Teaching ESL overseas is more about the journey than it is about the J.O.B. You get the chance to experience new cultures, meet new friends, see exotic places, do amazingly fun activities, and eat some of the best and healthy food you’ve ever had!
It really comes down to the “where” of the decision when you finally decide. I will warn you not to agonize too long over where to start your teaching journey.
Just because you decide to do the financially smart thing and head to South Korea — because they pay far, far better than most other countries — doesn’t mean you have to teach there forever. Once you’ve completed a contract or two, you can move on to the next country. That is, after exhausting every imaginable experience you can!
1. South Korea
This is one of the most lucrative ESL opportunities you can choose. You can, with fair ease, find a job paying up to $5,000 USD a month, if you have a University degree. I don’t know why the South Koreans are so choosy in this regard (seriously, can an art or history major teach English better because they have that piece of paper?) I digress though, they offer financial incentives to keep you around for the duration of your contract (bonuses), healthcare, housing — and will cover your airfare to and from the country. The people are super-friendly, they’re so grateful for your service. Go here to pay off your student loans, save for a house, or put money away for a world travel adventure. We’re talking up to $60 grand a year here and you’ll meet friends that will still be Face-timing you when you’re 80! Every expense you can imagine (food, clothing, electronics, etc.) are all really cheap here too, so you’ll save more than you spend for sure.
Everyone knows what a literal hotspot Thailand is for travel. It’s also one of the most popular destinations for teaching ESL and saving up for extended travel. You’ll meet just as many wanderlust-driven travelers and expats as you will locals here. You might even encounter a few travelers who stopped here for a month or two and just flat never left! The pay for teaching ESL tops out around $2,000 USD a month and most schools pay much less than that. But the tropical atmosphere, friendly people, amazing sunrises and sunsets, adrenaline filled fun, and ease of finding a job in the first place make Thailand a really attractive place to teach. You really don’t even need to find a job before you go. Seriously. Just fly over and start walking from school to school, or search online once you get settled into a hostel or hotel.
I had a tough time decided where on the list Japan should fall. They offer really high salaries, benefits and bonuses for people who want to stay in the country teaching for at least a year. The timeframe shouldn’t be a problem for most, but stick with Thailand if you’re a short-timer looking for a few thrills and some quick travel cash. Japan-is-expensive! There are some programs like JET, that offer things like free accommodations, benefits and completion bonuses. However, like in South Korea, you need that piece of paper saying you’re edumacated. If you’re willing to “work to live” while you’re here, Japan will end up taking quite a few gigs worth of photos up on your phone or hard drive. The Japanese love making friends out of foreigners and they love having their photo snapped (at least the young generation under 40 or so do!) The club scene here is wicked, if that’s your thing and cultural attractions… forget about it! The culture here is ridiculous, you’ll get lost in it all!
China’s taking over the world. And they know the only way to truly accomplish this goal is to make sure every citizen can speak English (I say this only half tongue-in-cheek, but mean no offense — you go China!) Listen, the pay can get as high as $4,000 US a month, including a slew of great perks like completion bonuses, free housing, daily lunches, airfare reimbursement and all the amazing scenery you can take in. Seriously, Chinese architecture and their natural scenery beats any other eastern country by a landslide. Love the mountain-scapes the best! There’s something for ESL teachers of all levels here, but make sure you apply before you go if you’re looking for the higher paying gigs — some institutions can be quite choosy.
In Spain you can teach ESL while learning “lenguaje del amor” or “the language of love”. Finding an ESL gig in Spain is really easy. There are tons of jobs cropping up every day and the Spanish government offers some really great perks; though mega-cash isn’t one of them. First, those with a Spaniard passport can travel anywhere in Europe they please without having to deal with the usual woes that a North American or Asian passport can present. The pay isn’t great, but my oh my, is this the place to go if you’re single (male or female). And the FOOD. OMG! Make sure to market yourself in the local classifieds and offer yourself up for freelance teaching work, too!
6. The Middle East
Don’t get too excited by the prospect of teaching here. It’s great… from what I’ve heard: Sadly, I wasn’t even remotely qualified by there stringent standards to experience teaching ESL here. The pay is ridiculous! But they don’t accept anyone who isn’t a certified teacher in their own country. From what friends have told me, this is a great place to go if you’ve taught in your home country for a few years and suddenly need a change. Pay ranges from $50,000 – $80,0000 US a year and the bonuses, including not having to pay taxes, are many.
There are several other countries that are great for teaching English. Please feel free to share your own favorites, even summarize your experiences — good or bad — in the comments so we can all learn more about the best and worst countries to teach ESL.
Happy and safe travels!
Main Image Credit: US Army/Flickr