So you’ve just taken a TEFL course and received your certificate. Now what? I took an online TEFL certification course last summer through Greenheart Travel, but I had no idea where I wanted to start teaching. I’ll be honest, it has been a long process including hours of online research and going back and forth.
Luckily, I had received an amazingly comprehensive job search manual after finishing my online course in which I referred to quite often throughout this process. I am not here to summarize everything in that manual, but I can offer you my own personal experience and thought process.
Start large and narrow it down. I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to teach. I lived in China for two years with my family when I was younger, and I absolutely loved it. I attended an amazing international school and got the opportunity to travel to various towns and villages during my two years there. I love Asian culture and was very seriously considering the EPIK program in Korea, or the JET program in Japan for a while.
I have heard wonderful things about these programs and teaching in these countries. The salaries and benefits are AMAZING and very appealing! I knew that if my goal was to save money, these countries were the places to be.
Figure out goals and motives for teaching English. If it is important for you to save money while you are teaching overseas, you should keep this in mind during your job search. Through my research, I found that in many countries in Asia, schools and organizations will offer a competitive salary and even provide housing and travel expenses. It is also likely that you will be able to save a good amount of your salary each month, allowing you to live comfortably while saving.
On the other end, many countries in Europe, South America and Central America will only provide you enough to break even each month. This means that you will likely make enough money to cover living expenses in your host country, but not enough to save or use for recreation.
In my case, learning Spanish and traveling throughout South America have been at the top of my bucket list and also my main goals/motives for teaching abroad. On top of that, I knew that I wouldn’t want to start teaching for at least a year from the time that I started my search. So I decided to start a budget plan that would allow me to save up enough money in order to feel comfortable moving to South America.
Figure out which country and city to live in. My criteria was pretty easy to come up with: I wanted geographical diversity that offered outdoor activities, a mild climate, rich culture and history, low cost of living, and a medium sized city. I talked to other friends who have traveled to South America, read numerous blogs, and looked through multiple travel books at my local bookstore.
I landed on Ecuador because it met all of my wants and needs, and I had been following a friend’s Facebook pictures and blogs from her time teaching English in Quito. She had wonderful things to say about the country and even gave me some great advice and connections. Although Quito looked like fun, I wanted something a little smaller and more low-key. I read that Cuenca was a great medium-sized city, where you could walk to pretty much any place you needed to be. It has a rich cultural history, beautiful architecture, and doesn’t get too hot or too cold. It felt like I had made a decision on the city I wished to live and teach in, all I had to do now was apply for positions!
Research teaching jobs. Again, I had the job search manual that I received during my online TEFL course which helped a lot. They listed a few language schools and public schools by country and city that hire English teachers, which was a good place to start, as it got overwhelming just doing some aimless google searches.
Some additional online resources that I found to be helpful were Dave’s ESL Café, GoOverseas, GoAbroad and GoGoGringo (GoGoGringo is strictly for Ecuador). Throughout my search, I kept reading that many places in Latin America will likely only hire teachers face-to-face, and that landing a job before getting to Ecuador would be difficult.
I started mentally preparing myself for this possibility, but continued to reach out to as many language schools and organizations as possible. One organization in particular that really caught my eye was the CEDEI Foundation, a non-profit based in Cuenca dedicated to academic and cultural exchange. I sent an inquiry to their English program, along with several other schools and organizations in Cuenca looking for teachers.
Of all the places I reached out to, a few of them got back to me saying something along the lines of “we look forward to talking with you about the position…once you get to Cuenca.” That was expected, but still discouraging. I really hoped I didn’t have to arrive without a job (my parents weren’t thrilled about this idea either). I finally heard back from CEDEI asking for my resume, two letters of recommendation and a copy of my TEFL certificate. I scrambled to get these documents together as soon as possible and sent them their way.
They responded a week later asking to set up an interview, and before I know it I’m face-to-face with the manager of the English program via Skype!
Celebrate Your Success. I’m so happy that I stuck through this process because I am thrilled to say that CEDEI offered me a position and I will be heading there in September. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is looking to apply for TEFL jobs directly instead of through a recruiter would be persistence. Not everyone is going to respond to you, so reach out to as many schools and organizations as you can. Understand what your goals and motives are for teaching overseas so that you can easily make a decision on where you want to go. Don’t worry so much about the actual job as much as where you want to live, read about and research your top 3-5 countries and go from there. Connect with other teachers and ask for advice, but most of all—don’t give up. You’re TEFL job is out there waiting for you!