So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and 3/4% guaranteed)
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!– Dr. Seuss (1990)
Dr. Seuss illustrates the ups and downs of life in his last published book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! However, he thoughtfully reminds the reader to forge ahead and indeed you will succeed. Nicole T. Brewer’s A Guide to Landing an English Teaching Job Abroad shares the same message in this well-organized and informative 223-page book. This author is a seasoned teacher of English overseas, and her how-to book will carefully guide and empower anyone looking to teach English in a foreign country.
Nicole provides detailed information about locating teaching programs, the cost of tuition and requirements for certification as an English as Second Language teacher. She clearly identifies the levels of accreditation and the differences between each one. There is also an in-depth discussion about the types of jobs that are available, along with the websites and agencies where one can apply for these highly sought-after positions. She shares detailed information about various countries seeking native English speakers to become instructors in their countries.
A Guide to Landing an English Teaching Job Abroad also includes essential details pertaining to housing, cost of living, and salary. There is a chapter devoted to quality of life issues and it presents a realistic picture of living and working abroad. Interested candidates are given information on everything from creating a time-frame for planning a move, arranging interviews with prospective employers, obtaining visas, sample resumes and interview questions. The process is demystified with realistic expectations.
The chapter entitled “Before You Go” gives practical advice about academic preparation, as well as packing everyday items such as hair products, durable food staples and many other hard-to-find products that you may need to make a smooth transition to a new country. Another section, “Interviews of Expat English Teachers”, highlights the everyday experiences of teachers living and working in foreign lands, and their daily dilemmas. The people interviewed come from all walks of life and provide first-hand information about adapting to new customs and cultures. This comprehensive guide lends itself easily to someone exploring this career option or seeking answers to specific questions about teaching English overseas.
During a recent conversation with Nicole from her new home in Oman, I asked her the following questions and life, travel, teaching and any extra advice she could give people looking for an English teaching job abroad.
You stated that you did not have teaching experience prior to moving to South Korea. How did you prepare to meet the challenges of classroom teaching and prepare activities for your students?
I made sure to bring books with me regarding ESL teaching and additional activities. I was fortunate enough to have a Korean co-teacher with me in the class, so she assisted me with class preparation and the overall transition of teaching abroad.
Were you provided support from EPIK (English Preparation in Korea) or were you supplied with educational resources or a curriculum for lesson planning?
Yes, the EPIK program was great in supporting the newcomers into teaching abroad. We all had to go to training together for a week (regardless of locations throughout Korea that we would move on to in the future). The classes in Korea were smart classrooms, so we had loads of resources and my co-teacher assisted me as well with lesson planning.
Did your students have varying levels of English proficiency? If so, how did you address this?
Yes, indeed students had various levels of English proficiency in the classroom. We combated this issue by doing a lot of group work and cooperative learning activities. It is very helpful to be able to put students with varying ranges in groups in order to have the weaker students learn from the higher-level students. The higher-level students also would take pride in being able to be mini assistants in the class work.
Agencies, websites, online listings, etc. are reported as places to secure teaching positions. How do you suggest someone investigate the credibility of such employers?
In the book, I suggested some great resources for researching agencies and recruiters. Also, I think social communities, such as my travel group on Facebook (iluv2globetrot) are great tools to ask questions of fellow expats currently living abroad and to learn about their experiences of using these agencies.
You stated that you visited friends in Japan before embarking on your own teaching journey. Do you think it is helpful for someone considering this life change to spend time living abroad before applying for a teaching job?
I don’t know if it’s totally necessary to have experience living abroad before applying to teaching opportunities. As long as you do your due diligence with researching opportunities and locations, then you’d have an idea of what to expect in the future. The week of traveling around Japan piqued my interests, but even without that experience knowing that travel and curiosity are traits of mine, I still would have wanted to move abroad.
Initially, how did you feel being separated from family and friends?
It took time to get used to being away from friends and family back home. I had not lived in the same state as my family for years, so I was used to the fact of not seeing them much. The thought of being so far away in case of emergency was a major concern of mine. However, thank goodness for technology- Skype dates, FB chats, etc… they made the transition a little easier.
What traits do you think someone needs to possess to take on this life adventure?
For sure you have to be flexible and adaptable in order to live abroad. No day will be the same and you will meet interesting people from all walks of life. Patience is also key in this lifestyle. I’ve gained a great deal of patience since working abroad.
Were you able to make new friends, have relationships, and form connections with people in your adopted country?
Yes indeed! I’ve very grateful for the amazing connections I’ve made since living abroad. My I Luv 2 Globe Trot co-founder Renee and I met while teaching in South Korea. I’ve had a relationship (which didn’t last), but I learned a great deal about myself while dating someone here in Oman. I have made loads of relationships that positively impacted my life since being abroad.
You mentioned that it was not necessary to speak the language of your adopted country. Did you ever have a situation, (e.g., funny, embarrassing, or awkward) where you wished you could have communicated in the native language?
Oh- as a non red meat eater, I’m sure my life would have been much easier if I could have effectively communicated to not add meat to some of my dishes. People always looked at me crazy when I tried to explain to them that I didn’t eat pork or beef…so I just started telling them that I had “allergy” to it. It was the easiest way to get the point across to them!
Many of the teachers profiled in your book report discontent with their schools or school system. How do you remain positive and committed to your career despite these challenges?
Well, I personally have come to terms with the way administration works. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a pretty positive experience overall and just learned to roll with the punches. My students have been great in both South Korea and Oman, so that makes it all worthwhile.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Great question! Time will surely tell. If I’m still living abroad and teaching, then I’ll be perfectly fine with that. However, in an ideal world with my travel app, website, and freelance writing opportunities, it will afford me the opportunity to continue living and traveling abroad based on my disposable income.
A Guide to Landing an English Teaching Job Abroad is a great road map for anyone thinking about pursuing teaching work abroad.
At the end of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Dr. Seuss reminds us to keep this thought in mind on our journeys-
You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting-
So… get on your way!