Where in the World Do I Go—A TEFL Country Breakdown

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Picking a place to live and work for an entire year is an exciting, yet daunting task. I’m a bad decision maker, and this one was like picking a place to go on vacation times 100. I want to see almost absolutely everything, so how in the world was I to narrow this choice down, let alone start interviewing? The TEFL Academy had a great country chart that listed each country, living expenses, upfront expenses and how much teachers would be able to save on average per month. I realized very quickly in my research that each country did things a different way—proving that red tape is universal. I was able to start interviewing via Skype in most countries, but not all (read on to see why) before my class ended. So, I decided to start researching where I was going to live and teach in 2014.

Countries in South America, Mexico and Europe (my first choices, of course) were automatically out of the running. I found out that in these countries most teachers pack their bags, fly abroad, knock on doors and live in hostels until they get a job and then a place to live. I am way too much of a control freak to live this way, and I found this way of life really irresponsible for someone with more than 10 years of working experience. Many teachers, especially in South America and Mexico, are in the country with no work visa and take odd teaching jobs here and there and backpack around. This was not what I had in mind when I signed up for an $1,100 class to get certified, plus the more than $50,000 to fund my bachelor’s education. I wanted my perks, which included an airport pickup, good pay, ample vacation time, a furnished apartment and a job already set in stone. I wasn’t about to pay for a plane ticket into the unknown, especially when embarking into a country I’d never been to before with zero real teaching experience.

Obvious regions that were big on ESL teaching were out, like the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt and South Korea. Even though South Korea is vastly different than North, and has possibly the largest perks in all of ESL teaching, my dad was having a bit of a freak out, so I promised him I wouldn’t go there. This narrowed down my choices to Indonesia, Thailand, Asia and Russia.

As you can imagine, there’s an extensive array of job boards online to search for an ESL job. I heard from my school and multiple sources that Dave’s ESL Café was one of the best and where other teachers had the best luck, so I decided to focus on that board alone. I thought about Indonesia first. (Who wouldn’t want to live in Bali?) But, I wanted to be able to travel a lot while I was gone and the pay wasn’t that great on most of the job openings. I get bored on beach vacations, so possibly living there for a year lost its appeal quickly. In addition, in reading other expat’s blogs Indonesia didn’t have that great of a light shed on it. I appreciated the other teachers’ honestly and forthcoming nature in the blogs and if you are thinking about teaching abroad, they are a great resource to really know what you are getting into.

Next up was Thailand. Good pay, pretty good perks and close to a lot of good travel places. However, the only job openings I saw were ones that were offered after coming there for your TEFL certificate and studying on-site. Since I had already paid to take a course and was nearly finished, this wasn’t fiscally a smart move. I decided to use my student adviser as a resource. The TEFL Academy offers lifetime assistance, and they never have ceased to call right back or email answers to any and every question. My phone call with the Thailand expert, needless to say, was discouraging. She said Thailand rarely has job openings and it’s another one where you have to go there first in order to secure a position. Thailand was out. This left me to Asia and Russia, which were in all sincerity not even on my radar in the beginning of this process. Russia had the Olympics in its favor, and the architecture and history looked very exciting and wonderful. However, after speaking to a couple of people who had traveled there, they said that Americans were not seen in a very good light and it’s seriously freezing cold year round. I would be living in Siberia for an entire year. Now that terrorist threats are looming for the Olympics, I’m glad that I decided against living in Russia. I’ll be happy to visit in the summer sometime when it’s a balmy 40 degrees.

So, as a person who goes back and forth in every decision at a neurotic rate, it was ironic that a decision was made for me. Asia was my country choice due to fate. Asia, however, is a very big country, so it was time to start looking at specific job openings and what perks they had to offer. I applied to three jobs to start, and within an hour I had three Skype interviews scheduled for the next day. It sounded way too easy, but according to my school, Asia was one of the easiest countries to get hired in ahead of time. And so, my interviewing process began.

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