Travel by Teaching English

Travel by Teaching English

Graduation day was approaching fast, I was stressing over what I wanted to do in life. Getting a ‘real job’ and settling into the 9 to 5 was scary enough, and felt far too soon at my age.

Taipei 101, Taiwan – Credit to tingyaoh

After 3 years of being trapped studying full-time, I was hungry to do jet set out of Australia and do something exciting and purposeful. Travel had always opened doors for me, what harm could be in taking time to explore the world a little? So I hunted for programs to do overseas. What began as a short-term teaching exchange over summer ended up playing a massive role in the next few of years in my life.

I had left with very little preparation, zero expectations and an open mindset ready to soak it all in. I’ll admit, it was a little overwhelming at first – flying into a new country with a new job and home lined up for the next few months, but it was easy to start feeling the excitement.

My first teaching abroad experience was as a volunteer teacher in Taiwan via a 3 month exchange program. This later involved into studying a TESOL Certificate (Teaching English as a Second Language) and being offered work in China, to eventually finding professional work in Japan as an English Instructor. My experience is specific to Asia, however, English learners span across the whole globe too. Let me share some helpful ideas below.

So why English teaching? What’s so great about it?

I believe teaching abroad has three really great benefits to it. It’s a financially stable way to travel the world, you are able to stay for longer in each country by being stationed in one place, and it’s a rewarding to teach keen learners about your language and culture.

I can’t stress enough about how great it is being able to stay in another country long-term. Being about to live like a local has made for some of my most memorable travel experiences while teaching. You’re able to learn what it truly feels like to live in a place – the food, culture, language, people, architecture. You’re not some tourist just backpacking through a city, but rather you can settle in and get fully immersed into society. You’ll make some great friends, and your local colleagues will always savvy with the in’s and out’s of where you’re living.


Where can I go?

Anywhere… basically countries where English isn’t the primary language, of course. Asia, Middle East, Europe, Latin America are all in need of English Teachers. Asia in particular has a huge market, given large cultural and language differences, and the increasing populations of young people seeking English education.

China is a popular and lucrative market, especially when you consider that over 300 million people are learning English there. South Korea too is excellent for its pay, benefits and structure. Southeast Asia is on the rise, and incredibly accessible for volunteer teachers, if places like Vietnam and Thailand spark your interest.

Financials? Can I earn enough money?

Of course! Many places offer a decent salary if you have the right qualifications or experiences, Some jobs are often packaged with free accommodation, flights and bonuses at the end of your contract. If you’re a volunteer teacher, you can usually expect everything to be catered for, a home, transport, often meals too!

Earning money really depends on the country you teach in, the experience you have and the role you end up finding. Somewhere between $2500 – $3500 AUD a month is a rough range for a variety of teaching jobs from entry-level, to the experienced. In places like China and Korea, private teaching can yield a pretty high salary.

What about qualifications?

For paid work, most entry teaching jobs are looking for the following. Of course the more you acquire the better off you’ll be. I have friends that have found work with either a TESOL or a Bachelor’s Degree alone, but you’ll be restricted by countries or pay.

  1. Fluent English
  2. TESOL or TOEFL equivalent Certification
  3. Undergraduate/Bachelor’s Degree
  4. Previous Experience

For volunteers, Fluent English is the basic requirement. You’ll often receive an induction or support once accepted into volunteer programs.

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“What is this?” Class: “A Pen-gin!” Err Yup, that’s a pen-gin alright.

What ways can I teach abroad?

Here are 4 ways ordered by my recommendation.

1.  TESOL Certification Programs

Doing a TESOL Certification is a direct and surefire way to finding a teaching job. It’s internationally recognized, informative and supportive program to certification. Every program equips you with everything you need to teach English, and upon completion you will receive a tonne of staff support to help find a job overseas.

Of course this comes at a price, and how much you pay is an indicator of the quality of services and education you’ll receive. Programs can be under $1000 AUD, and I’ve seen them up to $5000 AUD at TAFE Institutes.

I completed my TESOL Certification via ATA Online. They are based in Brisbane, Australia and I couldn’t recommend them enough for when I studied. Of course, you can search for other providers locally for in-class programs or even online if you choose.


2. Volunteer Abroad

If you’re aim is to travel and make an impact, then volunteering is the best way to teach. Programs are usually developed with local communities for socially conscious travelers to come and support the community while fostering their own skills. Most organisations charge an initial fee but offer support with accommodation, food, assistance etc.

I volunteer exchanged with AIESEC, a youth-run leadership organisation with lots of exciting projects, from chapters in 110+ countries worldwide. I’ve also looked into IVHQ, who have lots of well-established projects and various volunteer lengths – depending how long you want to go for.

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Met some awesome like-minded people through AIESEC’s programs, some of whom are still great friends today.

3.  Government Programs

Government-subsidized programs are an option for teachers looking to apply directly to a country. They are usually well established, systematic and the teachers are well catered for. JET is an example of this if you are looking to teach in Japan.

You can expect some pretty extensive paperwork and the lead time between applying and working can be very long, so apply well in advance.


4. Teach Privately / Bootstrap it

Maybe you have some previous experience already via teaching or tutoring and you want to get a bit entrepreneurial. Private teaching certainly has its entry barriers, but if can establish a set of regular students, it can be very flexible and rewarding.

Should I go?

That’s up to you. Ask yourself where you’re at in life and what you want to be open to. I had never thought teaching was something that I would come across. It was completely unexpected, unrelated to my field but incredibly rewarding. Now it’s become a big part of my life and means of travel.

There’s certainly still demand for teachers around the world if you want to start your journey. I have some fond memories from my teaching days and perhaps I’ll do it again through my travels but in the mean time, I hope to help you and give back.

Feel free to chuck any questions or comments down below and I’ll be happy to answer them based on my teaching experiences.



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