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Another, "where should I go thread?"

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Travelbeard, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. Travelbeard

    Travelbeard New commenter

    Hi all, I'm new to the boards here and naturally I'm here to bother you with another "where to go thread."

    My background. I'm a middle aged (44) white guy from the USA that looks very young for his age (late 20's to early 30's perhaps, but some grey hairs are starting to peep through); I mention it only because it's my understanding that appearance/sex can greatly influence hiring chances in some locales. No children, divorced and with no real desire to go down that road again so I'm free to go where I wish. My career to this point has been in healthcare. I've always been a saver, and at this point in my life I have enough invested that I don't much need to work anymore, but I don't have so much that I can do absolutely nothing. Mostly, I'm just looking to cover some to all of my month to month expenses...saving something is not required at this point.

    I'd like to teach some English abroad. Ever since my youth, it's something that I've always kicked around in the back of my mind as something I'd like to do, but never had the opportunity to pursue. For the past two years, I've been working in my profession on a contract basis...6 months in the US, and then 6 months of travel abroad. Financially, this has worked well (probably better than teaching would), however the 6 months of work is very boring...much more boring than full time work ever was, as I count down to my 6 months off. Then, my 6 months off I live like Peter Pan...playing video games, chasing skirts, hopping around the globe for no particular reason, and generally being a bit of a turd. Anyways, I'm no stranger to living as a nomad as that end of my life has already been sorted; I'm free to go where I wish at a moments notice.

    I have no experience in teaching and a bachelor and masters degree in the hard sciences. My first step therefore, would be to obtain a TEFL certification. I'm thinking I would prefer to do an in person program to an online program and that leads me to my first question. Suggestions on a TEFL program? I think I will be fine to be in front of a class, but without a doubt I'm nervous about starting a new career...I don't consider myself to be a natural teacher, and I would like to get off on the right foot with a solid program that will have me feeling comfortable in this new roll and I'm thinking an online only course would not be sufficient.

    Hopefully you've stayed with me through all that background. And so now, the question I came here to ask. Where to go? Again, I don't really *need* the money from doing this. But I really should (for now) be bringing in a bit of income. Preferably, I think at first I'd like to just do part time if such options exist. Possibly I'd be willing to commit for to a contract for up to a year though, especially in pursuit of some experience. Here's a couple of thoughts on things I might like in a location:

    First, no cold (snow). I'm from Los Angeles...if it gets colder than that, I don't want to be there. Next, no personal car required to get around...I don't want to deal with it right now, but a scooter might be OK if it's not too insane to get around on one. Third, probably a big or at least medium city with plenty of action. I'm not a party animal or something, but I do like to go out from time to time and I'm not particularly interested in more "outdoor activities"...that is to say, I don't care what the local hiking/ruins/etc are like. I would like it if the city is friendly to walk out your door and go for a jog or a bike ride, but it doesn't need to be Amsterdam level of bike friendly. Some places I've considered:

    Bangkok. I lived here for 6 months a little over a year ago. This is probably the most obvious destination as I'm familiar with it and have friends here. The only downside is maybe it's too much partying, and the ability to jog/bike ride here is zero.

    Peru, Colombia, or Spain. I speak Spanish. Not very well, but compared to most gringos in the US I'm a super star. These countries have been my favorite Spanish speaking countries in my travels. That said, I often find the accommodation lacking compared to what you can get in the aforementioned Bangkok.

    China: Seems to be the spot right now for teach abroad? Beijing doesn't sound like it would be the most appealing place to go for an outdoor run, plus cold in the winter? Perhaps Shanghai? I've never been to China (except HK), as it seems to be a bit overwhelming to plan a trip. It's such a huge country! I don't know where to start. Plus, Mandarin is a useful language to learn.

    Somewhere else in Asia. Lots of countries here seem appealing. I loved Phnom Penh and I have a good childhood friend who's well connected in government there. Loved Tokyo when I was there 20+ years ago. I haven't been to Vietnam. Not a fan of the Philippines (the food is terrible, and I've been eating that [This comment/section has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions] for years since most of my healthcare coworkers hail from there). Korea seems maybe a bit too intense for me.

    The Middle East. The countries here don't appeal to me at all. I don't have any travel experience here and perhaps I'm being unfair, but I don't think I'd enjoy it.

    Eastern Europe. Probably too cold. I haven't traveled much in this region but would like to (in Summer).

    Teach online and live as a digital nomad. This is probably the best option, but maybe I'd like to get some in person experience first before I go down this road. If I did go this route, I'd still be interested in peoples opinion on where to home base.

    In all, trying to become fluent in Spanish appeals to me, but I think I just enjoy Asia far more. Any suggestions on what pathway to pursue? Should I just stick with my current 6 months on, 6 months off rotation for a few more years and then just retire for good? Sorry for the TLDR...some of this was just to put down to clarify my own musings on the matter.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2018
  2. SPC2

    SPC2 Occasional commenter

    Redparrotfish likes this.
  3. Ne11y

    Ne11y Occasional commenter

    You sound like you already have a plan in mind regarding your main question: your options will narrow down as time passes and you do a little more research.

    I'll offer some TEFL advice though. There are only two certifications worth getting: the CELTA (Cambridge certificate) and TESOL (Trinity).

    Decent schools who are more likely to offer support and resources will only accept those and while you are not stressed about finances, EFL teaching doesn't pay hugely at the best of times. Without one of those two certificates, your options could be very limited.

    During the academic year, you might not get much time off, so choose a base city which offers a lot in itself, as well as viable weekend trips. Depending on the local academic year, you could get a long summer for travel: where I am right now, work dries up by the start of June as classes close.

    Teaching online is a great idea, but you would still want a base with a decent Internet connection. Also, paperwork can be an issue.

    Good luck!
  4. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    I'll echo what Ne11y said - CELTA or the Trinity TESOL (avoid other things calling themselve TESOL - if it's not Trinity don't bother - Language schools just won't be interested).

    Be aware that, unless you have an Irish grandparent and can therefore apply for an Irish passport, you won't be able to get a working visa in the EU - so Spain is a non-starter. I've come across several US teachers who moved to Spain (or rather, tried to) mistakenly thinking they'd be able to find work but being turned down because they didn't have a work permit (and you can't get a work permit until you have a job offer, etc, etc).
  5. grdwdgrrrl

    grdwdgrrrl Occasional commenter

    Taipei? Shanghai gets snow and it's a damp cold, brrrrrr. Guangzhou is also damp and gets this horrible dripping chill in the winter. Plus, pollution is a concern all over China and HK.
  6. 576

    576 Established commenter

    I always apply for anything that looks like it might be alright and then go wherever they offer me a job.
    suem75 likes this.
  7. Travelbeard

    Travelbeard New commenter

    Thanks for the feedback, all. I've been looking at some CELTA programs, but thought it was more focused on adult teaching? Most of the online jobs seem focused on Chinese kids. CELTA is still the way to go in that case?

    So Shanghai gets cold too? I remember being in HK in January once...my God was it cold! And yeah, I remember there was like no internal heating anywhere. You didn't even want to get naked for the shower. I went up to the top of that mountain and remember thinking, "Where's the apres ski area with the roaring fire?" Some pollution is OK; I'm not a shrinking violet in that department, but Beijing at least is pretty notorious in that department. I'll have to checkout Taipei, that could be fun!

    Did not realize that about Spain and US citizens, I assumed it worked similar to most other countries for native English speakers. Thanks for the headsup on that.

    Right now I'm leaning towards the CELTA in Bangkok, and then bouncing around SE Asia for a bit trying my hand at the online thing. I don't think I want to commit too much to any one location/school at this point in time.
  8. Ne11y

    Ne11y Occasional commenter

    CELTA or Trinity is still the way to go. There's a YL (young learners) extension you can take further down the line (CELT-P (primary) and CELT-S (secondary)) , but that requires the CELTA first.

    It's one of the ironies that the biggest demand is for young learners, but the CELTA only covers it briefly. You just have to dive in and get experience on the job.
  9. jpgreenwood

    jpgreenwood Occasional commenter

    I can vouch for Taipei - it's a great place. There are plenty of English teaching jobs going in cram schools etc, though many expect a very didactic, "repeat after me" style of teaching which can be frustrating if that isn't your style.

    I teach at one of the international schools here and love it. I've met quite a few people working in cram schools, most of whom are just working to support themselves while enjoying Taipei. Happy to answer any questions if you have them.
  10. cellerdore

    cellerdore Occasional commenter

    With a degree and masters in the sciences there are many schools that would consider hiring you as a full-time secondary teacher. Although you might want to carefully research the school before you accept an offer to make sure it is on the level.

    South America would be the best place to brush up on your Spanish and with a CELTA you could probably get the experience that you need there to move on to the better paying schools in SE Asia. Cost of living in South America can be high, especially if you are travelling.
  11. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    You're getting lots of advice here, for a very tricky ask.
    I think it's worth pointing out that the schools we tend to represent on this forum may not offer what you want. If you're only possibly maybe sorta willing to sign a one year contract, and you prefer part time, these schools aren't really the answer to your question. These schools are full time, two year initial contracts, offers made first to those who appear as if, if things work out, they would be inclined to sign additional contracts and stay for a lot longer.
    If your preferred mode is butterfly, you'll want to concentrate on other routes, as you mentioned. Teaching in language academies (boring as hell, but minimal commitment, also low money), teaching online, and possibly setting yourself up as a face to face tutor in some city of your choosing. There can be good money in that, for the right person.
  12. willow78

    willow78 Occasional commenter

    This won't be a worry if these are your interests.
  13. jpgreenwood

    jpgreenwood Occasional commenter

    I've actually gone back because of some of the replies and re-read your initial post. If Korea feels too intense for you, Taiwan would be too. High expectations in terms of workload, and if you aren't any good you'll see your numbers drop very quickly. Taiwanese students will be very polite and respectful to a bad teacher, then vote with their feet and go elsewhere. It's at this point that any cram school sponsoring your ARC would find someone to replace you and you find yourself unable to stay in the country.
    Redparrotfish likes this.
  14. Travelbeard

    Travelbeard New commenter

    Yeah, I'm in SA right now and you're right...it's not terribly cheap here (though certainly cheaper than the states). I think that's what has me yearning for SE Asia right now...more interesting food, much better housing options, and way cheaper. Plus, I feel like there's not much point in learning Spanish anymore other than to talk girls into bed. Once upon a time I wanted to learn Spanish to assist in my healthcare career, but I could careless about that pathway anymore. Oh the irony that now that I finally have time to pursue the things I wanted to in life, no longer do I need nor desire them.

    I thought about trying to put some of my degrees to more effective use and become a proper teacher, but I don't think it's really worth my time at this point. I mean it's probably at least another 2 years back in the States to get the proper education and experience, and that's just not what I'm looking for at this point. I kind of consider myself in the "twilight" of my working years. I'm just looking for something that's fun to do, and help out some people that want to learn English for a couple of hours a week while making a bit of scratch on the side.

    I guess Bangkok still seems like the best option. I can live cheap and well, and then kind of work my way into either online teaching or something part time. If I'm really liking it at that point I can move onto something more serious.

    Gulfgolf is right...it's a tricky ask. It's tricky for me to figure out. What if you didn't really need to work anymore, but maybe you still wanted to bring in a little bit of money or do something productive with at least a few of your hours a day, what would you do?
  15. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I’d move to the place I wanted to live, and do cover at the local international school (if I needed some money). Allows me to control when and how much I work. Or I’d just volunteer there doing stuff I want to do, if money doesn’t matter.
    But I have the advantage of already knowing where I want to live in (partial) retirement, being known at the school, and having the right to live and work in that country.
  16. faithful_frodo

    faithful_frodo New commenter

    An interesting post...

    As already mentioned, someone with a degree and Masters in "hard science" would be in high demand as a science teacher. Rather than training to teach English (where of course there is far more competition), why not get a teaching qualification? You can do so online for about 10,000 dollars: the iPGCE that is sponsored by this site. There are loads of advertisments (again on this site) for qualified teachers in international schools in interesting places around the world.
  17. RiderOnTheStorm

    RiderOnTheStorm New commenter

    Yeah, everybody can do that, it depends on desire. I love traveling around the world, that's really useful for self development. There are a lot of nice places stay in the world which are at a good price. I was in Egypt, Russia, Jamaica, Czech Republic and now I just returned from my trip to Kyiv, Ukraine. There are a lot English schools where I try to work. I have so much impressions, I booked a nice Premier hotel place
    [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions], Ukraine is a cheap country for me, I didn't spent much money there at all.

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