Travel & Work Abroad Teaching English: Our Story

teaching english abroad

I’ve always been passionate about traveling, even as a young boy growing up England I was fascinated during our annual summer holidays to countries such as Spain, France and Italy. I am a firm believer that experiencing different cultures, languages and ways of living is something which is extremely special and helps you grow in so many ways as a human being.

In my adult life I have been very fortunate to have traveled and worked extensively in various parts of the world. My passion for travel and working abroad has taken me to numerous different countries in every corner of the world.

I understand that not everyone shares the same desire to travel extensively and many people are quite content with their current daily lives and living in one place but if you are ready for a change and have been playing with the idea of traveling and exploring what else is out there then I would urge you to go for it!

You simply can’t put a price on the experiences and memories you will have traveling and working abroad.

If you are ready to make that leap and want to explore what is out there but constantly wonder where will you go and what would you do?

Well the answer is simple, go anywhere you want to go! Life is short and you need to decide what you want to do and where you want to go in this life then make it happen!.

What will you do when you get there? Who knows, you could do all kinds of things.

One great option is to explore the possibilities of teaching English abroad. This is what my fiancé and I did and we loved every minute of it….well nearly every minute!

Wherever you go in the world there is always a need for individuals who can help other people develop their English language skills, even if you travel to English speaking countries! It is also relatively easy to get the necessary credentials to work as an English language instructor.

Our Adventure

When my fiancé and I decided we wanted to explore the options of teaching English abroad we looked into the options of participating in a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course, this seemed like a good option and you always hear people talking about TEFL.

TEFL is an international organization which runs training courses designed to give individuals the skills required to travel and work abroad teaching English as a foreign language. It is recognized throughout the world and most language schools or organization who run English language programs will require that you have this certificate.

After some lengthy research we decided that Central America was the destination for us and more specifically Costa Rica. We traveled to Costa Rica knowing very little about the country other than what we had read about in our various travel guides and from online research.

When we got there we were so excited and thankful to have chosen this wonderful country. The people, known as ‘Ticos’, are extremely warm and welcoming and the country itself is an amazing place with a diverse range of nature and wildlife to explore. With beautiful beaches lining both sides of the nations, some of the most exotic wildlife on the planet, volcanoes and hot springs, it really is a remarkable place to call home.

Our 4 week training course to obtain TEFL certification was held in a small beach town on the Pacific coast. The course was quite draining and stressful as it was very intensive with lots of long days in the classroom followed by late night completing homework and preparing for the next day.

Many of the candidates, including ourselves had little or any teaching experience but that was not a major issue as the instructors were fantastic and worked with individuals on a regular basis who were in the same boat as ourselves.

After the first week we actually started to teach students, these would be locals who wanted to get a grasp of the English language and who would come into the classroom for free classes which us students would deliver.

This was particularly stressful but after a few days it became a great deal of fun and a very rewarding experience. People in this area don’t have much and they really appreciated all of the help you gave them trying to discover this new language, this in itself was a remarkable experience and helped you appreciate what you have and where you come from.

By the end of week 4 everyone was ready for the course to be over and looking forward to the traditional end of month graduation night and drinks that would be involved in the festivities.

This was a special night for everyone to celebrate and we all had a real sense of achievement. It was only a short 4 week training course but when you travel to a strange country and live in unfamiliar surroundings putting in the number of hours that we did over that month it really is nice to complete the program and be officially certified to teach English as a Foreign language….anywhere in the world!

Where next?

Once you have your TEFL certification the options are endless – you can visit Asia and teach in popular destinations such as South Korea, Japan or China. You can explore South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Peru, You can head to the middle east and work in fascinating places such as Saudi Arabia….you can literally go anywhere there is a need for English language instructors.

We actually stayed in the beautiful beach town of Samara for several months and provided private tuition for locals who wanted to improve their English language skills. The beach town we lived in was extremely small and word soon spread – uncles, cousins, aunts many different family members would contact us regarding our English classes and if we had openings.

Before you get excited and think we were raking the money in, please remember most people have very little so the amount we could charge was minimal, in some cases we would offer our lessons in return for good and services.

After several months in our little beach paradise we wanted to explore some other nations and use the skills we had acquired through our TEFL course. We decided our next adventure would be to the wonderful city of Buenos Aires in Argentina!

Going from the jungle to one of the biggest cities you in the world was a major culture shock but such a great experience. If you ever have the chance to go to Argentina…GO! The Argentines are such phenomenal people, they really do have a great lifestyle and know exactly how to enjoy life. The city of Buenos Aires, which was our home, is amazing and is constantly throbbing with people going about their daily lives and all kinds of activities.

While in Buenos Aires we landed a couple of jobs working with a language school that helped children develop English language skills

We spent six months living in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires before returning to the US to plan our next adventure. We still have our certification, our wonderful memories and a desire to continue traveling and working abroad.

Immersing yourself in other cultures is such a special experience and something that makes you become more complete. For us it was a life changing experience and helped us grow so much as people. You appreciate so many more things back in your own country and also how much more the world has to offer.

Are you ready to leave your office cubicle behind and see what else is out there? Life is short, if you have a desire to participate in an adventure like this my advice would be…Do It!

Otherwise you will always wonder – “What if…”.

Do you have any experiences teaching English abroad? If so, please share them in the comments below!

Photo by Renato Ganoza

14 thoughts on “Travel & Work Abroad Teaching English: Our Story”

  1. What if you are not a native English speaker, but know the language very well? I have heard it’s hard to land a job teaching English to foreigners even if you have a TEFL-course, if you are not a native English speaker.

  2. Thanks for that, James. I’ve been working overseas for the last 25 years or so, starting out after uni in Sudan and then on to Turkey, Cyprus, Turkmenistan, Oman, Bahrain and UAE.
    Just about to go to Libya now – fingers crossed.

  3. This sounds like such a great adventure, what I picked up from your post mostly was the ‘giving’ factor.
    What a fantastic way to give back to the world and to learn about people’s lives. This type of experience can help ‘grow’ everyone concerned. Well done and enjoy the adventures to come.

    1. Thanks Joan, yes it is a very rewarding experience and really makes you appreciate so many things in life!

  4. Hi Liz, you don’t necessarily have to be a native English speaker but you must have a very good grasp of the English language. Generally when teaching English to foreigners the concepts you are working on are quite basic. This is why you can work in such a position after a short training program.

    Jobs can be pretty hard to come by as it is becoming more and more popular to teach English abroad, but there are still plenty of jobs out there and the staff turnover is relatively high.

    Hope this helps!

  5. I taught English in Japan for three years after my double degree (Bachelor of Arts/Law). Was an amazing experience and truly changed me (for the better) for life!! I have such fond memories of those years …

  6. James, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I love your honesty (that you won’t become financially rich). It seems that the experience cannot be measured in money – although it is important to consider if one is pursuing this type of work/life experience.

  7. I’ve recently returned from a trip to Cambodia & volunteered with the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) where they are desperate for English tutors, to volunteer in their schools, no experience necessary, or certificate, you just have to have patience, understanding & go in with an open heart! The children are all so eager to learn and education is very important to Cambodians. This is easily one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life! :)

  8. James – I’m thrilled to read this! It sounds like an exciting adventure, and sharing it with your fiance makes it even more special. If you guys can survive this, you can survive anything!

    It will be interesting to see where you go next. Perhaps the scariest part of considering working abroad is managing a long-term career with a break like this. What advice would you give someone who is a corporate job and thinking of taking a break from it. How do you manage this after the working-abroad stint is over?

    – Razwana

  9. I am so glad you shared this!:) Although I am still in highschool, I have dreams of traveling and experiencing different cultures. I dont like the feeling of being stuck in one location when the world has so many different places to discover. Your story is truly inspiring and the fact that youhave made such a difference in so many lives is awesome! Definitely want to follow in your footsteps, thank you so much!

    1. mahavir nautiyal

      In helping others, we help ourselves. In giving, we prosper. In travelling, we are on our own which adds to the thrill of adventure. Choice is ours as to what kind of life we wish to live. Of course, there may be set backs too.

  10. It is something I have always wanted to do but I don’t think I would want to live somewhere for a year. I am looking for more short term options either paid or voluntary. I will check your site to see what I can learn. I recently participated in a program called Diverbo – Pueblo Ingles based in Madrid where I spent a week in the Salamanca area of Spain helping Spaniards to improve their English speaking skills. It was an amazing experience. They have programs all over Spain and also Germany and it does not cost anything except your airfare and incidentals.

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