The Alternative Grad Job

Amy with her class in South Korea.

The idea of graduating and starting to work a 9–5, or frantically applying for job after job with no response, are both frightening prospects. No wonder travelling has become such a popular option amongst university leavers! But what if you could gain work experience and build your CV at the same time as having the time of your life? Step up TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Below you can find some graduates’ experiences of teaching English abroad, provided by TEFL course provider, i-to-i. All that’s left for you to do is pick your destination, get qualified, and book the flights for your next adventure…

South Korea

Amy: This time last year I was having a minor meltdown: my flight was four days away, I still hadn’t gotten my visa, and fitting my life into a 25kg suitcase seemed like mission impossible.

A week after my graduation I had dropped the bombshell on my parents that actually I wouldn’t be moving to London, working in a graduate scheme and joining the daily grind; and that instead, I would be moving to Incheon in South Korea to teach English.

I knew I wanted to go to Asia, and after a few weeks of researching, I had my heart set on South Korea. Yes, there were practical reasons: South Korea offers probably the best deal for English teachers on this side of the world, but the culture sounded interesting, and I liked the fact that it wasn’t an obvious choice. I loved watching peoples’ expressions when I told them where I was going: ranging from shock, to bemusement, to intrigue.

I love the teaching side too: I work at an English academy and my students are aged between five and sixteen. The kids make me want to cry with laughter, burst with pride and scream in frustration, but I love each and every one of them. In fact, I’m still working out how I can get a few of them in my suitcase when I eventually leave!

Spain

Cat: after studying abroad in Valladolid, Spain, whilst I was at Uni, I knew I wanted to spend a year abroad; and after my friend told me about a programme with Spanish government, I signed up and was assigned a school in rural Andalusia. I’ve since moved to Seville: it’s beautiful, and big enough to have all of the amenities of a city, whilst being small enough to run into friends and students often.

Through TEFL, I’ve gained lots of experience: leadership skills, how to programme classes, and official exam preparation for instance. At one school, I set up a mock English village where students were given passports and had specific tasks they needed to complete, like asking directions to the public pool.

TEFL was initially supposed to be a year abroad, but now it’s become a profession – I was surprised I liked it even as half as much as I do. I’ve also become a respected blogger in Spain and in expat circles, travelled extensively, learned Spanish… and gotten married to a Spaniard!

Thailand

Heather: I was initially attracted to TEFL because I loved the idea of being able to live in another country, meet people from different cultures and find out about the world. Thailand always appealed to me: I love the hot weather and spicy food, and wanted to go somewhere where everything was completely alien to me. I love to explore and being placed in Bangkok, I could explore to the max – I thought it would be a great fit for me and I wasn’t disappointed!

The whole experience was amazing: my students were 4–5 years old and they were active, talkative and loved having a native English teacher. They were always asking questions, and constantly laughing and smiling. Whilst the hours were long and I was exhausted at the end of every day, I loved it. The students were brilliant, the school fantastic, the weather perfect, food delicious, the people so friendly and helpful and the culture amazing!

Poland

Even though I had always dreamed of teaching English and travelling, I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen. I felt jealous every time I heard another person heading off on their travels, and then it hit me: I needed to make it happen for myself. I decided to apply for the Poland TEFL internship a few months before I graduated from University. I chose Poland for the experience and the adventure: people asked me ‘why Poland?’, but I thought, ‘why not Poland?’

As the day I moved to Poland approached, I didn’t quite know how to feel. I wanted to go (I’d put a lot of effort into my TEFL course!), but I was scared. I was moving to another country for at least 6 months, had never taught English before, and couldn’t speak Polish.

Throughout University, presentations were my most loathed assignment. It was so bad that once I considered ‘fainting’ to try and get out of having to do a Spanish presentation. It took me days to get used to standing up to teach without shaking or feeling nervous, but in the end, I had to do it and get on with it. The feeling of immense success, relief and comfort when I overcame this burden was indescribable – in fact, it’s one of the most important things I will take from this TEFL experience and cherish forever.

Brazil

Baz: if you fancy living and teaching English in one of the most dynamic and inspiring countries in the world, then head to Brazil. Energetic, eager and sociable students as well as a buzzing nightlife, party-goers atmosphere, and the fact that local Brazilians wear tiny swimming costumers (whether you’re male or female) on the beach, are all great reasons to TEFL in Brazil.

I loved it because every day was different. My favourite part of the week was Friday evenings: not because I went out on the lash, but because the director at one of the academies did a special music session where students could listen to a couple of songs and sing along, followed by an informal conversation class. I was getting paid to listen to songs and chat to Brazilians – it was great!

The main reason I went to TEFL in Brazil was to see the carnival. In Salvador, there is a massive African influence and the five-day carnival party was mental. Huge trucks with enormous speakers trailed the streets, and it took me about a week to recover from the late nights and boozing, but it was worth it. It’s safe to say that I really enjoyed my time TEFLing in Brazil!

Have you been inspired to start your own adventure teaching English overseas? We wouldn’t blame you! So why not get TEFL-qualified so you can live in your dream country, wherever that may be?

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