Teaching Abroad

Summary: Are you thinking about teaching abroad? If you are, then this article might just help you out.

Are you thinking about teaching abroad? If you are, then this article might help you out. The first thing I've got to say to you is not to allow yourself to be swayed by your emotions or the romantic notion of living in a foreign country. Employers count on this to hook you to come over and likely stay in unsatisfactory working and living conditions. Working for a dud of an employer and living in poor housing isn't a rosy picture, which can happen to you. I don't want to burst your bubble but teaching abroad is peppered with difficulties and challenges. It doesn't have to be a trying process, which prompted me to write this piece. If you think things through carefully and do some planning and your homework you can minimize potential problems and pitfalls. One more thing, don't assume that it's an easy way to make money because it isn't. When you factor in the start up costs and your day-to-day living expenses, you might find yourself no further ahead if you just stayed home.

Let's move on. Have you ever considered that things might not turn out the way you expect? What will you do if you should fall ill or sustain an injury? Do you have a contingency plan? Do you have a plan in place to get back home? Do you have family or friends you can rely on for support should you find yourself in a difficult situation or if things should not pan out?

There's a feeling which behooves me that many employers have about English speakers that they are a dime a dozen and therefore, expendable and to whom they can take advantage of and exploit. This is something you've got to deal with. There exists too a perception, a negative stereotype of English teachers, that they are lacking in morality, engage in drugs and promiscuous sex, and drink excessively. Negative stereotypes get in the way, so be prepared to deal with this on a positive basis during your sojourn.

The first thing you've got to ask yourself is "what's the quality of my life gonna be?" What can I reasonably expect from taking the plunge? You may or may not know this but many employers will house you in an apartment or bachelor unit, which they own themselves or have leased for the long term. Your employer will charge you over and above the current market rent locals would pay to stay in a similar unit plus add on additional costs such as a security deposit, and then, conveniently, deduct the rent from your salary. Basically, this reduces substantially the salary your employer will pay you which will increase their profits!

A tactic used by some employers is to tell you that they are in desperate need of a teacher and want you to hurry on over. Don't do it. This tactic works to the benefit of the employer and hinders yours. You'll find yourself in a precarious situation which is working on a tourist visa which will put you in violation of your host country's immigration laws and subject you to deportation. Your employer will reassure you and tell you not to worry. This buys them time to check you out, assess you, and see if you are a good fit and whether they should even bother to file the necessary immigration papers on your behalf. Should your employer be dissatisfied with you, they are not likely to follow up with your work visa and keep you working for them until they can replace you. I've seen this happen. Once again, there's a perception that there's an endless pool of labour that English language schools can draw on. They may even ask you to hand over your passport. They'll tell you they need it to process your papers. It's not true. This is a tactic to keep you from doing a runner. A suggestion would be to research your employer on the internet for any negative reports and to check the blacklists too!

You may not like this but be prepared to accept the fact that you will be working in countries that will not accord you the same employment protection and benefits that nationals of your host country enjoy. Keep in mind that a double standard exists.

Should your work situation not work out, sometimes the best thing to do is leave. Sometimes the best way to deal with an impossible work situation is to cut your losses and move on. You may have the best intentions but might find yourself in a no win situation. Remember that many employers don't have your best interests at heart and may even harass or punish you if you leave your contract. You might even put yourself at risk by giving notice. Get some advice. Talk it over with a good friend or family member and preferably not someone associated with your school unless you can completely trust them. You've got to have a backup plan if things don't go according to plan and have some options. What are you going to do?

Here are some helpful questions to help you decide if teaching abroad is right for you.


So, I want to teach abroad. What am I hoping to accomplish? What are my goals? Can I manage the difficulties and deal with the inconvenience that may arise? What skills and abilities do I possess that will help me cope with my new living situation? What will I do if I don't like my job or living situation? What's going to happen to me if things don't turn out the way I expect them to be?

Have I researched the etiquette and customs of my host country? Do I know about and understand my host country's cultural taboos? Do I know how to make a good impression in my host country?

What am I giving up by going overseas? What will it cost me to get over to my host country, get started and manage until I receive my first paycheck?

Who will pay for the cost of arranging my employment visa? Do I need to complete a medical check? Who pays for the health tests, the employer or I? How much do they cost? What's involved? How long does it take?

What are the health risks of living in my host country? Will I need to be inoculated for yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, Hepatitis A & B etc? Will I be exposed to malaria? Am I covered under my host country's medical insurance? Do I need to purchase medical insurance coverage? How do I protect myself? Is the water safe for drinking?

Living accommodation

Is housing provided? Who pays? How much is it? Who is my landlord? If I don't like my apartment, can I move and if so, who will help me find another place to live?

Are there laundry facilities on site or nearby? Will someone show me how to operate the foreign appliances? Is there a supermarket nearby?

Is it furnished? Does it come with a fridge and hot plate? Do I need to buy furniture and appliances? Is the unit air-conditioned? Is there a heating system?

How do I get to work from my home? Will someone show me how to get around and use the local transportation system? Do I need to buy a car or a scooter?


What are the terms and conditions of work? How many classes will I be teaching per week? How long are my classes? Are they back to back? Will I need to correct homework? Will I work at more than one location? Will I teach alone or with a host country national? Will I have to work a split shift? Will I have to work on weekends? Will I be paid for sick days and holidays? When will I be paid? How long do I have to wait for my first paycheck? Will any of my earnings be held back? If so, why? What benefits am I entitled to? Will someone help me set up a bank account? How much withholding tax will I be paying? What other deductions will be made from my paycheck? Will I be asked to organize a Christmas party? Will I need to dress up as Santa? Who will pay for my Santa suit? Is there a system in place to deal with concerns/complaints? Will I be micro-managed? Is there a probationary period?
Will I be able to work for another employer in my free time? What are the classrooms like? Are there teaching resources available? Is there any support? Is there a training program? Is my visa transferable or does it expire when I change employers?

By considering the above and giving the questions some thought, you can better prepare yourself for your sojourn and minimize any potential pitfalls or problems. Good-luck to you!

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