Americans Abroad: Is TEFL the Ticket for You?

Everybody wants to see the world, yet most Americans believe it’s impossible to do for more than a month at a time. Enter: TEFL teaching, and all of its mind-blowing possibilities. Not just travelling, but living overseas. Immersing yourself in a new job, a new culture and a new lifestyle. It sounds great because it is.

Your TEFL Readiness Checklist
You do need to go through a few points, though, to see if this is really what you want. The realities are probably different than you imagine and it truly is a life-changing experience. Are you sure you’re ready?
•    You can’t visit home every week, or every month for that matter. Most teaching positions are a minimum of living abroad for a year. You’ll be missing out on a lot from home- family celebrations, your comfort food and poker nights with the girls. Technology helps but there’s no replacement for a hug.
•    What is your real motivation for doing your TEFL? Maybe you’re having trouble finding a job, or you’ve just lost one. Or you’re going through a painful breakup. Perhaps you believe the stereotype of the backpacking tourist that can teach English just because you speak English- which is not true, by the way.
•    Getting TEFL certified costs you time and money. Are you willing to save up, to complete the coursework, to go through the necessary legal paperwork (many times before you leave the States) and generally commit yourself to teaching and living in a foreign country?
Your Preparation Checklist for TEFL Teaching
Once you’re semi-serious about teaching TEFL abroad, there are a lot of real-life factors you’ll need to consider with time and money. A short list to highlight what Americans should think about:
•    Where you want to go. Deciding on the country will also tell you what credentials and paperwork you’ll need. It’s not just a jump from the TEFL course into the classroom. For example in Europe, Americans have to be aware of both Schengen and EC regulations and each country’s work requirements.
In China, the ‘Z’ visa is necessary. Japan has its JET program, which takes months to process. The school year and hiring seasons also vary by country (South Korea starts interviews in the spring for the following autumn school year).
•    Finding a TEFL job. A lot of TEFL courses will also help with placing you after you complete the course, but if you choose one that doesn’t- don’t panic. There are specialized TEFL job forums and boards, specifically looking for TEFL teachers in locations all over the world.
•    Your requirements for international TEFL jobs. Most international schools want an official TEFL certificate, even if you are American. You might need vaccinations or medical records. Then again, you might not need anything beyond a high school diploma, TEFL certification and an American pulse.
Of course these are just basic considerations. There are dozens of other things to look at when you’re thinking about taking a TEFL course and relocating abroad. The good news? There are over 100,000 teaching jobs in Asia alone, desperate for teachers.
In other words, if you’re ready and willing- the world of English teaching is your oyster.