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Another Newbie

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Joined: 17 Jun 2009
Posts: 2
Location: Chicago

PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:02 am    Post subject: Another Newbie Reply with quote

Hi everyone! I'm a 25 year-old American woman interested in teaching English overseas. I don't see it as a career, more of something I'd like to do now for a little while before I settle down. I could see myself doing a 6 month or year long contract. I have a B.S. in News-Editorial Journalism, but no TEFL or CELTA certifications. Making a huge amounts of money isn't too important as long as I'm able to live comfortably. I have intermediate Spanish skills. My preference in students would probably be 1.) preschool/kindergarteners 2.) college-age adults 3.) adults 4.) elementary/high school students.

Here are my questions/concerns/things that hold me back:

1. TEFL certification. I don't have a certificate. It seems like many jobs I have perused require it. I would love to get it because I think it would make me a better teacher, but I'm not sure if I can manage it with my current finances. I have found some very inexpensive online TEFL certifications, but I can imagine the quality isn't great. But is a $200 TEFL certification course better than nothing at all?

2. Culture shock. I'm not sure I'm able to fully grasp what the culture shock will be like while I'm still here stateside. One thing that I'm really concerned about (and embarassed to admit) is that I'm more of a full-figured lady, and would stick out like a sore thumb in places like Asia. That's fine, but I'm just concerned about what the experience would be like considering cultural differences about body type. Can anyone speak about being "American sized" in small people countries? I'm also reluctant to go anywhere in the Middle East because I'm not interested in having to wear burkas or not being able to make eye contact with men or any of that stuff. I'm thinking somewhere in Europe or Latin America would be best?

So, I guess, where would you suggest a degreed but non-certified; full-figured and somewhat sensitive about it; adventurous (wants a crazy rewarding-experience/not in it for the money) and sassy young woman start looking?

Thanks in advance!
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Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 11534
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a US citizen, most of Western Europe is not a legal option. Google EU member state hiring laws and Schengen zone if you're not familiar. There is also tons of info on this on the country-specific boards below.

You CAN get legal work permits for most Central/Eastern European countries (Czech Rep, Poland, Slovakia, further East).

Challenges Central Europe (Eastern is slightly different; someone will surely be along soon to address):

Job market is very much in favor of the employers. There are lots of teachers here on the ground, ready to apply for jobs in person. You won't be at all likely to find anything from abroad.
Most teachers on this job market have CELTA or equivalent onsite certification. An online cert plus US passport is two strikes against you; you would then need a lot of luck to find anything.
Most contracts are for Sept- June; this means you need to be here at the end of August and hustle to find a job.
There are upfront costs, obviously. You have to get here and support yourself until first paycheck; best case scenario, end of October.

On the full-figured issue, not any major thing here, though it's much less common to see larger-sized people here than in the US, so possible that someone like you will attract more than usual attention, but I wouldn't expect anything uncivilized.
Another issue, which hopefully wouldn't impact you much if at all is that the bulk of teaching is businesspeople in their offices, requiring travel around a city (up and down in metro, on and off trams, quite a lot more walking than most Americans are used to. So long as you're up for the activity, this can even be a plus but something to consider if you're generally inactive.

As for culture shock, one common way 'in' to this area is to take a certification course in August in the city where you want to start teaching. There are quite a lot of benefits; your fellow trainees can form your first social circle, the centre can give you invaluable info about local employers, it's easier to find housing, perhaps shared, and your practice teaching students will be more representative of the people you'll actually be working with when you start.
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Joined: 14 Mar 2008
Posts: 1317
Location: under da sea

PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do think culture shock is something worth considering if you think you'll have to wear a burqa in the Middle East and avoid eye contact with men! Maybe browse around the ME forums here, I think your perception of the ME is a bit sheltered. That's okay, you aren't qualified to teach there anyways, but just for your own updated information Cool

If you want to teach preschool/kindergarten, then your degree is good enough in a place like South Korea or China. Latin America should not be an issue either, but keep in mind that you should always have some money to fall back on. You won't get rich in Latin America, and some jobs just don't work out - at least have some connection (mom, dad) who can help you if things go south. I would not bother with a cheap online TEFL certification, save the money.

I'm not full-figured, but nobody expects Americans to look like a VS angel abroad. If you go to Asia, bring your clothing with you, it can be difficult to find larger sizes there (depending on the size).

If you have intermediate Spanish skills then teaching children in Latin America or South America sounds like a good bet (Spain is off limits due to visa issues). Guy recently mentioned his girlfriend teaches at an international school without teacher certification, perhaps he can chime in. If culture shock is a concern, then by all means go where you can somewhat speak the L1, the money isn't there though. A person with only a basic unrelated degree would do better financially in Asia.

"Teaching Children English" by Vale is a good start. Teaching ESL to preschool/kindergarten is completely different to teaching adults. Any books on early childhood education/preschool (ESL or not) will be useful for you to learn. Singing, dancing, and the ability to talk and sound silly is more important than being able to clarify various modals for businessmen. I love teaching children, but it's less ESL and more babysitting for that age. That's okay, if you like it!
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