What to Consider
The first thing to reflect on when considering a teaching abroad program is what you are looking for. Asking yourself these questions allows you to narrow down what programs best allow you to explore your personal and professional goals:
- Where do you want to live?
- Consider climate, cultural factors, and living conditions/costs
- How long do you want to live abroad for?
- What do you want to teach?
- How much experience do you have?
- What do you want to get out of your experience?
- Do you want a lot of teaching/tutoring experience? Opportunities to travel? How immersive would you like your experience to be?
Once you have narrowed down what you are looking for, you can then begin to explore what specific program will be best for you. You can begin this process by considering the different benefits a program provides. There is a wide range for how far a program is willing to go to help you. Most programs will offer a stipend that is a livable wage or offer support for housing/insurance but be sure to compare these wages with living costs. Similarly, programs may offer assistance with the process of working and living abroad, including help with visa authentication, finding housing, reimbursing transportation, and/or providing financial aid.
Additionally, consider the requirements necessary for the program you are interested in. They may require a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language),TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or other teaching certification, or they may not. Most programs require a Bachelor’s degree by the time you go abroad. Teaching and tutoring experience is preferred, but is not a requirement for all programs or settings. These requirements are really dependent on the program.
Finally, consider cost and legitimacy in the program you are considering. Cost varies greatly by program and should be considered on a case by case basis. Costs are largely dependent on benefits provided and the cost of living in the country you are interested in. The legitimacy of a program can be evaluated by asking yourself these questions about the program:
- How long have they been around?
- Do they have a social media presence? Pictures of teachers/classrooms? Blogs about personal experiences in the program?
- Can you contact alumni?
- Can you contact people working there?
- Who have they partnered with?
- Is it too good to be true?
Ethics of Teaching Abroad Without Teaching Abroad Background
In considering teaching abroad, it is important to be aware and mindful of the goals of this experience. You have the opportunity to engage in cultural exchange, not cultural assimilation. You are not seeking to change or ‘fix’ how the students view their culture. Instead, you have the opportunity to expand how they understand the world around them and what cultures exist. Share experiences within your own culture while adopting theirs. Do not assume your way of living is better, just different.
Additionally, be mindful of power dynamics/cultural imperialism. As an educated American, there is immense responsibility and privilege when coming to a foreign country and working with young, impressionable children, particularly when teaching English. You should be mindful of this at all times; be willing to adapt and resistant to judge. You have just as much to learn from the people there as they do from you. Use this as an opportunity to empower your students through culturally relevant education.
TEFL, TESL, & TESOL Certifications
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificates are designed to prove you underwent training to teach English to non-native speakers. They can be online, in-person, or a combination of both. The main distinction is that a TEFL certification is intended for those who teach non-native speakers in a non-English speaking country (Algeria, Croatia, Italy, Japan, etc.), whereas a TESL certification applies to teaching non-natives speakers in an English-speaking country (e.g., United States).TESOL is a general name for the field of teaching that includes both TESL and TEFL, and you may see training programs with this overarching theme as well. Here is more information about the differences in the certifications from the University of Toronto.
It's important to research what may be required for the programs or schools you are interested in and to thoroughly investigate the individual certificate programs, as they may vary greatly. Here are some resources at UVA to get you started:
- UVA TESOL certificate through the Center for American English Language and Culture at UVA (if you are looking to teach English abroad)
- ESL program in the Curry School of Education (If you are interested in teaching ESL or English as a Second Language in classrooms in the United States)
Teaching Abroad Programs and Resources
The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships Program places applicants in classrooms abroad to help local English teachers. Applicants can only apply to one country.
This program places graduated students at a boarding school in the UK the year after graduation. Students in any field can apply.
This program places students with intermediate French proficiency in public school classrooms to help out local English teachers for 7 months.
The Language Assistant Program places university students (3rd and 4th years)/graduates with basic Spanish proficiency in elementary, secondary, or language schools in Spain for 7 months (October to May).
The Peace Corps Education Program provides volunteers with a wide variety of engagement opportunities, such as working in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary schools. Peace Corps offers a TEFL certification program, as well.
Princeton’s program places college graduates in year long service fellowships with various organizations in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. Their mission has an emphasis on affecting change within communities by grassroots organization.
The DoDEA manages schools for children of military enlisted personnel in the US and abroad. Teaching vacancies and their applications are listed on their website. You can denote an overseas geographic presence on the application. A list of requirements can be found here.
Teaching overseas (U.S. Dept of State)
The US State Department provides a variety of opportunities to teach overseas and earn teaching certifications.
Search Associates helps match students with international schools. They provide personal and ongoing support throughout this process.
IEPA matches graduated students with colleges and schools in the Gulf region. Candidates can pick what subject and country to apply to.
ISS helps match students with international schools. They provide personal and ongoing support throughout this process.
The JET program places students with local government organizations in order to provide language instruction in Japan for a year.
The CIEE Teach English Abroad program provides graduated students the opportunity to work as a lead classroom teacher for a semester in a foreign country. There are 9 countries to choose from and no teaching experience is required. Interested in a TEFL Certification? CIEE’s program offers online and hybrid courses (online and in-person), as well as opportunities to travel to Spain, Thailand, or Vietnam for a destination TEFL program.
An internationally accredited program, International TEFL Academy provides online and in-person classes for TEFL certification in 25 locations around the world.
Dave’s ESL Cafe is an online resource for ESL/EFL teachers and students to share information about TEFL/TESL certification programs, teaching opportunities, jobs, and more.
An online resource for finding ESL job opportunities where you can filter by age range, country, and salary. Additionally, ESL101 features blog posts to learn more about personal ESL experiences.
This is a helpful blog post outlining what to look for in a TEFL certification program.
IAPA is an informational resource for staying up to date on the au pair industry, including relevant information for au pairs, host families, and agencies. Aupair.com matches au pairs with host families.