5 Myths about Teaching Abroad


As a teacher abroad I am constantly meeting people who think that teaching abroad is something for them to consider doing. There also seems to be a lot of fear and misunderstandings, excuses really, about why they couldn't possibly ever achieve it: I'm too old, only teachers from the United States get hired, I have three kids and a dog, but .. my flat screen TV? Seriously. In this post I hope to smash some the myths about teaching abroad and hopefully give you that extra little nudge to being your teaching abroad career if its something you feel called to. 

Myth 1: You need to be a native English speaker 

I would say that most of the teaching jobs out there specify wanting a native English speaker from certain countries (mainly the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland - South Africa is a new addition, yay!). But, there are certainly ones who are so desperate to find teachers that they will settle for non-natives who speak English very well. I think its important to point out that you should actually be able to speak English fairly well for this to work. You'll also be limited to schools or centres that will take you as a non-native. There are currently German and Filipino teachers working at my centre here in Vietnam, and one recently landed a job in Hong Kong. 

Myth 2: Its difficult to find a job

I think this depends on your definition of "difficult" because it really comes down to context. Its difficult to live an unhappy, unsatisfied, unfulfilled life. Finding a job where you encounter new and exciting experiences is just part of this journey. I've found it easier to land a job abroad than in my own country as a qualified teacher. English teachers are in such a high demand outside of our own little bubble, and our work is really valued. The internet is such an amazing tool, all you have to do is search in the right places! Dave's ESL cafe is a favourite of mine and I often just browse jobs for fun. Or, like I did for Costa Rica you could literally just google schools in the area and contact them directly. I think this is a better option you want to go to a specific place. 

Myth 3: Teaching abroad gives you a lot of time and money for travelling 

In Vietnam I am able to save a lot of money, especially because I live in the middle of nowhere and have nothing to spend it on. I work six days a week mostly in the afternoons and evenings with a two week holiday in February. This obviously means there is very little time to travel anywhere while teaching. However, with all the money you save you are able to travel for months on end after a year here. Many teachers who work in Asia as ESL teachers will work for one or two years and then travel for a year, then return to teach again and repeat the process. In previous jobs I had lots of time with three vacations a year, but there wasn't the financials to fund any trips - Bhutan was a volunteer position and Costa Rica's living expenses were very high. 

Myth 4: You need a TEFL certificate and experience in teaching 

Again, there is such a demand for teachers in Asia and around the world. I personally have a teaching degree so I don't need a TEFL certificate, but there are teachers currently working at my centre who are non-native speakers and unqualified. It is possible! You'll definitely get paid less than if you had the certificate and you'll be a whole lot more confident with it (teaching is not always a walk in the park) so think about making the investment anyways. 

Myth 5: Teaching abroad is not a "real career" 

I get this comment all of the time: this is just a phase, get the travelling out of your system, when you have kids you'll have to settle down. The thing is, when you start teaching abroad it opens your eyes to all of the other people doing it - people with families living abroad, young people, old people, people who have been doing this for over 30 years. They certainly seem a lot happier than some of the people back home with "real careers". 

If you are currently working abroad or have in the past, comment below to share some of your own insights and myths in this profession.