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How did YOU decide to go ESL?

 
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KaitouJeanne



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
Posts: 2
Location: NE US

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:19 pm    Post subject: How did YOU decide to go ESL? Reply with quote

I'm considering TESL abroad again. It's always been on my radar, but I've never been able to figure out if it's right for me. A bit about my background:

-25 year old US Citizen; female
-BA in English, concentration in writing
-+2 years experience in sales, marketing, and miserable adminny goodness. I'm in between jobs now, but even in this economy, I haven't had much trouble finding work. (Yet. Knock on wood.)
-3 months volunteer ESL experience - not recent
- 40K+ USD in undergraduate debt. Plus a car payment and a year lease. Yay America!

My problem is that my career goals are really, really muddled. I started out in school thinking I was going to be some kind of famous writer (ha ha) but now I've realized (given past behavior) my real goal was to disappear and not really be a person. Now I need to figure out how to reverse that and become a person again, because as a not-person with fingers in their ears, I am miserable and on the road to being even more so.

Many of my friends have "found themselves" through travel. I was in England as an undergraduate for two weeks, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. It's been suggested that I might need a similar experience again, and truthfully, if I never leave my small corner of the US, I'm going to hate myself forever. I've always wanted to travel and ESL does offer a way for a person to experience life in a foreign country, do a little traveling, and break even upon return home.

I have a couple ideas in my head about how this could work out:

-1-2 Mo. Volunteer program - use vacation time in full time job, should I get one.
- 6 mo to 1 year contract (but no more) Will involve terminating lease (?) and selling the car.

So I suppose my REAL question is "how does one know is TESL is the right choice for a person?"

How did you - the forum goers - make the decision to do TESL? is it mainly because you, like me, wanted to travel or is it because you wanted a career in teaching? Do you think there is a "better" reason to do TESL?

I look forward to reading your responses.
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smithrn1983



Joined: 23 Jul 2010
Posts: 320
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If your goal is to 'find yourself' then a short-term volunteer program will probably be the thing to look for. However, I'm not exactly sure where these programs can be found.

The big thing about TEFL to keep in mind is that it is a job. You're still going to wake up everyday and go to work just like you do in America, only you won't be in America. So unless you really enjoy teaching, I wouldn't recommend it as a job, no matter how short a time you plan on doing it. If nothing else, your students deserve a teacher who is dedicated to their job and seeing their students learn.

If travel is your goal, then it's better to save up some money and take a vacation.

It also looks like your financial situation is going to limit your options. Europe is already off the table as entry level jobs pay subsistence wages. The only exception seems to be landing a job as a governess for a rich Russian family.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:20 pm    Post subject: Re: How did YOU decide to go ESL? Reply with quote

KaitouJeanne wrote:
So I suppose my REAL question is "how does one know is TESL is the right choice for a person?"
Tough question, and one that people ask themselves daily, sometimes, and it may even depend on the country or specific job you land. A miserable experience can put you off on the whole thing, when it shouldn't necessarily. Then again, it may be the slap in the face that one needs to show that TESL/TEFL is not for them. Keep all that in mind.

Quote:
How did you - the forum goers - make the decision to do TESL? is it mainly because you, like me, wanted to travel or is it because you wanted a career in teaching? Do you think there is a "better" reason to do TESL?
I'm more than twice your age and got into TEFL around 40 as a change in careers. It was not planned to last more than 1-2 years (a common experience going into the game), and my reason for doing it initially was to pay the bills while I looked for other work while living in my foreign country.

That never surfaced, and I ended up liking what I did as a teacher. Plus, I'd had 5 months of experience living in Japan a few years prior to striking out in TEFL, so I didn't have that unfamiliarity with the country or language that many newcomers do.

Huge student loan debt.
Car payment.

These are your immediate priorities no matter where you live and work. How much per month do you have to pay? This will probably help to focus where you need to live abroad. Don't plan on going anywhere for at least another year or two. You need to be prepared. As for a short-term experience, those are probably very few in number, and you have to consider whether you can just up and move without a job left behind you, and whether you can get a visa to do such short-term stuff. Many/Most jobs don't offer that.

My advice is to look at TESL/TEFL not as a travel experience first, but a a career move first. The traveling comes second, certainly to your students and employer. TEFL/TESL is a job, and those people expect you to do your best, and only in your free time should you consider traveling and sightseeing. Besides, with your enormous debt, you should not even consider a lot of traveling unless it is in a country where that is cheap (but that then precludes making a wage suitable to paying off your debts).

If you think that your financial situation is tough now, imagine what it will be like in a foreign land where you are learning the job, the market, the local language and customs, and where visa restrictions or all of the previous points may prohibit you from taking on side jobs (thereby earning less money). Can you even afford airfare and setup costs?

Are you a second language learner yourself? Can you put yourself in your students' shoes? Do you have any idea whatsoever what it's like to teach abroad in a different culture/country? Do you have any location in mind (and if so, does it pay enough)?

Will you be content living frugally abroad where the urge to sightsee is strong? Can you live relatively alone, or at least cut off from friends and family (despite having Skype and email at your call)? Flights home are not cheap.
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LH123



Joined: 13 Jun 2010
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaitouJeanne

I decided to get into TEFL in 2001 because I wanted to travel. At least, that's what I tell myself. With a bit of hindsight and retrospect, I think it was because I was 21 and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. It was not so much a conscious career choice as it was something I simply fell into.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 5165
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:25 am    Post subject: Re: How did YOU decide to go ESL? Reply with quote

KaitouJeanne wrote:
I've always wanted to travel and ESL does offer a way for a person to experience life in a foreign country, do a little traveling, and break even upon return home.

I have a couple ideas in my head about how this could work out:

-1-2 Mo. Volunteer program - use vacation time in full time job, should I get one.
- 6 mo to 1 year contract (but no more) Will involve terminating lease (?) and selling the car.

So I suppose my REAL question is "how does one know is TESL is the right choice for a person?"

One option is to "try out" teaching (to see if you even like it) by volunteering as a teaching assistant or in-class tutor at one of your local nonprofit ESL literacy or refugee organizations. There's always a need for volunteers, and you should be able to commit to a teaching situation that doesn't interfere with your current work schedule. It's what I did before deciding to change careers to TEFL.
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thatsforsure



Joined: 11 Sep 2012
Posts: 134

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be honest, I would make paying off debt, and avoiding additional debt, my first priority. Otherwise, these obligations are going to be following you for a long, long time. I don't not see any circumstances in which TEFL is going to help you pay off debt in the near future. Quite the opposite, in my estimation. I know it's not the fun answer. But being debt-free provides a kind of incomparable freedom.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 5165
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thatsforsure wrote:
I don't not see any circumstances in which TEFL is going to help you pay off debt in the near future. Quite the opposite, in my estimation.

That's not the case for teachers working in the highest-paying countries, nor for those who are diligent about setting aside money to pay off their debts.
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thatsforsure



Joined: 11 Sep 2012
Posts: 134

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe, though some of those countries require master's degrees and experience. Anyway, she's talking about this:

Quote:
-6 mo to 1 year contract (but no more) Will involve terminating lease (?) and selling the car.


Again, I'd address the debt first.
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KaitouJeanne



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
Posts: 2
Location: NE US

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for being so honest about your experiences. Unless I want to make a career change to teaching, it doesn't seem like the best fit then.

Regarding the debt, I've lived with it for long enough now that it doesn't actually feel like that much. It would be about 25,000 dollars lower if not for some very bad advice from some educators who insisted that "everyone has college debt" to a spoiled 19 year old me. I came to my senses at 20 and went to public school, but the damage was done. I regard it more as a drunk grandma I am obligated to visit and bring presents for once a month. Around 300 USD per month in presents, but whatever. Being angry or fearful about it (or at the people who put me there - educators, loan sharks, my parents, and Myself) is exhausting and I've run out of those feelings.

And you know what? I've actually paid off at least 7,000 of it Smile It's going to be a long hard slog, and one thing I can't do is put my life on hold because of it. It's like a non-dischargable mortgage on my being. C'est la vie.

The TESL idea sparked again because a friend of mine recommended I go abroad and I couldn't think of another way I could go away long term and stay in the black. The friends of mine who have traveled either have much lower indebtedness and did so extensively in college (supported emotionally and sometimes financially by their families in their intent to do so) The other friend did WOOF - and that was great for her because she had no debt. She just worked in a hot dog stand for a summer and blew her $$ in Australia.

So yeah.... :/
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thatsforsure



Joined: 11 Sep 2012
Posts: 134

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fort Hays State University has an MBA program where you get free tuition and work on the home campus, teaching, for the first year, and work in China (while still studying) the second year.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

$300 per month is easily doable in Japan and Korea and a couple of other countries. You just have to make a budget and stick to it.

If you aren't ready to commit to TEFL, wait. There's more to the whole thing than paying off debts, but I agree that you should make paying them off a priority. Running a close second is learning how to do your job, and to do that in a foreign land is not always easy.
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1837

PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you considered using a careers guidance program. Try:
www.careersteer.org
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