If you have always wanted to live abroad and experience new cultures in-depth, teaching abroad is one way to achieve that goal. Trained American teachers with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree are nearly always in demand in some of the most exotic countries you’ll ever see and it’s a great way to get to know the local culture at a personal level.
Teachers abroad work directly with students and parents, but they may also create after-school programs, tutoring programs, interest clubs, and camps for boys and girls to learn life skills.
Some teaching abroad programs are centered around the children of U.S. nationals who are based in foreign countries for government work and projects overseas, so you can often teach in your own language in a foreign country. They recruit year round for American International Schools throughout the world. These schools serve the children of international executives and State Department employees.
You can also teach at foreign universities and public schools through one of several Fulbright Exchange Programs:
Teachers who live and work abroad improve the chances for children to grow up with an education. They also gain significant – and highly desirable – skills that will enhance their resumes and help them gain employment when they return to the U.S.
If this sounds exciting to you, read on for expert tips for teaching abroad.
1. Choose your Source with Care
Of course you want your overseas teaching experience to be safe, and working with reputable recruiting sources is critical. One of the first sources teachers turn to is the U.S. State Department’s Teaching Overseas page where you’ll find dozens of useful links for finding jobs, contacting the local schools, and more.
The following are other reputable sources when you want to teach abroad:
ESL Jobs: job listings, career advice, and curriculum resources.
Idealist: search overseas teaching opportunities with large nonprofits.
Teach Away: applications for private and government run schools.
Department of Defense: Department of Defense opportunities abroad at U.S. military base schools.
Eteach: recruitment site for teaching abroad in the United Kingdom and other countries.
2. Check Education and Certification Levels
A job seeker who has a bachelors degree but no teaching certification can still take advantage of the many opportunities to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Agencies and recruiters post jobs in countries from Dubai to Thailand, and every country in between. The Peace Corps provides teaching opportunities in many locations as well.
3. Understand the Terms of the Teach Abroad Job
If you take a job teaching abroad, you can expect to make a minimum commitment of one year. Before you accept a position, carefully investigate the job source and the school where you will be teaching. Get everything in writing, including your work hours, where you will be living (and the condition), vacation and personal time off, etc. Check with the recruiting company about the options for local medical treatment and be sure to have adequate travel health insurance.
Find out about the requirements for visas and work permits from the recruiting company, and check those facts at the U.S. State Department website. You’ll also want to verify whether certain vaccinations and/or medications are required before you leave.
In some cases, teachers receive a salary and in others they receive a stipend, so it’s important to understand the terms you are agreeing to before you sign up. In some cases, you’ll have free housing, transportation, moving expenses and other allowances, which gives you more purchasing power than a similar (and likely higher) salary you can expect in the U.S.
4. Study Up on the Teach Abroad Experience
It’s important to study up and understand the teach abroad experience. The Teacher Port Blog offers the Best Teaching Abroad Blogs of 2012 as a list of blogs you can read for tips on how to find sustainable teaching jobs abroad but also read up and understand the teaching experience.
If you can, try to speak or email with teachers from the country where you are going to learn about the political climate, and local customs as well as what items you may want to tuck into your bags to make your stay more comfortable and safe. Talk with present and/or former teachers from your recruiting service to learn what level of support you can expect when you are living in the foreign country – especially if things go badly. You can also inquire about the host country’s expatriate community because those folks can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to adjust to a new culture.
See our 5-Part Guide in Culture Shock 101 to help you understand the effects and how to overcome culture shock.