Wednesday, July 4, 2012


But HOW do you teach abroad?

The famous fortress of my first city I lived in teaching abroad, Suwon-si Korea.
The second most commonly asked question I get is, "But Carissa, HOW do you teach all these places?"

There are TONS of programs out there you just need to use common sense when you are looking at them and find the best one for you. I have different standards when I look for jobs now, but now I have years of different levels of experience, certificates, and a Masters. When I was just starting off I would look at jobs and think:

1. Is it legal? I always avoided anything that appears to be under the table. First, because I hate breaking the law (yes yes I am a goodie goodie) and second because I planned on spending most of my life living abroad; the last thing I needed was to be blacklisted from visiting some country because of visa violations. It is also safer if you have a legal job with a legal visa.

2. Is it verifiable? Google those people! Use your blind date stalking skills for good. Google e-mail addresses, names, the company, etc.. Check out their LinkedIn profiles. Check blogs for past employees. Ask to speak to past/current employees.

3. Is it survivable? A lot of the programs I am going to mention don't pay tons of money, but they do give you enough based on what you are doing. If you are working 80 hours a week with a homestay and may still struggle to make ends meet, I wouldn't recommend it.

So, what kind of programs are out there and appropriate for someone without a lot of experience?

Some of my best times in Korea were spent in the rural Korea.
TALK is a program that I never did, but I want to mention it because it does not require a Bachelors degree. You have to be a "native English speaker" meaning that you are a citizen of : Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK or USA. You also need to have an associates degree OR be enrolled in your Bachelors with 2 years of schooling completed.  You teach for 15 hours a week (normally in rural areas of Korea) Monday through Friday. Perks? Free outings, your accommodation is provided (either an apartment or a homestay) and you earn about 1.5million won a month (this is about $1,500 US but it depends on the exchange rate). This program is encouraged for those 35 and under (though they accept people up to 55).

Suwon, where I taught, is the capital of Gyeonggi-Do
If you are looking into Korea and you have more experience and want more money. Check out EPIK(rural Korea and Seoul) or GEPIK (involving the doughnut shaped province that surrounds Seoul). Again you must be a "native English Speaker." Salary varies from 2 million won to 2.5 million won depending on your experience and qualifications (2,000-2,500 USD roughly) plus a one time settling fee (to buy pots, pans, etc). If you finish your contract you get a months salary as a bonus. You are given an apartment (which is paid for by the school) and there are often workshops. You work 8 hours a day 5 days a week, but you should only teach 22 hours a week.
EDITED TO ADD As of March 2012 a 100 hour TOEFL course was a new basic requirement.

You can also work at hagwons (private academies) but since these are not government backed jobs you REALLY need to do your research.

A bunch of fellow English teachers at the El Escorial
What if you have no desire to go to Korea? OK. What about Europe?

BEDA is a program for the Catholic schools in Madrid. It does NOT require a Bachelors (but you need to be in at least you second year of college). Technically you are not a teacher (you are an assistant). You work 16-24 hours a week and your pay varies based on the hours you work. You must be a native English speaker, older than 20 and competent in Spanish. You can read more here

Catholicism isn't your thing? OK, then just work for the government. People from the United States or Canada can apply to become an Auxiliare de conversación. You could end up teaching anywhere in Spain in schools ranging from Kindergarten through 12th grade. You get at least 700 Euros a month (depending on the hours this could increase) and you pay nothing to apply. It is designed for Junior and Senior College students (so no Bachelors needed) or recent graduates.

Crazy wild Carnivalle party in Dunkirk France!
You have no desire to be in Spain. France rocks a similar program. You need to be a United States citizen (or have a greencard) . You must be between 20 and 30 with at least 2 years of college experience, and you must be proficient in French. You make about 780 Euros a month. There is a small fee to apply. You can read more here.

These are all programs that help new teachers get the experience they need to decide if teaching is really what they want, or to become desirable to hire.

Am I missing any? What programs do you find great for budding EFL teachers who want to get their feet wet?


  1. what about the older group of ESL teachers who want to live abroad and utilize their skills and experience.........

    1. GEPIK and EPIK are still great sources for that! This post is directed more towards the newbies, but I should write something up about those with more to give. Thanks for the push!

    2. OK, here you go just for you!

  2. WorldTeach ( and the Dartmouth Volunteer Teaching Program ( are both wonderful ways to get your feet wet in international teaching. As volunteer programs, clearly the pay is negligible, however the experience is top notch. I believe WT volunteers now go through a TEFL training whilst on their year-long volunteer contract, added bonus!


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