We all have specific plans about what we want to do with our lives and, in planning, there’s always a margin for deviation. So, you’ve completed your studies and are not getting that job you really want, or maybe you’re stuck in a rut and not sure what to do with your life. What do you do in the meantime? I decided to try out teaching English in a foreign country and my choice was South Korea.
I am a South African who has been living in South Korea since August 2019 as an English teacher.
The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) industry has created a huge gateway for people to experience new parts of the world.
One of the biggest drawing cards of teaching English abroad is being able to travel and see new places. I’ve also done my fair share of this.
You can also look forward to more travel posts like Must-Visit Cafés in Cheongju and more coming soon!
However, as great as the travel and experiences are, your main aim and reason to teach English abroad should be because you love teaching and children. I am in no way saying that everyone should go teach English abroad, because this is an actual job with a lot of hard work, and you need to be very dedicated and actually have a passion for teaching and children. If you are not that person, please don’t do it because children deserve better. They are real humans with real emotions, and they can pick up on the teacher’s moods and the quality of education that they are getting.
With this in mind, I’ve created a list of 5 reasons why you should consider teaching English abroad if you never have before. Maybe you’d be a great English teacher and you just never thought about it.
Okay, so I’m going to jump straight into it.
1. You are a Native Speaker
The first reason why you should teach English abroad is because it is something you are already naturally qualified to do. If you are a native English speaker, you are already qualified to do the job.
You do still need to get a certification so that’s a little technicality. But it’s not like studying a three-year degree. I think the course that I did took me six months but I was working full-time. I had six months to complete it online, but there are people who can finish it within a month, time willing.
It’s called a TEFL certification. It’s the same thing as a TESOL certification. Majority of these courses can be done online. There are some with in-person classes, but it will depend on the institution given the current global situation.
I, for example, did a certain number of hours online and then a certain number of hours in person. It’s basically a kind of refresher course for grammar points of English, teaches you how to teach English from the perspective of someone who is educating a non-English speaker (who is learning it as a second or third or fourth language) and will also teach you things like classroom management, time management, etc.
For those of you who do not know how to go about getting this qualification, there are a lot of companies that offer a TEFL course. The company that I would recommend is ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training). I personally used a different company, but when I speak to a couple of successful alumni who used ITTT to get the jobs that they have in China, Korea, and Japan, I kind of wish I had used ITTT instead.
What’s cool about ITTT is that they have several online courses and in-person courses. You can also do combined courses, a certification or a diploma – there’s just a whole lot of options. Which means that you can pick a course that suits your needs and your study personality. There are options for shorter or longer courses, depending on your pocket. You can also choose to either self-study or you can choose a course that comes with a tutor that you can speak to and ask questions.
If your study style is more like me, you can just study by yourself, but it goes according to how many hours you would like to do the course for. Usually when you apply for a job, they will say that they’d prefer if you had a certain amount of teaching hours, alternatively you will need to have a certain amount of teaching experience. The other cool thing about ITTT is that they offer specialization courses. So, if you are specifically going to teach English online, they have a number of courses for doing just that. That’s why I would recommend this company.
To make your life easier, here is the link for this company where you can choose from their various online courses: https://www.teflcourse.net/?cu=themusinggirlesl and if you like what you see you can get a 15% discount using this code: https://www.teflcourse.net/apply/?cu=themusinggirlesl.
The cool thing about a TEFL qualification is that you don’t only have to use it for teaching English. I mean, that’s its main purpose – to help you teach English abroad – but let’s say you apply for another job abroad, I’ve seen in the requirements where they will say that it helps if you have a TEFL certificate because it verifies your level of fluency in English, for example. So, it’s actually just a really good qualification to have if you are planning to work internationally in general.
2. Experience Different Cultures
The second reason that you should teach English abroad is because you get to experience a new culture and you get to live in a new society that’s probably very different from your own culture.
A lot of people embark on the TEFL teaching journey with the idea of fulfilling their travel fantasies. But realistically, time-wise, you only have the weekends and your vacation periods to do that. So once again, you need to actually have a passion for teaching to do this.
However, it is still a huge perk to be able to travel and experience a different culture. The new location will open up a new world of international (surrounding countries) and domestic travel within your host country. Meeting locals will give you new and enriching experiences. You’ll also get to see a lot of places that you maybe wouldn’t have seen. I think that’s a really amazing part of it.
3. Personal Development
The third reason that I think makes the experience worth it is self-development. You get to learn things about yourself through all of these cultural lessons that you learn from being in a different country with different kinds of people. Even the expats that you meet will be from diverse countries, have different ideas, and different ways of thinking. You get to expand your cultural perspective and mindset.
You also get to exit your comfort zone. You’re in a country where nobody knows you, you probably don’t have a support system physically available at first, and so, you have to build your own support system. It teaches you a lot about yourself, how to be independent, etc. There’s a lot of potential for personal growth because I personally feel like you can’t grow inside of your comfort zone.
For new teachers, I think teaching abroad is a really good opportunity, because teaching somebody who doesn’t speak the same language as you, who’s learning the language that you speak, teaches you to be a better communicator. You might think that you’re a very clear communicator until you speak to someone who doesn’t have the same fluency level as you in a language, then you realize how to speak simply, clearly, in super effective ways, and you learn how to say a lot in a very little space of time. That’s also an important social skill.
4. The Perks and Incentives
The fourth reason why you should teach English abroad is, because they want native speakers to come to their countries, a lot of countries give you incentives and offer a lot of benefits for foreigners who teach English.
This varies country by country, obviously according to their country’s resources and just their beliefs, I suppose. But for example, in Korea, a good portion of your medical insurance is covered and free, there are pension plans, bonus incentives, etc. So, you get to save a lot of money and live a quality lifestyle.
You also have certain things in your contract that you get access to for free. For example, when I moved into my place, there was no TV, but it’s in my contract that I should have one. So, my school bought one for me. It saved me the expense, and now I get access to information for free. In Korea, you can choose to get a stipend instead of getting a rent-free apartment and then find your own place. Whereas it works differently in Japan. It all depends on the country. There are usually a lot of benefits to a job like this because they want to give you a reason to come and teach English in their country.
5. Financial Benefits
The fifth reason why you should teach English abroad, and this is kind of the obvious one, but I feel like it shouldn’t be the main focus but is an honest reality, is for the financial benefits. There’s huge money earning potential. And the reason I say that is because above money earning potential, there is huge saving potential.
When you live in your home country, you tend to have a lot of things that you have to pay for. Whereas, for example, in Korea I don’t pay rent. I don’t have a car, so I don’t have to pay a car instalment or petrol. And so, my saving potential is a lot more than if I were in South Africa and I lived in a flat and had a car and all of these things that I have to pay for.
Depending on the minimum wage it also makes your earning potential more depending on where you’re from. Some of my American friends, for example, have said that they’re not actually earning that much more in Korea, they’re more here because they want to be and so, it’s less about the money. But for example, for a South African, the Korean minimum wage is four or five times more than the South African one. Which is more impactful for us. You could possibly be earning three or four times the salary you were earning in South Africa for a similar amount of work outside of your industry.
Keep in mind that the cost of living plays a role in your saving potential. For example, in Korea, you can save a lot of money if you live a certain lifestyle. However, in Japan, I hear they earn more than English teachers in Korea but the cost of living is a lot higher. So, the saving potential isn’t the same, even though the earning potential is more.
These are things to think about when you’re deciding which country you want to go to. Many people have been able to pay off the debt that they have in their home countries in a year or two. So, that’s another really good reason.
Other than that, it’s just the pure joy of the job. You get to have a cool experience, learn a lot of new skills, and add meaningful experience to your CV whilst experiencing a new country. The love you receive from students will also warm your heart every time. And if traveling is not possible for you, you can teach English online as well.
Would you be interested in teaching English abroad? If so, which country would you teach in? Share your thoughts in the comments!