8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Teaching Abroad

By: Samantha Ng, College of Computing and Digital Media Admissions Officer and Former Career Center Grad Intern

Postgraduate planning involves a myriad of difficult decisions that will lead you down new and exciting paths; paths that may even take you abroad. One great opportunity to consider post-grad is teaching English abroad. When it comes to relocating to a different country, however, there are certain questions you should ask yourself to determine if you’re ready for this type of career path. Before you embark on this journey, here are a few questions you should ask yourself.

Am I up for the challenge?

You should first dig deep and ask yourself this: is teaching really your interest and passion, or is this really more about traveling and immersion, coupled with time to think more about what to do later? Also, keep in mind that moving to a new country comes with many challenges. Depending on the teaching program, you may receive minimal support when it comes to housing arrangements, adjusting to local culture, overcoming language barriers, etc. However, there are also many programs out there that will pick you up from the airport, provide an orientation for new teachers, set up housing, etc. The level of support desired or independence required is important to consider when applying for different jobs.

Am I willing to pay for a program?

There are generally two routes you can take: find a program that places you in a school, which sometimes requires a fee; or, find a teaching job on your own that provides compensation. Oftentimes, the programs that require a fee are non-profit organizations and sometimes include some sort of teaching certification. However, there are many teaching abroad programs that do not require fees or search sites that can help people find jobs abroad.

Can I afford to teach abroad?

There will most likely be some upfront costs when it comes to teaching abroad. This may include the flights, passports and visa(s) (if applicable), accommodations, health insurance, or a teaching certificate. When considering teaching abroad, do not forget to consider the initial costs you may have to pay.

Do I want to save money or am I willing to break even?

For programs that provide compensation, teachers will either earn savings or break even. In many countries, teachers will receive large compensations, and even housing and airfare. In Asian countries like Thailand, China, and Korea, where the cost of living is cheaper, teachers can earn some savings. However, some European countries like Paris, Spain and Turkey where the cost of living is much higher, teachers are more likely to break even in those locations.

Will I take a certification course?

Many schools and institutions look for their teachers to be qualified in TEFL/TESOL/CELTA. There are online and in-person options for these certifications. These courses will provide you with a better understanding and set of skills in teaching English as a foreign language. The certification can range from $1,000 USD (online) to $3,000 USD (in-person). While there are many programs/schools that do not require a certification, it can help position you as a more competitive candidate, especially if you do not have an education background.

How long do I want to live abroad?

Every teaching program has different placement commitments. Some programs require at least a one academic year contract, while others have weekly or monthly options. Consider different factors (i.e. family, finances, holidays, etc.) in deciding how long you want to live in a foreign country.

Where will I live if I go abroad?

Some schools and companies will provide housing for their teachers. These may be single apartments or shared. However, for some teaching jobs, you may be responsible for finding your own accommodations. Many countries have similar websites like Craigslist that may help with your apartment search.

What do I know about the destination?

Before embarking on a journey to a whole new country, it’s important that you do some research on the culture, food, local customs, laws, safety issues, etc. Since you will be immersing yourself into a new lifestyle, it’s essential that you become familiar with the surroundings in which you will live and work. Some initial research may even get you more excited for what’s to come.

I sat down with Career Advisor Ed Childs to talk teaching and moving abroad. Here are a few top questions he will often raise during advising appointments:

  • Have you explored alumni with first-hand experiences in these target areas?
  • Have you reviewed the skills developed from students and alumni who have worked abroad to help give you ideas for your own guidance?
  • Have you considered augmenting your pay with private tutoring, tours, and restaurant work, or remote freelance work?
  • Would you create a vlog/blog or utilize photo/film equipment while abroad as a potential independent study, or for credit in a grad program?
  • Have you explored grad programs with working abroad built into the curriculum?

Navigating these questions can be tough, but remember, you don’t have to do it alone! Stop by the Study Abroad Office or schedule a chat with Ed at the Career Center to talk about teaching and exploring abroad!

DePaul Diaries: Life as a Global Brigader

By: Renee Radzom, DePaul University graduate, former University Internship Program (UIP) assistant

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.

Are you interested in helping rural communities in underdeveloped nations? Do you want to have hands-on experience in the health, business, human rights or environmental industries?

Brendan ComuzziThe Global Brigades at DePaul give you this opportunity while spending time in another country and making a difference in people’s lives. Brendan Comuzzi, biology major, current co-president for the DePaul Chapter and former water brigade program director, answered some questions to demystify the program.

What is Global Brigades?

Global Brigades is the largest non-profit student-led global health and sustainable development organization in the world. Global “Brigaders” are college students who go on 1-3 week trips to rural communities in Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Ghana to promote development challenges. The DePaul chapter has 8 different Brigades, spanning the health, environmental, business and human rights fields. Brendan said his experience in the Medical Brigades meant a lot to him, as “the joy of the community members is infectious.”

What will I learn?

There are a lot of benefits from interning abroad, even for short periods of time. As for the Brigades, Brendan said, “as cliché as it sounds, it really can be a life-changing experience.” By working directly with the less fortunate, you learn compassion, problem solving, accountability and adaptability, to name a few. You’re learning to create professional proposals to solve real-world problems that are right in front of you, so you are always kept on your toes.

…it [the Brigades] really can be a life-changing experience

How can this help academically?

Along with going on the trip to one of the aforementioned countries, you can also enroll in the UIP 367 course to fulfill your Experiential Learning Credit. The class starts once you return from the trip, and you learn about both sides of working for a non-profit organization. You’ll work on unpacking your experience and how to use your newfound skills in future career opportunities. It’s a pretty unique experience to go on an immersion trip and take a correlating career development class after. According to Brendan, “passing up this opportunity is almost criminal!”

Why should I apply?

While experience is a great reason to apply, there are so many benefits to this program. For example, thanks to the Brigades, Brendan discovered his interest in pursuing a career in international medicine. On top of the great immersion experience, Brendan and his fellow Brigaders have kept in touch with the education chair of the organization. He is still active in certain aspects of their education material, even though he has moved on to a different title.

Another reason you should apply? “The Global Brigades is also very open to helping their students find future opportunities and continuing the passion they found while on their trip,” Brendan said.

If you are interested in applying to be a Brigader or want to find out more information about the 8 different platforms that you can volunteer under, please email depaul@globalbrigades.org. One factor to keep in mind is that you must fundraise or pay for your trip to the country – this is not a paid position. However, there are many ways to fundraise your expenses and the program directors are more than willing to help you come up with ways to pay for this unforgettable experience. Brendan’s one tip is to start fundraising early!

Want to learn more about DePaul’s University Internship Program (UIP)? Check it out, here, or send inquiries to UIP@depaul.edu. Need help finding an internship? Visit depaul.joinhandshake.com, or come into DePaul’s Career Center to meet with an advisor.