Teaching English Abroad: Myths Debunked

By: Samantha Ng, College of Computing and Digital Media admissions officer and former Career Center grad intern

Teaching abroad is a great opportunity to learn more about you as an educator, while also making an impact on communities abroad. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about teaching abroad and the challenges that come along with it. It’s time to put those myths to rest! Check out our list of common misconceptions about teaching abroad.

“Teaching is easy—it’s just English!”

Teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there. Throw in environmental factors and cultural differences and it is anything but easy. Teachers abroad are expected to be able to articulate their own philosophy on how learners best absorb information, and understand what teaching styles work for their own personal approach. Teachers should also be able to implement their knowledge, skills and abilities to help all types of learners. Think of it this way, just because English is your native language, doesn’t mean you’re automatically capable of explaining grammatical nuances to a foreign learner on the spot. Talk to a current teacher to learn more about their pedagogical philosophy to inform your own ways of teaching and learning before making the jump to teaching abroad.

“I have to know the local language of the country to teach.”

Many countries do not require teachers to know the native language. Especially in Asian countries, not knowing the native tongue can be seen as an advantage. However, Spanish-speaking countries, for example, require working knowledge of the language.

“I need to have an education background.”

Not necessarily! Many programs and schools only require that you have completed at least your bachelor’s degree and that you are a native English speaker. A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification can definitely be advantageous if you do not have an education background.

“If I teach English abroad, I have to teach grade-level students.”

While it is true that schools are the main market for English teachers, there are many universities and English centers that need teachers. There is also a high demand for business English teaching, especially for individuals with business degrees.

Myths like these often convey the wrong kind of reputation to potential teaching abroad candidates. A great way to determine whether or not a program is the right fit for you is by doing your research. Don’t know where to start? Stop by the Study Abroad Office to talk with others about teaching and moving abroad.

Career Research Advice for English Majors

By: Miranda Malinowski, DePaul University English major ‘20

College can be a confusing and overwhelming time, especially during the first year. As students, there is a lot for us to think about—including the one looming question; how do we figure out what we’re supposed to do with the rest of our lives? Some of us working toward our degree in English already know the answer to that last question. There are some of us, however, who are still trying to figure out what type of career an English degree can provide us, and which specific profession will suit us best.

This career journey can sometimes feel overwhelming due to the endless opportunities an English degree offers. We may find ourselves asking, “Well, what’s going to offer the most money?” However, more importantly, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, “What is going to make me look forward to going to work in the morning?” Key questions you can ask yourself are the ones that pertain to your strengths, weaknesses, passions, etc. Aside from individual reflection, you can lean on resources available to you—including this What Can I Do With a Major in English chart—to further explore career opportunities in English.

Ed Childs, career advisor for DePaul’s College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, offered some insight on the topic, “…I would suggest, to all students, if they want to do some exploration…create a LinkedIn account, and use that [platform] as a way to explore what kind of careers [they] can attain with an English degree…” According to Ed, the advantage of doing career research via LinkedIn is that you develop a realistic sense of how people actually got into their field. LinkedIn is a great mechanism to help demystify the many paths to success and it serves as a tool to connect you with people who potentially have your dream job.

The search for potential careers doesn’t stop there. Ed suggests networking by attending DePaul career fairs to interact with employers who are actively seeking creative employees. Another resource offered by DePaul is Alumni Sharing Knowledge or ASK. ASK is a phenomenal tool that you can utilize to interact and network with DePaul alumni who share similar majors and interests. Ed suggests using ASK to develop a better understanding of the widespread applications associated with a major. As an English major, your degree is applicable in more ways than you can imagine. By connecting with alumni, you can develop a clearer picture of where your degree can take you.

Regardless of which resources you use, you’re bound to expand your knowledge on your chosen degree and future work possibilities. Remember, the Career Center is here to help you hone in on a profession that suits you best. Stop by the Career Center to set up an advising appointment and start your English career journey today.

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!