Teaching English! Overseas!
February 9, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

TEFL outside of korea/japan/china (most interested in Latin America/Africa/non-gulf parts of the middle east)-- seeking info on job prospects, requirements, personal experiences...

Apologies if this is a repeat question, I tried sorting through the TEFL tag but couldn't find this exact question because I am a special snowflake.

I'm a recent american college grad. I'm currently working as a teacher in environmental education, this position is temporary and will end in August. By the time my position ends and I sell my car, I will have only a few thousand dollars in (student loan) debt, and I will have maybe three thousand dollars savings (could potentially work for a few months in a specific potentially soul-crushing job opportunity I have and save up another couple thousand). Anyway, I'm considering taking a year or two to live in another country when I finish up this job. Teaching english seems like an interesting option.

The thing is, none of the countries where there are abundant jobs (to my understanding: china, korea, japan, the persian gulf) particularly appeal to me. I would be most interested in being in a spanish speaking country and getting my not-quite-conversational spanish up to snuff. I would also be pretty interested in learning Arabic (although I'm not sure how much arabic I could actually pick up in even a few years of immersion) so the middle east/north Africa also appeals--culturally as well, although the persian gulf does not, really, and I understand that's where the jobs are. I'd also be interested in [the rest of] Africa or South Asia.

These are my qualifications (and lack thereof):
-B.A. in liberal arts
-no real experience teaching english, but two years full time working with kids in classrooms as a teacher or presenter and another 6 or so years doing academic tutoring part time, summer camps, that sort of thing.
-enough experience spending significant time internationally that I'm not too worried about culture shock-- specifically 5 months in India, 3 months in Peru.
-a willingness to commit to a year or possibly two years if the program sounded worth it.
- an ability to front plane fare and costs of relocation.
...and my lack of qualifications...
- no teaching degree/cert
- no TEFL certificate. I'm not completely opposed to completing a course but it seems like a big commitment (time and money wise) for a temporary job. If I did this I would take it seriously and put in the time and effort to prepare for it and be a good teacher but setting aside a month or two and a thousand dollars or more would be difficult at the moment. Not impossible, but difficult.

I'd be looking for:
- something that wasn't a black hole financially-- I'm not necessarily looking to save money up (though obviously I'm not opposed), but an opportunity where I was bringing in enough money for room/board/living expenses/modest fun. also, ideally, a situation where I recouped the cost of my airfare.
- a job that could be lined up from the US
- I have the most experience working with young-ish kids, say ages 5-13ish and that would be the group I would be most interested in teaching.
- a situation that didn't make me hate my life or drive me to flee in the dead of night.

So, yeah, I'm interested in any info or resources y'all could provide. I've been over to esl cafe, didn't find it all that helpful but that was a while ago so I should take a second look. Biggest questions are:
1. TEFL courses-- do I absolutely need it, which course should I take, is online good enough, etc.
2. General job situations in any of the regions I'm interested in
3. Reasons that Korea/China are Actually Very Nice Places That I Am Writing Off Unfairly
4. Whether you feel that this would be a good fit for me
5. How to get started looking for jobs in these regions.
6. Your general experiences with TEFL/anything else you'd like to add

Oh, and I'm not actually dead set on teaching english so if anyone knows of any other international opportunities that seem to fit definitely let me know.
posted by geegollygosh to Education (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How about France? (I don't know what's up with the website, but the program is run through the French government and is very legit.) You make a living wage working a very French number of hours per week. Not my favorite job ever, but the experience was great.
posted by threeants at 9:46 PM on February 9, 2012

I was thinking TAPIF as well.

(PS, I played with the link that threeants posted and managed to make it look like this)
posted by Chutzler at 10:12 PM on February 9, 2012

I'm not speaking from experience, but from conversations I've had with people...

The Gulf region (UAE, Oman, etc) has many lucrative positions for ESL, but the credentials required are relatively high and the lifestyle trends towards "isolated expatriate bubble" whether you want to live that way or not.

Chile is a really wonderful place to live and has numerous positions for teaching younger kids without requiring too many certifications, but the wages in South America are relatively low.
posted by Winnemac at 10:51 PM on February 9, 2012

The nation of Georgia is apparently sponsoring TEFL volunteers, and providing stipends, housing and airfare. Read about it in this NYTimes article. Here is a recruitment site describing it. A link from NYtimes describes teacher reactions, which are about as rough as you might expect. However, I've always had a soft spot for Georgia: a really strange language, mountains, and amazing, amazing cuisine.
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:27 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Peace Corps? Volunteers make enough to live on plus take a few vacations (or at least I did, and I never touched my savings the whole two years - you can defer your loans even). The Central/South America programs are VERY competitive, but you seem like a competitive candidate. There are also Peace Corps programs in Jordan and Morocco. I know someone who speaks very good Moroccan Arabic because of her two years there in PC. Feel free to MeMail me if you want to know more about my experience (though I was in sub-Saharan Africa, so not all of it will be applicable).
posted by solotoro at 2:06 AM on February 10, 2012

I'm a bit out of touch with the TEFL job market in the places that interest you, so I'll leave others to fill in the gaps there. However, a couple of things jump out from your question that I'd like to highlight, as someone with quite a bit of experience recruiting EFL teachers.

I have the most experience working with young-ish kids, say ages 5-13ish and that would be the group I would be most interested in teaching.

This is a big positive. Teaching English to Young Learners is both a growing area and one that a lot of teachers shy away from. I always found it harder to get good YL teachers than adult teachers, so was always cheered to find someone who genuinely was keen to teach kids.

no TEFL certificate. I'm not completely opposed to completing a course but it seems like a big commitment (time and money wise) for a temporary job.

You can work for a while without TEFL qualifications and there are some niches where they aren't required. However, look at it from the recruiter's point of view. There is a sea of 'TEFL teachers' who want to bum around the world for a few years or who are so professionally or personally maladjusted that they need to move on from the disastrous situations they create every few years. Schools have been burnt by these people before and one filter that removes a lot of the worst cases from the pile of job applications is a teaching certificate. That's from the perspective of a reasonable employer trying to hire a decent teacher. The bad employers out there will take almost anyone, but that's because to them you will be just another disposable native speaker who can be exploited until you get wise and leave.

In short, if you're getting into some sort of graduate program that assumes no qualification, fine, but if you're on the open market without one, you may be squeezed into a job you don't want.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:01 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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