“Do you think I can teach ESL abroad?”
This is without a doubt the most common question we receive from our readers. When we set out to answer such an open question, we consistently wish we could refer back to an article or two on our site as an additional resource. But unfortunately we can’t, as we have yet to write about teaching ESL abroad—despite the fact that we have been teaching ESL, full time, for two years now.
Well, better late than never.
If you’ve ever thought about traveling, teaching, or Taiwan, than this post (finally) is for you!
Why You Should Teach ESL Abroad (& How To Do It) – Part 1
The Benefits of Teaching ESL Abroad
Dan and I knew we wanted to start off our marriage by traveling the world together. Our belief was that it would be much more difficult to set out on a nomadic adventure if we first settled down and accumulated ‘stuff’; alternatively, we chose to relocate to Asia immediately after our honeymoon—and we’re so glad we did!
To make traveling sustainable, we knew we would need an income overseas. After all, we had just graduated University! The first option that opened up for us—as it does most travelers—was teaching English. It worked out perfectly. One of the best parts about teaching English overseas is that it generally requires you to settle down in one location for a minimum of one year. For many travelers, a one-year commitment can sound daunting. However, there are a whole myriad of benefits to traveling slowly. For example, staying in one place for an entire year actually allows enough time to learn—and understand—the ins and outs of the host culture; it lets you make local friends; it provides the opportunity to learn (or in our case attempt to learn) the local language; it makes travel around the country or region possible; and it gives you the opportunity to participate in local festivals and traditions. Of course, the longer you stay in one place the better you will come to know it. We ultimately decided one year wasn’t enough time to truly experience all that we wanted out of Taiwan. Many of our closest relationships were cultivated during our second year here.
We’ve found that more and more people are discovering the benefits of teaching and traveling. A more prominent concern is how teaching or traveling for an extended period of time will look on a resume. This was certainly my number one concern before signing up for a second year of teaching in Taiwan. Was I wasting time becoming qualified in a field I didn’t plan on pursuing post-Taiwan? Would this mark me as ‘unhireable’?
Teaching ESL abroad can look good on a resume. Personally, I now have confidence to stand in front of adults twice my age—almost all of them with PhDs—and lecture about business principals in English speaking countries. That confidence can extend into any realm of public speaking. I now know what it’s like to converse in a mix of broken English and Chinese to explain what I need to Taiwanese co-teachers on a daily basis. Need someone with cross-cultural communication experience? I’m your gal. And don’t forget the fact that just going to another country shows cultural awareness, initiative, and self-reliance.
Like all things in life, what you receive from teaching ESL directly equates to the amount of effort you put into it. Don’t worry that teaching ESL abroad will look bad to future employers; rather, embrace teaching, and gain the skills you want from it.
You never know. Maybe you’ll even discover a hidden passion for teaching! It wouldn’t be the first time someone changed their projected career path.
Save Some Dough
If you only look at the figures attached to teaching ESL abroad, it might not look like you are making that much money. However, it adds up, especially if you choose to teach in a country with a low cost of living.
To put it transparently, we each make an average of USD$2,250 a month (before taxes).
We’ve made and saved enough money to live comfortably, pay off credit cards and minor student loans, jet over to the Philippines three times, vacation in Hong Kong and Macau, and travel through Indonesia for a month. On top of that, we’ve actually saved money, too.
Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely more lucrative jobs out there, even for recent college graduates. But if you want to experience a new culture and travel on the side, teaching ESL is one of the best ways to do it.Notes on money and Taiwan: The start-up costs to teaching ESL in Taiwan are HUGE. We’ll talk about it more in Part 2 of the series, but don’t expect to start saving money until you’ve been living in Taiwan for 3-6 months. There is also a foreigner’s tax of 18% in Taiwan. After 183 days of living in Taiwan, your rate will drop to 6% and you can file to get 12% back. Best to think of it as a savings plan and arrive in Taiwan before the 183 day count…
Teaching ESL Is Fun
Okay. It’s not fun everyday. But most days we really enjoy what we’re doing. There’s a surge of pride and joy when your students finally get a concept. The unconditional love showered upon me by my kindergarten students is enough to turn any bad day around. Plus, kids are just funny little beings! I’m constantly bursting out into laughter at the cute or witty things they do. While my kindergarten students will likely forget me, I will always remember them!
Teaching ESL abroad is sure as hell not for everybody. Most people end up loving it, but a lot of people don’t. Does entertaining snotty-nosed children sound fun? Do you enjoy making a fool of yourself in the front of a classroom? Do you have a basic understanding of the English language? Do you have the patience and energy to teach day in and day out?
Most importantly, remember that teaching ESL abroad—while fun—is not just a joke. You’re paid to actually do your job, and it’s not fair to the students or the school if they end up with a disinterested teacher. Be honest with yourself when evaluating if teaching English is right for you or not.
Don’t forget we have a free eBook with practical tips for teaching English in Taiwan. Download it here, and then connect with Reach to Teach to learn more about teaching ESL around Asia. Don’t worry—Reach to Teach is another free resource!
Have you thought about teaching ESL abroad? Have you already been an ESL teacher somewhere around the world? Share your questions and experiences in the comments below!
[color-box color=”gray”]This is the first of a two-part series on teaching ESL abroad. Stay tuned—in part 2 we’ll talk more about how you can get started teaching English![/color-box]