It may sound obvious but before you rush ahead and make up your mind where you want to teach, take a little time to think about your priorities - why you want to work somewhere. Is it because you’re particularly interested in a country? Do you have family connections there? Is it about lifestyle? Or money? Whatever your reasoning, remember that you are making a big commitment and you, and your new employer, want your stay to be successful.
Here at UIC Towers we’re often surprised that people will be adamant that they are going to teach in such and such country, but when we ask them what they actually know about it, we’re often met with a blank stare! Sorry to insult your intelligence, but living and working in a place for nine or twelve months is a very different experience than visiting it for a couple of weeks. It can be fantastic, but it can also be lonely, financially difficult and a hard slog with long hours. These days there’s absolutely no excuse for not finding out everything you need to know, before you sign on the dotted line. And going through UIC will give you the reassurance that you’re heading off to a reputable school.
One of the main things to bear in mind when considering where you want to work is what time of year you’ll be available and when you should apply. Lots of people come to us in March or April looking for a job in Western Europe, at precisely the time schools are least likely to need teachers! Find out when the peak recruiting times are, remembering that in the main we’re talking about privately-run schools, not the state sector. Some countries work to defined academic years while others take on teachers continuously. In Western Europe, to go back to that earlier comment, the academic year begins in September and October so schools start looking for teachers for their next year as they are winding down in May and June. Jobs will then usually be available through the summer into early autumn, and then very few after that. In Asia it tends to be all year round, with schools getting teachers in as they need them. Other parts of the world vary, so do your research before you start applying. Also, don’t forget that paperwork and visas play their part. We recruit for jobs in Japan and have to allow a three month lead time for the visa process.
We mentioned money earlier. In this time of a UK recession and when people increasingly have large debts to pay off, money has become a significant consideration when deciding where to work. Unfortunately, TEFL tends not to be the best remunerated activity. In most countries the wages tend to be sufficient to live, pay the bills and do a bit of local travel but that’s about it. If you’re needing a little more than that, you’ll need to narrow your sights rather. In the Middle East EFL teachers are very well paid and other terms and conditions tend to be good too. In return, however, employers often insist on main stream teaching qualifications and significant teaching experience. Opportunities are therefore often limited and not everyone is attracted to the way of life in that part of the world. UIC sends teachers to Japan, which is also a unique place to live offering well=paid jobs in an established market place with plenty of ex-pats for company. In fact Japan is one of the few places where teachers can save during their time away, a big attraction for lots of people.
Our overriding message will always be, whatever you decide to do, make sure you know all about it before you commit yourself. Find out how far the salary will stretch locally. What’s the provision with accommodation and what standard is it? Will you be working with other ex-pat staff and is there academic and pastoral support? Will you be working from course books or simply teaching by rote? Are resources available? Is there public transport so you can get around and see the country? The list goes on but if you are talking directly to the school don’t be afraid to ask these questions. If you’re going through a recruitment company they should have lots of info for you to look at and should, ideally, have visited the school and the surrounding area. We’re always happy to advise if you need our help.