Building a teaching career by teaching abroad? (Fiji)
April 16, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in a career in teaching, and would love to teach abroad for some time. Immediatly, I must find a way to live in Fiji for the next 6-12+ months (Fiancee is Fijian). ESL, Tutoring, etc. sounds like a viable option, especially if it helps my long term career goals. But currently have no teaching experience. Need advice, how might I do this?

***Long Term:*** I would like to lay the groundwork for a career in teaching. I'm in my mid 20's and have a BA in Liberal Arts. I've always seen myself pursuing a MA or PhD at some point. I had excellent grades, but out of college I wasn't sure what to focus on for graduate work, so I entered the work force. I'd eventually like to become a professor (ideally) or some sort of lecturer/teacher/tutor/writer perhaps. Also I'd like to teach abroad for a while, soak up other cultures & languages, perhaps as precursor or part of my MA studies. I'm leaning towards philosophy, anthropology or religion, specifically eastern religion, so living in other cultures seems relevant. But even if I couldn't become a professor, I could see myself being happy as a high school History, Social Studies, or Government teacher.

What should I consider to build this career path? What abroad experiences would make me more valuable and what would be just exciting, but not necessarily helpful to a future teaching career?

***Short Term:*** I am willing to take ANY assignment (Teaching or otherwise) that will allow me to live in Fiji for the next 6 - 12+ months. Currently I have no teaching background and just enough money to fly myself to Fiji and back. What options do I have to get there ASAP and sustain myself? (To keep on topic, non teaching related ideas please PM me)

The reason for this is I met my Girlfriend, now Fiancee, while traveling in Fiji last year. I've been there twice for over a month each time to be with her but I cannot afford to keep visiting like that. I naively figured I'd get her here with a Fiancee Visa pretty quick. WRONG. Long and short, getting her here is next to impossible for probably a year or more. I can't wait that long. Also, working on getting her here immediately means I cannot (easily) seek higher education or pursue my teaching career goals as I planned; I need to focus my efforts at getting money to support her and the transition costs by taking whatever full time job I can get here in the US.

But I thought, what if I pursue an alternative route to my teaching career while living in Fiji. Then once we are married and the paperwork is all settled we can travel, I can teach in say India (she is part Indian and would love to live there) doing ESL or whatever and then, when we are ready to return to the US, I will have a more competitive resume to pursue my higher education and teaching career.

Obviously there is a lot of tentative and speculative parts to that, and I am totally willing to adjust to economic and career realities. But this is my dream.

So how can I make this work? Suggestions for programs or agencies that operate in Fiji are welcome, as well as how I might rather quickly get some sort of legitimate teaching certification that would be valuable abroad. Or, criticisms: is this a total pipe dream?

posted by DaftMythic to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a thread that discusses teaching in Fiji; it includes some info about getting a teaching job, and also discusses other jobs that you could do in Fiji.

I can tell you from experience that TEFL/TESL etc etc is not a career, it's a lifestyle. If you Google meatbomb here on MetaFilter, there's an entire MetaTalk thread that discusses his Reddit thread thingy devoted to ESL. That's pretty helpful.

Speaking as a Canadian who married a woman from a different country, teaching will not provide you with the financial security you need to travel the globe or get started as an adult in North America. It just won't.

It's a competitive world out there, and it's getting competitive every day. If you really like teaching, try to learn something technical, like programming or something that will help you support this love (and will also make you more marketable as a teacher).
posted by KokuRyu at 3:38 PM on April 16, 2012

If you are looking to go down the teaching path a TEFL certificate can be very helpful, doesn't have to be too expensive and also doesn't have the same time requirements that something like an MA might.

Additionally, wouldn't your fiancée be a good source for job leads in Fiji?
posted by raccoon409 at 3:59 PM on April 16, 2012

What should I consider to build this career path? What abroad experiences would make me more valuable and what would be just exciting, but not necessarily helpful to a future teaching career?

To be honest, unless you are planning a research project while there or unless you want to go into a research field that requires fluency in a language where you might be moving, I don't think this stuff will make you any more/less attractive to a PhD program in the fields you are describing. PhD programs don't care about your extracurriculars or your well-roundedness the way that undergrad schools do: they want to know if you can write a good paper, have good research skills, and have a specific goal in mind for your PhD work. "Living in other cultures" will not be a specific positive point on a PhD application unless you can say "I lived in Fiji and took steps (x y and z) to further my education about Fijian culture/religious rites/whatever, which I hope to expand on in your program.."

Not to say that this would make you LESS likely to get into PhD programs - but I don't think it would add to your application in those fields, either.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2012

Having a teaching background would be helpful if you ultimately wanted to teach something at the K-12 level. I realize this is slightly off topic, but I thought it was important: as for becoming a professor, if you are open to different fields, I highly recommend that you look at the rate of current and projected vacancies for each field. Some fields are filled to the brim with PHDs; others are begging for professors. The reason I bring this is up, is that if you really want to make yourself a viable candidate for a PHD program, you should (1) start reading up in your field of choice (2) try to take on research/projects/whatever that are related to your field. This will lay the groundwork for your career as both a student and a professor.

There are tons of teaching English abroad jobs. Another thing you should consider doing, besides looking at jobs in Fiji, is look at jobs in places that are somewhat near Fiji. (I do realize the geography of that part of the world, but being eight hours apart by flight vs. being 22 hours apart by flight is going to be a significant difference. Plus, it will also be cheaper to visit her.)

I recommend checking out Dave's ESL Cafe and Jobs Abroad for job openings. I've had good luck with both of them. I would also reach out to your network and your university and see if they have any connections.

Good luck!
posted by emilynoa at 5:30 AM on April 17, 2012

You've selected a couple of tough countries to find English teaching work in. Since Fijians mostly speak English as a first language, there is not going to be much demand for foreign English teachers. Having said that, if you're on the ground, have local contacts, are presentable and prepared to work hard at looking for a job, you might be able to find something that will pay the rent. What does your fiancée say about the possibility of finding work there? Also, did you read this?

Sadly, a similar problem applies to India; there are over 100 million English speakers there, so your ability to speak the language doesn't guarantee you a job. I do know of some trainers working with local teachers to improve their skills, but that's not a job you can do until you've got a lot of experience and qualifications. I've also heard that there are some jobs training call centre / tech support workers to sound 'less Indian', but again they are probably looking for teachers with a strong background in pronunciation work.

If I'm reading your question right, there also seems to be a big money problem. You say you have enough for the flights to and from Fiji, but no more. You are also going to need money to fly your fiancée to the USA, to fly both of you to and from India, to pay for your teaching certification etc. Where is that going to come from?

I don't know a great deal about teaching careers in the USA, but it's rare that TEFL experience provides a strong foundation for any work in one's home country other than low-paid English tutoring. A friend of mine went from TEFL into a decent job in further education in the UK, but she already had a strong professional background in a different field and her EFL school provided a lot of on-the-job training.

So it doesn't really seem like teaching English helps much with either your short-term (live in Fiji) or long-term (provide a background for a teaching career in the USA) goals. If you and your fiancée are willing to live in another country where there is a stronger demand for EFL teachers, you could live together there, but that will mean additional airfares, might well be tough for her and, unless you can afford a qualification, it won't do a lot for you long-term.

I can tell you from experience that TEFL/TESL etc etc is not a career, it's a lifestyle.

If you're talking about getting into EFL with the idea of returning to your home country with good job prospects a couple of years later, then I agree that career path is a hard one to pull off. And, since that's pretty much what the OP is asking about, it's good advice.

However, I can't let the blanket 'TEFL is not a career' assertion pass. For me, it's been an excellent career and, of the colleagues I met on my first day in my first job in TEFL over a decade ago, I am still in touch with four. One is a successful EFL author and teacher trainer, another a school manager / teacher trainer, another a senior manager in an international organisation and the last an EFL consultant.

I'm not claiming this is the norm for TEFL teachers and certainly the majority of people are doing it short-term to see the world or pay off debts. However, if someone is prepared to work hard and be flexible wrt location for the sake of professional advancement, it can absolutely be a career.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:51 AM on April 27, 2012

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