Thinking of Moving Abroad to Teach?

Take the plunge, try it and see how you feel about it. It is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture, learn more about yourself and grow.

There are many countries that facilitate this and pay a living wage: Japan, Korea, China, Spain,Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the list goes on. Every year people from many countries move abroad to teach different subjects in different schools. Some are trained teachers and others have degrees in other areas that allow them to get a working visa to teach ESL.

Where do you start?

If you are a trained teacher with experience in your native country, then going to the different websites for schools and contacting people there may be a good start. Linkedin is also a good place to build contacts over time. Also check Facebook for different groups and join in to share ideas and make connections. Google blogs of teachers who teach internationally and reach out to them for tips and advice. This process should begin a year or two or more before you make your move.

If you have a degree in any area and want to try being an ESL teacher look into the JET Programme in Japan for starters. It’s often a good place to start here in Japan. This is how I came to Japan many moons ago. Since it’s competitive you may want to look at other sites like and among others to see if you can land a position here. You may need to fly here for an interview in some cases. Korea, China and Vietnam also seem to be popular with ESL teachers. Information can be easily found on YouTube from the many people who document their experiences. If you are from countries outside of America, England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it may be harder to get a job but not impossible. Here in Japan, I know people of various nationalities who teach ESL. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a piece of cake to get a position though.

If money isn’t a factor, I know there are many positions for ESL teachers in South America, though salaries may not be an issue.

Spend at least a year researching, planning and budgeting.

Preparing to Move Abroad to Teach?

Moving abroad to teach may require that you have a pool of funds saved up. For teachers going to international schools this may not be a factor since most packages cover moving and settling costs. This is often not the case for many ESL positions.

I know people who come to Japan on the JET Programme have their flights paid for. Many of them need to have money to pay deposits for apartments and money for 1-2 months until they get their first salary. This can demand anywhere from USD 3,000 and more. If one needs to pay for his or her flight as well, then this will drive up the amount that needs to be saved up.

Bear in mind that apartments may come naked, so you need to buy all the necessary appliances, furniture, utensils and the like. While planning to move abroad to teach, remember to save and have more than you need. This provides a sense of security in a new environment.

Think about doing an TESL course to get some ideas for teaching if you have never taught before. There are many online that are worth investing in. The thing is you don’t know what you will be expected to do once you get to your place of work. Sometimes there might be a full curriculum with activities you can tailor to fit your style and your students. There are some cases where you are expected to plan everything from scratch or something in the between these two. Plan and prepare.

Do you need a particular wardrobe for work? Do they have your size widely available in the country where you are going? Will you be in a big city with many stores or in the countryside with little access to these?

Again, based on my experience here in Japan, I know teachers are required to dressed semi-formally in summer and a bit more formally in winter. This is something to research and plan for. In many places in Asia it is hard to get bigger sizes in shoes and clothes so one needs to prepare accordingly. Focus on things like these in the year or two leading up to taking the plunge to teach abroad.

Read about the culture and see other people’s experience via YouTube about the country you are thinking of. Take what people say with grains of salt. Resolve to have your own experiences regardless of what others say.

Do you have special dietary needs or medical needs? Investigate if these will be accommodated. A few years ago vegans had a hard time eating out here but things are changing.

Prepare mentally for this different environment. You will go from being a first class citizen in your country, in many cases, to being a second class citizen abroad. Really think about this and whether you can handle it or not. There are many people who spend their time comparing their country to the one they are living in and making themselves miserable.

Take the Plunge when the Time is Right.

Only you know when it is time. Age shouldn’t be something that holds you back. If you want to take a break from your career and teach abroad try it. Be open and flexible is all I say. If it has been going around in your mind, I say go for it and make of it what you will.

Go with a country that you can find much information about from others who are doing what you want to do. Reach out to them and get advice as you prepare.

All the best on your journey. It’s truly worth being outside of your country learning more about yourself, contributing to the global world and living your life.

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