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Teaching English abroad is a great way to do meaningful work while immersing yourself in another culture. In this post, 12 teachers share their teaching English abroad experiences around the world.

Since my specialty is teaching English online while traveling, I reached out to some other bloggers and teachers to share their stories about where they taught, how they found their job, and their top advice for aspiring teachers. 

How to become a TEFL teacher abroad

To become an ESL teacher abroad, you’ll need to get qualified, choose which part of the world you want to go to, and apply for teaching jobs.

Teaching English Abroad Requirements

The requirements to teach abroad vary on a country to country basis. However, most teaching abroad jobs require the following qualifications:

  • Native or near-native English speaker 
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher – There are some exceptions to this though! Read about countries where you can teach abroad without a degree here.
  • A 120 hour TEFL certificate – You can look at companies to get TEFL certified in this post. 

Where can I find teaching jobs?

You can find TEFL jobs through job listing websites, recruiters, applying to international schools directly, or by going through your TEFL course provider. 

TEFL job sites like the ones listed below are a good place to start your search and get some inspiration: 

In the stories below, teachers share their favorite Teaching English Abroad Experiences, including where they went, how they got started, and how you can do it too.

So what’s it like being an English teacher overseas? Let’s find out! 

[irp posts=”4086″ name=”8 Websites Where you can Teach English Online Without a Degree”]

Teaching English Abroad Experiences

Teaching in Abu Dhabi, UAE with Di

Di runs a travel blog called Slight North with her husband Dan. They both work remotely and live out of their backpacks while traveling full-time (and write about it so you can too!). Follow along on Facebook

teaching english in uaeWhere did you teach abroad? 

Abu Dhabi, UAE

How did you find your job abroad? 

I found it through my school’s career portal when I was a senior in college. I applied directly to the school and didn’t use an agency.

What were you thinking when you arrived in the UAE?

The day before we left I was really excited. The day we arrived I was totally overwhelmed. We stepped out of the airport and it was insanely hot and humid, the people who picked us up didn’t speak much English, I was exhausted from a 14-hour flight and the apartment they gave me was so sparse and had tiles and fluorescent lighting like an office… My first thought was that I made a huge mistake. Luckily I was wrong!

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

I taught preschool and second grade. With my preschoolers, I taught them everything, math, art, reading, etc. In second grade I taught phonics and social studies. My day ran from 7:45 to 3:10 pm with multiple breaks. 

On the weekends we would go to brunches or ladies’ nights and then recover at the beach or a pool. Sometimes we’d rent a car and drive to Dubai.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation?

The school provided it. It was an apartment building inside the school. Like, my classroom was a three-minute walk away from my door… 

Were you able to save money or break even?

I was able to save. My husband and I paid off 58k in student loans during our two-year stay and came home with savings as well. Because we taught abroad we had the financial foundation to create the digital nomad lifestyle we have today. 

Favorite Teaching Story

Once I was walking to lunch after teaching my second-grade class and my preschoolers were coming back from the playground with a different teacher. 

One of them saw me from across the playground and shouted my name and ran to me, the rest all followed and gave me a massive group hug. They probably should have gotten in trouble for getting out of line but little moments like that with the students were my favorite. 

Also, the country gets almost no rain, so once when there was a rainstorm we got two days off of school. My Least favorite moment was when one of my preschoolers rubbed my stomach and asked if I was pregnant!

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? We visited Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Oman and got to see all of the UAE as well.

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

You just gotta do it. It will be 100% overwhelming at first but if you stick it out, the travel and the financial reward are worth it.

Where can someone go to find more information?

You can find more details in this article on my blog.

Teaching English in Beijing, China with Jade and Kev

Jade and Kev have been traveling since 2015. They’re currently teaching English in Beijing for the third year! You can follow their adventures on Two Tall Travelers.

teaching english overseasWhere did you teach abroad? 

Beijing, China

How did you find your job abroad? 

We originally tried to find jobs in Korea via an agency but it was difficult to find good public school jobs as a couple. Our agent asked if we had considered China instead – we hadn’t but after a little research, we were sold!

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

We both teach primary school age kids and work in a public school. We both teach 20 classes per week (which are only 40 minutes long each).

Our schedules are pretty great – we only have 4 classes a day and when we aren’t teaching we don’t have office hours so we can sleep in late or just go home and enjoy our free time!

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

We have lived in 3 separate apartments but they’ve all been pretty similar. When we arrived, the company we work for booked us into a hotel for a week.

We were assigned a Chinese ‘helper’ and they took us to an estate agent and helped us look for the perfect apartment without having to worry about the language barrier. We now live a ten-minute cycle ride from school in a high rise building.

The agency is excellent and if there are any problems then we can go onto their English-language app and ask them for help. We also have a cleaner come once a month for free too!

Were you able to save money or break even? 

We are able to save most of our money working in Beijing. The average teaching wage here in a public school is around $2800 and the cost of living is very manageable.

We pay around $800 for our apartment (which is by no means the cheapest place we could have found) and the rest of our bills come to about $100 a month.

You can eat out at a local Chinese restaurant for less than $10 and a 10km (6 miles) journey will cost around $5.

Favorite Teaching Story 

I love the English names that the children give themselves. I’ve taught kids called Meatball, Vortex, Tony Stark and Banana!

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

Yes. In January/February, China celebrates the New Year so we get a month off school. We have traveled some of mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia!

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Don’t work in a private school! They are often unregulated and not authorized to get you the right visa, which can obviously get you in trouble.

Find a school or company that will get you a Z visa, pay you well and support you in your teaching journey!

Where can someone go to find more information? 

Check out this guide to Teaching English in China!

Teaching Abroad in London, England with Kristy 

Kristy grew up in a small town in Tasmania, Australia but had always dreamt of traveling the world. After moving to London to teach English she started her travel blog, where she now writes about destinations in Europe with a geeky, nerdy or quirky twist. She currently lives in the Netherlands with her Dutch fiancé and four weird cats.

teach abroad in london

Where did you teach abroad? 

London, England

How did you find your job abroad? 

I signed up with an agency called Protocol Education before I moved, which made everything very easy when I first arrived. They helped me organize a British bank account and tax number as soon as I got there so I could start working straight away. They also offered support and advice before I left Australia, as getting a visa can be quite stressful. 

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

I was working as a secondary English teacher, mainly as a supply (substitute or relief) teacher. Sometimes I would attend a school only for a day to cover classes, but I also had periods of working in one school for a couple of weeks and even an entire term at one time.

As a supply teacher, I would usually be given materials for all the classes I had during a day, would work from around 8:00 am – 3.30 pm and didn’t need to stay later to do marking or planning.

Doing daily supply was good because I could just leave work behind at the end of the day (which isn’t usually the case as a teacher) but I would also have more behavior issues because students often see having a supply teacher as the chance to go wild!

For longer contracts, I would do some lesson planning and marking but not as much as when I worked full-time as a teacher in Australia. I also enjoyed these longer stretches much more because I had the chance to get to know the students and didn’t have to figure out how to get all over the city to a new neighborhood every morning!

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

I found share-house accommodation in South Wimbledon through a company run by ex-teachers called Arrive Homes. I would definitely recommend them to other teachers moving to London as the houses are always close to public transport and your rent includes all utilities plus internet. I even lived with two other Australian teachers for a while!

Were you able to save money or break even? 

I didn’t really save any money because London is expensive to live in and I was traveling whenever I had holidays. However, I didn’t end up with thousands in debt, which I have heard has happened to other Australians who move to London!

Favorite Teaching Story 

I don’t really have a story but London students would often comment on me being Australian and I had one teenage boy who would always ask me to say “flamin’ galahs” – which is a catchphrase of a character on an Aussie TV show (Home and Away) that’s quite popular in England!

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

Yes, that was the best part about moving to London! It’s easy (and usually fairly cheap) to get to other countries in Europe, plus teachers in England get half-term holidays as well as time off between terms.

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Don’t wait around for someone to go with you. It might seem scary to move abroad by yourself but it is absolutely worth it!

Where can someone go to find more information? 

I have a guide on my blog on how to move to London with more info and links. 

Teaching English in Greece with Rebecca

Rebecca is a British travel writer and blogger who fell into the job by accident after living in Greece for 11 years. Her experiences prompted her to pen her novel ‘Girl Gone Greek’ – now an award-winning screenplay.

teach abroad in greeceWhere did you teach abroad? 

Greece

How did you find your job abroad? 

I found my job on www.tefl.com. 

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country?

I taught from the age of 8 years up to 16 years, plus the occasional adult classes. The system in Greece is that not enough classes for languages are available in the normal school system, so there are ‘after school’ schools for all sorts of subjects.

I taught languages at one of these schools in a small Greek village in my first year, then Athens the next year.

My day usually started at 4 pm and depending on how many lessons I had, it would end at 9 pm or 10 pm. But never from 4-9 pm straight.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

All my jobs in Greece came with accommodation – which was a good and bad thing. Good in the fact that it took the stress away from me having to find it initially, but ‘bad’ in the sense that it could mean they ‘owned’ you.

So after time getting used to the system and the way things worked (and finding friends), I found my own.

Were you able to save money or break even? 

I wasn’t in it for the money – I was in it to gain cultural experience of a different culture than my own and immerse myself. A lot of the time, the only way to do this is to teach English.

Favorite Teaching Story 

The older kids in my first year of teaching being asked to describe a photo (to practice their oral skills) and there’s a picture of a man in it, and the kids said he looked like a (bad Greek word).

I didn’t realize this meant a bad word and thought they were using their imagination and giving the man in the photo a name.

So I repeated this ‘bad Greek word’ – thinking I am naming the man in the photo, to which the kids roared with laughter and told me what its’ British equivalent meant.

Suffice to say I never made that mistake again, but it weirdly won me respect from them and they didn’t misbehave again.

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

Greece doesn’t have half terms like in the U.K., hence Christmas, Easter and especially summer holidays are longer to make up for this, plus it’s so much hotter in the summer.

Greece is also, aesthetically, blessed with so many wonderful islands so for Easter, for example, I’d love to go to a different Greek island each year to see how it’s celebrated there – Easter is their main holiday, much bigger than Christmas.

One year my dad came to visit and we traveled by train to Meteora – the place with the ‘monasteries in the clouds’ – perched as they are atop these massive geological rock formations.

My favorite Greek islands are the ones popular with Greeks, not necessarily the ‘Disney’ islands of Santorini or Mykonos – but the more traditional, lesser-known ones such as Symi, Karpathos, Paxos, Aegina, Angistri (the latter two only an hour away from Athens by ferry).

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Think about if you are serious about a career in TEFL, and do a ‘proper’ TEFL course. Simply speaking the language won’t qualify you.

Where can someone go to find more information? 

www.tefl.com has good links to proper TEFL or CELTA (the one I did) course providers.

Teaching Abroad in Kobe, Japan with James Ian

James Ian has taught ESL in Japan, Australia, and the U.S. and now runs a language school in New York City. You can learn more about teaching in Japan here!

teaching english as a foreign languageWhere did you teach abroad? 

Kobe, Japan

How did you find your job abroad? 

I applied directly to a company as soon as I arrived in Japan. It helped that I had a friend who was there and worked for the same company already. 

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

I taught adult students and worked either 10am-6:00pm or 1:00pm – 9:00pm. My days off were mid-week. Our classes were 40 minutes each and we taught eight classes a day. The time in between was writing up student records and doing lesson prep. It was pretty intense.  

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

I lived in an apartment and was lucky because I had a friend who already lived there and I moved in with her. However, the company I worked for provided housing and I know many people who lived in their apartments.

My apartment was very Japanese with tatami mat floors and a squat toilet, which I loved. My landlord also spoke some English, which was essential, because I didn’t speak Japanese when I first arrived. 

Were you able to save money or break even? 

I saved a lot. I worked overtime though. On my days off, I picked up extra shifts covering classes for people who called in sick.

I traveled a lot, played hard and still saved enough money for a nine-month trip to South America afterward. 

Favorite Teaching Story 

Not really a story, but just in general, there is nothing so rewarding as seeing that “aha” moment when students understand a complicated grammar point or word usage and use it correctly!

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

I did not. I made a pact with my best friend, though, that we would travel somewhere in Japan at least once a month, and we did this throughout my three years there, so I saw a lot of Japan. 

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I actually have three pieces of advice:

  1. Be aware that you will experience culture shock. This is normal, and if you can get through all of the stages, you will end up loving it.
  2. Get a TESOL Certificate so that you actually know how to teach. Being a native speaker of English is NOT enough.
  3. Have enough money to tide you over for a few months when you first arrive. You will need to pay for everything upfront but are paid wages after you work the hours, so for the first couple of months, you won’t have any money coming in, but will need to spend money to get established.

Where can someone go to find more information? 

My first step would be to get a teaching certificate – either a CELTA or an SIT TESOL Certificate.

They will not only teach you how to teach, but they will also give you resources to help you find a job (despite what I did, I would recommend getting a job before you go there – I had a friend who lived there AND I was extremely lucky).

Teaching ESL on a Catamaran at Sea with Christina Leutner

Christina is a former teacher and principal who started online businesses to be able to live the location independent lifestyle. She is a mindset & business mentor helping women create the life & business of their dreams. Follow her story at TheFemaleTravelpreneur.

Where did you teach abroad? 

I was teaching as a private teacher on a small catamaran (18m long, 8 m wide). We sailed along the Croatian coast, to Sicily, Sardinia, Mallorca, and Gibraltar. After leaving the Mediterranean Sea our next stop was Gran Canaria before we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Sailing the Atlantic Ocean took about 14 days and it was one of a kind experience. After that, we sailed up the Caribbean, staying at different islands (St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, BVI`s, Puerto Rico, Bahamas,…).

The trip and teaching as a private teacher on a catamaran ended after 10 months in Fort Lauderdale.

How did you find your job abroad? 

I was lucky. The owner of the catamaran, who happens to be a relative, asked me if I wanted to teach his two girls. He knew that I was a primary school teacher in Austria and the perfect fit for this job.

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

The girls were 9 and 11 at that time. They brought all their school books from California with them, plus the curriculum they received from the school. I was teaching everything they had to learn plus German.

We typically started school from 9 am until noon and from 1 pm to 3 pm. Sometimes we visited historical sites or had other activities while staying at different places.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

I had my own spacious bedroom in the catamaran plus my own bathroom with a shower and toilet, which was quite luxurious for a catamaran of this size.

Were you able to save money or break even? 

I was able to save money because all of the expenses like food, excursions were paid by the parents.

Favorite Teaching Story 

As you can imagine, sometimes it can be quite challenging to teach and for the children to learn when you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The waves were up to 5 meters high and it wasn’t always that easy to write on a paper while sailing up and down those huge waves. But we somehow learned to manage it. 

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

We saw a lot during these 10 months together. Every time we stayed in one place, we always took the time to explore the country or the island.

The best thing about sailing is that you can stay and see places you wouldn’t be able to, otherwise. 

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

At that time it was a big step for me to leave my home and quit my job in Austria. I had a boyfriend and I was told that I maybe won’t find another job as a teacher close by.

I was really struggling for a couple of days to decide if I wanted to leave my boyfriend and my “secure“ life behind. Now it sounds weird, but back then, I was scared of what would happen to this relationship and my life.

And then I asked myself a question, which really helped me. It’s a question I always ask myself when I’m not sure what to do. Maybe it serves you too:

“Will I regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t do it?”

After asking myself this question, I knew that I wanted to live and work on a catamaran for 10 months. I knew that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I wouldn’t do it.

Now I’m so glad I took the chance because I had one of the best times in my life, seeing so many different countries and living literally on the ocean.

The relationship ended a couple of years after this job anyways and when I came back home, I was offered to not only be a teacher but also a principal in a school close by. 

It all turned out better than I could ever imagine. So if you are stuck in your life you might want to ask yourself this question too. 😉

Where can someone go to find more information? 

As I was approached by my relative to be their private teacher, I can’t tell you where to find a job like that. But I’m sure there are websites or services out there, where you will find a similar job.

Teaching English and English Literature in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania with Sally Flint

Sally is an ex-international school Secondary English teacher and Head of Libraries. She now lives between Bangkok and the UK. She is taking a break from teaching to write children’s books and also enjoys blogging

teach english overseasWhere did you teach abroad? 

Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania

How did you find your job abroad? 

I saw the job teaching High School English and English Literature advertised in the TES so I applied.

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

Typically the school day started at 7.00 am. There were two forty-minute breaks and instead of lunch, the day ended just after one. As a High School English and English Literature teacher, the challenges and demands were the same as a UK state school. The GCSEs and the IB were taught, though now the school also teaches the MYP.

Standards were high. The students were a mix of forty plus nationalities. The ethos was one of tolerance and acceptance. Community involvement was encouraged and there were many extracurricular opportunities. 

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

The school housed us. The accommodation was adequate- the location exceptionally beautiful being close to the Indian Ocean. 

Were you able to save money or break even? 

We were able to save but tended to spend the savings on wonderful safari holidays. 

Favorite Teaching Story

I think the best thing overall is making connections with students who I’m still friends with, even though they are now fully-fledged adults with kids of their own. 

After a visit to the UK, we returned to find the apartment we’d had newly painted had been redecorated by the school who’ had painted over the whole new decor! We had wonderful experiences of multicultural evenings spent eating with students and learning about different cultures. It was a fabulous experience.

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

We traveled a lot on safari in Tanzania and Kenya and did go to South Africa. During the holidays we often traveled back to the UK to see family. 

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Expect to work hard as an international school teacher. The expectations equal those in your home country and the children deserve the best. Do go for it though, take a risk and be an adventurer and remember every wonderful moment. 

Where can someone go to find more information? 

I suggest reading the TES to find more about job opportunities or use google to locate schools you are interested in and visit their websites. I have lots of education posts on my blog about living the expat life for more information.  

Teach ESL Abroad in Oman with Maureen

Maureen and her husband, the Bag Carrier, are passionate travelers and spent 11 years wandering around the world teaching English. They are now busy sharing their experiences about their travels on their online magazine “So Many Places! So Little Time!”

Where did you teach abroad? 

We taught in South Korea, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and New Zealand.

How did you find your job abroad? 

We used an agency in England. We had finished our teaching contract in South Korea and had applied for jobs in Hong Kong. We were led to believe the jobs were ours, so we set off on our summer holidays to explore more of Asia and on to the UK before returning to Hong Kong to start our new jobs. 

Throughout the holidays we kept contacting Hong Kong about our jobs, as we needed to arrange flights and visas, and they kept saying we were still being processed and wouldn’t give us any more information.

We now think there were problems with my qualifications being in my maiden name but my application in my married name. Who knows? We just know that time was getting closer and closer to the beginning of the new semester and we were in the UK and fast running out of money!

Earlier in the year we had applied for jobs in Turkey through an agency in the UK but had turned the jobs down as we preferred going to Hong Kong. In desperation, and because we were in the UK, we phoned the agency to ask if, by any chance, the jobs in Turkey were still available.

They replied that there were no vacancies in Turkey, but they needed a couple of teachers in Oman. Would we be interested? We replied instantly that we would be very interested, hung up the phone and quickly set about finding out exactly where Oman was and what was there.

We knew very very little about the Sultanate of Oman.

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

We were sent to a Teacher’s College in a coastal town called Sur, about three hours drive from the capital Muscat. Our students were recent school leavers, so they were mainly in their late teens. We taught English to different classes for about five or six hours a day. 

The students were very pleasant, but the contrast from teaching in South Korea was a real shock. In South Korea, education is very highly valued and the students very keen to learn.

We were teaching at a University in South Korea and the students actively participated in the classes, were very interested in us, the countries we came from, and our way of life and we were constantly invited to dinners and singing-rooms.

In Oman, generally speaking, the students were not at all interested in us or the countries we came from, were very passive in class, and we rarely got invitations for any social activities, but there were also no problems. 

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation?

Our lifestyle was brilliant. The agency provided our first accommodation which was an apartment over a shop in the town. We then found a villa by the beach which the agency allowed us to move to. It was huge!

A new Arabic style villa, we called our palace, complete with beautiful bright pink Bougainvillea and a Frangipani tree we nurtured! It had two huge lounge areas and four gigantic bedrooms each with their own bathroom.

It was three minutes’ walk to the beach and a local hotel with a swimming pool we could use. We shared it with a Canadian colleague. 

If a school doesn’t provide accommodation, house sitting is a great option for traveling and being able to live like a local. Learn more about house sitting here.

Were you able to save money or break even?

We were able to save money even though we traveled every opportunity we got.

Favorite Teaching Story

It’s interesting how we don’t really hear our own voices and realize that we have “an accent.” We would always be surprised when we heard our students speaking to us with a New Zealand accent. “I’ve funushed Miss!” would always make us smile or hearing the students from our Scottish English teacher speaking English with a Scottish accent. 

I was Head of the English Department but my boss, the Head of the Languages section of the college, Dr. Ali, was Moroccan and spoke only French. My French is very basic “school girl French” and our communication was always disastrous.

Dr. Ali would frequently be in our office yelling at me in French and waving his hands frantically around in the air because we all know that if someone doesn’t understand you have to yell at them to make it clearer!

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

We traveled to other countries frequently. We got a lot of holidays and a return trip to New Zealand every year. 

In the four years we were there we visited the neighboring Arabic countries- United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar.

We went to India, Kenya in Africa, South Africa and made many trips to Europe to Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, and Holland, We did a Baltic Cruise and we stopped off at Asia on the way to and from New Zealand in either Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand.

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Teaching English overseas is an amazing way of traveling, particularly if you have a Masters Degree and can get a position at a University or Teachers College as you will get the holiday opportunities to travel. 

Teaching Abroad in Seongnam City, South Korea with Cal

Cal is the content manager for Once in a Lifetime Journey. He lives between Seoul, South Korea, and Cape Town, South Africa and is a full-time digital nomad. 

Where did you teach abroad? 

Seoul and Seongnam City, South Korea

How did you find your job abroad? 

One of my best friends went to South Korea first and introduced me to the agency he used. Then proceeded a video interview and visa process 

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

I taught both primary school and adults. The kids were ages 7-12 and this was a “hagwon” or after school study program. The hours were heaven, 4 hours of teaching a day with 1-hour prep, 1 hour per class.

The adults I taught were various ages from high school up to my oldest student at 86 years young. The hours were a nightmare. 8 hours of split shifts that changed monthly, the first starting at 7 am and the last finishing at 11 pm.

Sometimes I would sleep on the floor of an empty classroom as I only had hour breaks and needed the rest. 

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation?

 I lived in three places: the Bundang district in Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province (it surrounds Seoul), and then Yaksu and Wangsimni in Seoul. 

Were you able to save money or break even? 

I sent half the money home every month for over 3 years. I was very diligent as this was my purpose in teaching abroad (other than studying a degree online).

Favorite Teaching Story 

Teaching kids is worlds apart from teaching adults. With adults, you go out for coffee or drinks afterward to bond. You also get some great gifts, like one student that brought me Cuban cigars and kopi luwak.

The kids are challenging at times because, well, they’re kids. One kid walked up to me slowly, looking all inquisitive, and then proceeded to tug on my nose to see if it was real (it’s a biggy, but I found it hilarious).

 The best story had to be the time I received a giant box of donuts as a “gift” from my best-behaved student. I was so touched and thankful and wondered how I would finish this entire box alone.

Then I opened the box and inside was a note from her father saying that now that I took the gift, he needed a favor from me to write his daughter a letter of recommendation for a prestigious primary school.

It reminded me of the “culture clash” scene in “A Serious Man”. I would have written the letter either way as she was so wonderful, but it was a good lesson in cultural differences. 

Did you do any traveling? 

I traveled around Korea – a lot. Korea has some amazing tropical islands that locals don’t even know about. And each city has some famous dishes, so I got to explore the cuisine as well as the culture and locations. 

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

If you are wanting to teach in Seoul, I would suggest finding a place in Seongnam, as the air is fairly cleaner and the new subway line can get you to Gangnam in 30 mins.

Apart from the geographical aspect, understand that the working culture is extremely different from other parts of the world and is not as forgiving.

You may have to do things you don’t like, such as working on weekends without notice or staying late. Embrace the difference and know that you are gaining some essential experiences that will shape your future. 

Where can someone go to find more information?

I taught so long ago that I wouldn’t know where to start, but Facebook groups are most likely your best bet these days, like “Teaching Jobs in Korea”.

If you want to learn more, here is Cal’s complete guide to Seoul.

Teaching English in Madrid, Spain with Hannah

Hannah is a photographer and travel/lifestyle blogger from the US. She attributes her time teaching English in Spain to shaping the rest of her life. It opened up new passions for traveling, photography and experiencing new cultures!

teaching english abroad experiencesWhere did you teach abroad? 

Madrid, Spain

How did you find your job abroad? 

I went through the CIEE!

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

In Spain as an English Teaching Assistant, I worked 16 hours a week at my school, 4 hours for 4 days a week. I chose elementary school so I taught grades 1-6. The school assigned my classes and I had a different schedule for each day of the week.

For extra cash, it was easy to find extra casual work, say speaking with someone in English for an hour, etc.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation? 

I lived in an apartment in the Arguelles neighborhood with 3 other English teaching assistants. We found our apartment by calling one of the advertised numbers hanging on the building (which we got lucky with!) but most people found their accommodation through different apartment-seeker websites.

Were you able to save money or break even?

 I was able to break even. I did not teach a lot of additional classes on the side so I did not make a lot of extra cash.

You are paid a monthly stipend and it is enough to live on but it is not enough for additional travel or saving. It is possible if you are willing to teach a lot of extra classes each week! You certainly have the time. 

[irp posts=”1653″ name=”How I traveled Europe for six months without touching my savings”]

Favorite Teaching Story

It’s hard to say, there are so many wonderful memories! I think my favorite is at my school, it was our job to plan a little dance for all of the students to perform with a song at the Christmas show that they do for their parents.

The song this year was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. As you can imagine- it was hilarious and amazing. 

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

I did! I had some money saved that I brought with me, plus traveling around Europe can be super affordable!

I also enjoyed staying in Madrid on the weekends as it is an INCREDIBLE place to live. I also really loved traveling around Spain- such an amazing country.

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Save some extra money before you go so you don’t have to miss out on any travel opportunities!

Be very careful with your things. Madrid is a very safe place but pickpocketing is HUGE and can happen in the blink of an eye, particularly with expensive phones. If you pay attention and are always aware of your things, you will be fine (this includes in nightclubs!).

I HIGHLY recommend the CIEE if you are from the US (or looking for something similar in your country)- they are super helpful with the entire process, plus there is a welcoming week where you get to meet tons of people in your program! It’s a great way to make some initial friends!

Where can someone go to find more information?

I have a SUPER in-depth post about everything you need to know and about my experience. You can find it here.

Teaching in Grenoble, France with Hannah

Hannah is an outdoors enthusiast who moved from the UK to Vancouver, BC in search of outdoors adventures with her boyfriend and their self-converted camper van, Elvis.

Where did you teach abroad? 

Grenoble, France

How did you find your job abroad? 

It was part of my university degree but we had to apply through The British Council. Whilst I was still studying, this is something you can do after studies too.

Other British people had already graduated and there were also graduates from the US, South Africa, and Tasmania! 

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country? 

My hours were awesome! I worked in three primary schools in the suburbs of Grenoble and taught in about 10 classes. The children were aged between 6-11 and I worked from 12-3 on the weekdays apart from Wednesdays which French Primary School children get off and which I used to go skiing in the winter season. 

I’d spend my mornings preparing classes and then teach them in the afternoon. Whilst I was supposed to be more of an assistant than a teacher, I found that I actually ended up being the teacher in the majority of classes, especially those where the teacher didn’t have strong English skills.

I had plenty of free time, that’s for sure! 

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation?

I lived about a 20-minute walk away from the center of Grenoble and found a room in a shared house with other students online.

I lived with an Italian guy, a Swedish girl, and a German girl so we were quite the multi-language household although we all spoke French to each other. 

Were you able to save money or break even?

This was probably one of my best-paid jobs to date for the amount of work! As I was still at university I received my usual grants and loans, my salary from working as a teacher and money from the French government as the salary was considered too low to live on.

I saved a lot of money that year and used it for traveling around South America for 3 months the following year once I’d graduated.

Favorite Teaching Story

The things the kids would say when speaking English outside was pretty funny and it was hard to stifle the laughter sometimes!

One that I remember was when we were practicing food-related vocabulary and the 8-year-old said “I want a [four letter word]” instead of “fork!” 

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

I traveled mostly in France going to Paris, Monaco, Nice and the ski resorts near Grenoble. You could easily do a lot of travel though as you get plenty of vacation time!

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Just do it! I was terrified when I moved over, despite doing a degree in French I was not at all confident speaking it and I knew no one in Grenoble.

The year I spent there increased my confidence more than I could’ve imagined and my French turned out pretty well too! 

Where can someone go to find more information?

This site has all the information for the path I used. 

Teaching in Northern Spain with Stuart Fahy

After traveling to all parts of the world for several years, Stuart decided to experience living in another country and started teaching English in Spain. He’s now been living and working over there for almost two years, based primarily in the North of the country. You can follow his stories on his blog, Just Travelling Through.

teaching english in spainWhere did you teach abroad?

I’ve worked in several places in Spain, focused mainly in the northern areas such as Cantabria and Galicia plus a summer in Valencia.

How did you find your job abroad?

I used a TEFL job site and applied for a job through a government-run agency that places teachers in their schools around Spain.

What was a typical day like as a teacher in your country?

My day changed depending on the type of work I was doing. My first job was as a teaching assistant in a high school where I would support the main teacher and occasionally lead activities.

I also did after school workshops for a couple of hours three days a week. In the academy I worked at my classes were with small groups of no more than eight students, typically only four or five and some were just one-to-one.

Students ranged from 9 years old to adults. In both of these jobs, I worked 25 hours a week, with the high school being predominantly in the mornings while the academy was afternoons and evenings with just a few hours per week in the morning.

I’ve also worked in a summer school with university-aged students (anything from 18 years-old upwards) who attend for a week on an intensive conversation course.

The classes are small with between four and six students in each group, while the hours for this are much longer and typically go over 40 hours a week.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation?

I rent from private landlords using three or four websites that list apartments available in Spain. They’re all free and relatively straightforward to use, making it easy to contact prospective landlords.

Were you able to save money or break even?

With the exception of my first job where the pay was minimal, I’ve always managed to save some money while I’ve been working as a teacher in Spain.

Favorite Teaching Story

Working for Berlitz has allowed me to meet so many people, both fellow teachers and students from all parts of Spain. The students are only with us for a week but we get to know them so well before the next group comes the following Monday.

It’s an intense job, especially over the summer months, but I’ve enjoyed many memorable experiences and made some long term friends along the way.

Did you get to travel around a lot to other countries? 

I’ve seen several places in Spain and also visited Hungary and Morocco when I’ve had some holidays. I prefer to travel around Spain when I have a break to get to know more about the country where I’m living.

Where can someone go to find more information?

www.tefl.com is where I found my first two jobs working as a teacher in Spain and still search from time to time as well as receive job offers.

Teaching Abroad in Busan, South Korea with Courtney the Explorer

Courtney runs a travel website called Courtney The Explorer to help women travel the world on a budget. She also teaches English in South Korea. She has a passion for free travel, long-term backpacking, and storytelling (aka sharing all her travel fails in an attempt to help others.)

Where did you teach abroad? 

Busan, South Korea

How did you find your job abroad?

I used a recruiter. I actually worked with three recruiters, because I had heard it’s good to work with multiple. I ended up getting a job through Appletree Edu recruiting company. My recruiter was super helpful and listened to all my requests. I recommend them.

What is a typical day like for an English teacher in Busan, South Korea?

I work 9:30am to 5:35pm with minimal breaks. Some days I work until 7pm on lesson planning, syllabi, phone teaching, and report cards. I would say my schedule is heavy compared to other hagwons (private schools) in Korea.

I teach kindergarten (ages 5-6 years old) in the morning and elementary in the afternoon (ages 7-8 years old.) I teach mostly 80 minute classes (Kindergarten is 80 minute classes), but I have three 40 minute elementary classes in the afternoon.

Where did you live and how did you find accommodation in Busan, South Korea?

I live right next to my school in a studio apartment. All teachers live in this 21 story apartment building. It is quite spacious for a studio in my opinion. My school provided me with the apartment. For an apartment tour, check out this video!

Were you able to save money? Break even?

Honestly, most months I am breaking even (after 4 months). But, to be fair I didn’t get my first pay check until I was working for 2.5 months, so I feel like I have been playing catching up. Now, I foresee myself saving a couple grand by the end of my year term.

Favorite Teaching Story?

Most days I feel like I’m on an episode of “Kid’s Say the Darnest Things.” They say hilarious (sometimes inappropriate) things that I can’t help but laugh out loud. I keep a little notebook to write down everything.

For example, today in class one of my Kindergarten students announced to the class that Santa isn’t real. It’s just someone dressed in a costume. And I was speechless. The other kids are die-hard Santa fans.

The other day one of my favorite students picked his nose and ran to the front of the class to show off his impressive sized booger. And I couldn’t help but laugh.

Do you get to do a lot of traveling around?

I haven’t traveled much in my first four months and I might wait until the end of my contract to travel. We get limited time off (2 weeks vacation) and because the job is so demanding, I don’t feel the drive to plan an international trip at the moment.

But, maybe in the future. Japan is only an hour flight away, so I may go there. Some of my teacher friends here have traveled a lot during their contracts. It definitely is doable.

Biggest piece of advice for someone wanting to teach in Busan?

Research your school before signing the contract. If it’s a notoriously “bad” school, ask for more money because you’ll be working more hours with more responsibilities than all your other teacher friends.

Also, before you come, read blogs about what to bring and how to prepare. I skipped over simple things (like opening a certain bank account and ordering a SIM card) that I wish I would have done beforehand.

Thirdly, it may seem like a huge step from applying to jobs to actually teaching abroad, the visa process is daunting. Just know that everyone goes through it and your recruiter will help you through the entire process. Little by little things will fall into place.

Where can someone go to find more information?

If you’re interested in teaching in Korea, I have a couple blog posts about where to start and also things that I wish I knew before I came. You can find all those articles here.

You can also contact me directly at hello@courtneytheexplorer.com or @courtneytheexplorer on Instagram. I am more than happy to answer any questions you have along the way!

Additional Travel Resources

If you want to teach English abroad in the future, starting out as an online English teacher can be a great way to gain experience and start saving money for travel!

Find out more about Teaching English Online here!

Have questions about how to travel long-term? Head to my full-time travel section for more helpful resources.

Teach English Abroad | Start Teaching Abroad

Author

Hi there! I'm Nic and I write about teaching English online, house sitting, and ways to incorporate more travel into your life! Stick around and Wander with me!

1 Comment

  1. Every young woman (and men too) should read all these stories of Teaching abroad. They are wonderful. I am sending this to all my teacher friends who are worn slam out in situations they feel stuck in. You are an inspiration yourself and gathering all this information for others is incredible. What a gift.
    Loving your life,
    Nandina

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