn another language to help you cope with everyday life and get used to different customs of behaviour. You will also be leaving your friends and family behind and you will need to make a new set of friends unless you travel with fellow companions – all of which can make you think twice about making the move. However, the advantages of this career direction far outweigh any perceived negatives.
I spent some time working in Japan as an English Language Teacher; I wanted to travel and develop my skills in teaching others, so the idea of teaching English as a second language seemed like a logical step for me to take. I would be lying if I said the experience wasn’t a challenge for me; dealing with homesickness and having to learn a different way of living and working, definitely pushed me to my limits! Nevertheless, it was also one of the best experiences of my life and taught me many valuable skills which I utilise to this day. If you want to gain independence, life experience, make good friends, meet new people, learn an appreciation for other cultures and enhance your career prospects, teaching English abroad can be the just the ticket!
What do I need to do think about and do before I make the move?
There are some important matters you need to think about and implement before you decide to move to another country to teach English. These are some of my tips:
- Discuss your plans with your family, friends and loved ones so that they are aware of your intentions. It’s always easier to make the move to live and work in another country if you have the support of the people closest to you.
- Research the practicalities such as finding out if you need a particular type of visa to work in another country. Most of the information is available on Embassy websites and online in general. You might need to hold a specific qualification to be eligible for a work visa (I had to have a Degree to work as an English teacher in Japan).
- Consider approaching a reputable organisation which specialises in teaching English as a foreign language and which has its base in the UK (e.g. the JET programme for teaching English in Japan). You will have added protection for the duration of your stay and there will usually be British representatives based in the country you want to teach in. These programmes will also process your visa application, arrange accommodation and will provide practical support for you in the country you want to move to.
- Find out as much as you can possibly can about the country you want to teach English in with regard to their culture, language, food, expected codes of behaviour and way of life. You might have to learn a new language and adopt a different way of living which is important to take into consideration.
- You might want to study for a TEFL qualification in the UK. It will help you learn techniques and strategies for teaching English as a foreign language effectively.
- Work out a daily, weekly or monthly budget; you will not be spending all of your time working as an English language teacher and there might be many social activities you want to become involved in, so have an approximate idea of the amount of money this might require.
- Ensure that you and your loved ones have access to social media. It is the easiest and probably the cheapest way to keep in touch with the people you care about. Shop around for the cheapest mobile phone provider for your requirements.
- Learn to cook if you don’t already do so! It will save you a lot of money in the long term and will help to keep you healthy too.
- If you have a medical condition which requires medication, make sure that you can access the same medication in another country, or take enough with you for the duration of your stay. Also, find out if you need any vaccinations before you to travel to your country of choice.
- Take some home comforts with you; I took my duvet (thanks to my Mum who absolutely insisted that I should take it!) and guess what? She was right because I really did need it!
What should I do when I get there?
- Make contact with your family, friends and loved ones. Provide them with your contact and address details so that they can reach you.
- Get your bearings! Once you have met your flatmates (if relevant), get out of your accommodation and walk around so that you know where the shops are situated, and get a feel for your neighbourhood. Find out where the nearest rail or bus station is if you need to take transport to your school.
- If you move to another country with an organisation based in the UK, you will usually be provided with an orientation schedule once you are in the country. Make sure you stick to the schedule and follow their instructions to the letter! They are there to help you settle in, so it is important you keep your part of the agreement.
- Make friends with both fellow colleagues and the local people. You will find that many locals will want to talk to you and are more than happy to try and help, even when English is not their first language. It will also help ease any feelings of loneliness.
- If you are unhappy at any point, speak to someone. Many UK based teaching organisations will have access to Counsellors you can speak to in your country of origin.
Enjoy your experience! Try to get the most out of every day. Take part in social activities, learn the language and meet new people. To this day, I still speak to some of the friends I made during my time in Japan.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of teaching English abroad, you can see a Careers Advisor at the college who can talk to you about this option. Good luck!
Take a look at teaching courses at the College here: https://leicestercollege.ac.uk/about/news-and-events/blog/teaching-english-as-a-foreign-language/
By Sonia Riyait