Teach English Overseas | 8 Reasons to Teach English plus Teaching Tales

by | Jan 6, 2020 | Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad Backpacker Jobs | 2 comments

Post Updated 6 January 2020. Teaching English has long been a way for travellers to live, work and play their way around the world. This is because English is the language that millions around the world wish to learn. And travellers, with and without formal qualifications have topped up their travelling funds by teaching English to some of these millions. People have taught English in many countries with those in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America the most popular. Now teaching English isn’t for everyone but if you are thinking about this type of work while you are travelling around the world here are 8 good reasons why you should consider it!


A career change

Teaching English can be a career change that costs a lot less than going back to university. A university degree can cost literally thousands of dollars which could see you paying it back for a long time. A Teaching English qualification can cost from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, depending whether you do your course on line or in a classroom. Getting a qualification by studying on-line is very popular and can lead to many Teaching English opportunities around the world.


No upper age limit

A good thing about Teaching English is there is no upper age limit so it doesn’t matter how old you are. This is good news for the thousands out there who are over the working holiday age range. However, you must be at least 18 years plus to undertake a Teaching English course.


Learn a new skill

Having teaching skills will allow you to use them in everyday life. That’s right, in other professions and of course, while you are teaching English.


Learn another language

Teaching English abroad allows you to live in other countries. This will enable you to immerse yourself in that country’s culture where you can learn other languages. After all, you will need to converse with the locals.


Experience living in another country

Experiencing living in another culture will allow you to expand as a person. It can help you to be more accepting of different cultures. You can become more open minded to what the world has to offer. Many employers offer accommodation but if yours does not I suggest you initially  stay in a hostel or hotel until you find a more permanent abode.


Gain a teaching qualification

Having a teaching qualification will allow you to use the skills you learn in every day life. Plus with a qualification your can turn your interest in to a career. A qualification that is portable and recognisable around the world. If you want to gain a qualification check out schools that offer courses in a class room setting or on-line. If you would prefer to undertake a qualification on-line check out I-to-i who are a leader in this field.


Earn while you immerse yourself in another culture

You can make some decent money teaching English however, this can depend upon the country you choose to live and work in. Some of the Middle Eastern countries pay a lot more than those in say, South America. It depends on what you want, to make money or to experience another country while making some money to keep travelling.


It looks good on your CV

Say no more! Having the qualification on your CV will help you gain employment in the future.


Traveller English Teaching Tales

Many other travellers have embarked on journeys to other countries to Teach English. I now share with you some Traveller English Teaching Tales.


Kimberley Jeane – Spain and Hong Kong


Kimberley Jeane with students in Hong Kong

I taught English in Seville, Spain at an academy that specializes in exam preparation for university students and adults. In Spain, it’s essential to pass the Trinity or Cambridge English exams in order to graduate from university. How I ended up there was a bit of an adventure. I originally applied for a program where I could work as a teaching-assistant while learning Spanish. Once I was accepted, I needed a letter from them so that I could apply for a working holiday visa. 

When you apply for a working holiday in Spain (from Canada), you can choose from several different categories. I obtained category e working holiday visa. Even though I needed to show proof of acceptance into the program, this type of visa was flexible. if I wanted to leave the job, I could, and still use the visa to apply for another job. This was good because I did end up leaving. The program wasn’t what I expected. I was placed in a tiny, remote village called Montellano but I didn’t feel comfortable and safe there. I wanted to experience life in a bigger city and actually enjoy life in Spain. So I left and headed to the biggest city nearby, which was Seville.

I found myself in Seville with no job and no place to stay. My saviour was social media and I joined every Facebook group I thought could help me. I connected with everyone who responded to my “I’m stranded with no job and no place to live” posts. Finally, a gentleman was kind enough to put me in contact with the director of the English academy he worked at. I got an interview the next day, and upon hearing my story and seeing my skills, I was hired right away.

Things you need to know about teaching English in the south of Spain:

  • Most English academies focus on Trinity and Cambridge exam preparation. These are not easy to teach. Most of the time, you’ll have a bit of training, but you’ll have to do a lot of research and train yourself. 
  • The pay isn’t great. Most teachers earn 10-15 per hour.
  • A lot of Spanish students hate English – this is more true to the south of Spain. The education system isn’t the best there, and many just don’t understand how learning English will help them in the future. 
  • Students in Spain are some of the worse-behaved students I’ve ever seen. In North America and in Asia (where I also taught,) students learn classroom etiquette at home and at school. This is more rare in Spain. 


I also taught English in Hong Kong for 6 months at an academy for kids. After putting my resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe a few days later, I got an email from an educational centre that has over 70 academies in Hong Kong, Macau and China. The interview was done over Skype and the recruiter wanted to know about my teaching experience and asked if I had ever taught kids before. Other questions I was asked included  how I handle certain things in the classroom, but also about some of my expectations about living in Hong Kong. As an Asian who doesn’t speak Cantonese, I knew that I had to be prepared to be looked at strangely on the streets.

A few days later, I was offered a six-month contract. During the interview, they mentioned that their contracts are for one year. I made it clear that I wouldn’t be able to commit to one year as I had family events in the summer. The recruiter was kind enough to give me a shorter contract. 

Getting a visa to work in Hong Kong involves a lot of paperwork. The company handled the application for m and I had to sign some contracts and forms and express courier them a copy of my university degree, my official transcript, my TEFL certificate, and some reference letters. Getting all these gathered within the four-day deadline was challenging.

A few weeks later, I headed to Hong Kong. I had to buy a round trip ticket as my flight wasn’t paid for – if I had signed a one-year contract, the company would have paid my way back. Upon arrival, a representative from the company helped me settle into an apartment they had found for me. I was sharing it with two others who also worked for the same educational chain. They also provided formal training, which got us ready to teach on our own.

Things to know about Hong Kong and teaching there 

  • Don’t worry about not knowing Cantonese – most people in Hong Kong understand English, at least basic English.
  • Hong Kong is a very busy city. People work long hours. 
  • Education is very important and competitive. If kids want to get into an international primary school, they have to pass the Trinity English speaking exam to get accepted – at 5 years old!
  • Kids in Hong Kong have long days – a lot of them study hard at school, then go to English learning centres, then do extracurricular activities as it helps them in their educational path.
  • Hong Kongers are very dedicated and strict at work. 
  • Everything is Hong Kong is expensive – you will live in a very small space. 

Author bio: Kimberley Jeane quit her 9-5 job two years ago to travel and experience life abroad. Now she manages Go Places Now, a travel blog and community that aims to inspire and motivate people to travel more, explore and live their best life.


Paul Hudson – Mexico


Paul Hudson with his English Group

I have been living in Mexico for five years and just recently started teaching English formally. Coursera has a series of classes in teaching English as a foreign language that I really enjoyed. Living in Mexico, I am constantly asked to give English lessons but until recently I felt unqualified to teach and to make it into a real business that was worth the time. 

Before making the transition into teaching I was in the hospitality industry and operated a restaurant. A lot of my time was spent training young servers. I wanted my servers to elegantly wait on tables that did not speak Spanish. Those who were interested would spend a half-hour a day before the shift learning something new. There is no better way to learn new vocabulary than to know what you are selling inside and out (in Spanish and in English). 

As I finished the Coursera series of classes I started to apply for online teaching jobs. I really wanted to teach for Open English because that is the largest English language school in Latin America. I speak Spanish and have traveled a fair amount of the region. I love asking my students questions about where they are from and what their activities are.  

When I first applied I didn’t hear back for a couple of months. When I got the email saying they were interested in my application it just happened to be the perfect moment to make a change. They asked me to make a short video speaking in English to verify that I was a native speaker. Then I was offered a contract and had to fill out the normal US tax documents. The training took about five hours but I did it a second time just before my first classes in order to calm the nerves. Now, I absolutely love logging into my shifts. 

Honestly, it is a huge relief to have a cash flow in dollars. Even though my student loans aren’t outrageous, it was a challenge to change pesos into dollars and deposit into my US bank account so often. Having the primary schedule and cash flow in dollars allowed me to selectively build my personal client list. Earning a living in pesos is challenging if you have to buy dollars regularly. A little diversification goes a long way.

More than anything it is awesome to watch my students grow into excellent bilingual food servers with a solid knowledge of wine and know that I sparked that interest.

Author Bio: Paul has been living in Guadalajara for the better part of a decade. He loves to surf, explore Mexico, and drink specialty coffee. He writes a blog about Mexico in English and California in Spanish but spends most of his time writing about culinary adventures off the beaten track. Have a look at Guadalajara, he thinks you will like it too. 


Sally Flint – Bangkok, Thailand


Sally Flint

When teachers are considering teaching abroad they should be very clear in the goals of what type of English teaching they wish to embark on. Are they travelling and hoping to teach English to earn some extra income, or are they pursuing a career path in teaching in high level international schools?

I’ve taught English in Bangkok for the last 17 years. For me this has meant teaching English Language and English Literature in a large international school whose medium of instruction is in English. This has involved teaching IGCSE English and IB English to students between 11 and 18 years old.

My experience of teaching English has been wonderful. Children from a range of fifty plus nationalities and backgrounds, with various levels of skills, from having English as their mother-tongue to having minimal English skills, have accessed mainstream GCSE English programmes and achieved excellent results. Where children have had little original English language their mainstream learning has been complemented by English as an Additional Language Learning. The emphasis in these sessions has been on vocabulary building and reading. In my experience of teaching English the focus has been more on immersion than the traditional grammatical structures of the English learning.

Pursuing a teaching career overseas is one that I would highly recommend it.

About Sally Flint: Sally grew up in Broughton, Lincolnshire, UK and went on to study English and European Literature at the University of Essex. Sally has travelled and taught in Tanzania and Thailand for the past twenty years. During this time she has become an over-qualified teacher. Check out her website at www.sallyflint.com.


Steffi S – Thailand and The Maldives


Steffi S – using one of her top teaching tools, mini whiteboards!

Since I completed the CELTA course in 2012 I have lived and worked in the UK, France, Italy, Thailand and I am currently teaching in the Maldives. My first big move abroad was to Bangkok to teach for the British Council where I stayed for 3.5 years. For me, it was great to be surrounded by inspiring teachers and managers and I really developed my teaching skills while working there. I decided to complete the DELTA (a masters level teaching qualification) in Chiang Mai which was a great decision for me as I improved so much as a teacher because of this.

Teaching English is a fantastic opportunity to work abroad but I think it is important to take a proper teaching course, such as the CELTA, so that you are better able to help your students. I know many new teachers who moved to Thailand and struggled because of a lack of knowledge about how to prepare classes and engage students. The CELTA course may be expensive but it gave me all the tools I need to be a great teacher and I have now been teaching for 7 years.

Last year I relocated to the Maldives to teach the staff in a luxury resort and it’s turned out to be one of my favourite teaching roles so far. The staff I teach are great and because they deal with tourists on a daily basis, language that I teach them can be put into practice right away which feels very rewarding.

For more about travelling Thailand, South East Asia and the Maldives, visit Steffi’s travel blog www.beachbumadventure.com.


Phoebe Gill – Colombia


Phoebe Gill and her students

I taught English in Colombia in a public school as part of a government push to increase English learning in disadvantaged areas. I found it online while traveling in Colombia. It was great because you didn’t need a TEFL to be accepted, only a Bachelor’s degree. The program is no longer running but there are similar government programs about in Central America (BECA, I believe?) 
Teaching English in Latinamerican countries is a lively experience, the kids have a zest for life that left a lasting impact on the way I approach my life now. Coupled with the music, nightlife and warm people, I would reccomend teaching English in Latinamerica to anyone!”
My site is yourgreengrassproject.com, I also wrote an article about finding English teaching work without a TEFL. 

Joanne Louie – South Korea

As a Chinese-American it was hard to find a position teaching English overseas within Asia as I had a slight nasal quality to my English from the Chinese dialect I spoke. It is not considered an actual accent but it was still an impingement. I en-massed many qualifications including a TESOL Certification and having some ESL Teaching and tutoring experience as well prior to applying to different English teaching abroad positions. 
My focus was specifically on Asian countries. I eventually found a position teaching English in South Korea thru a Korean employment agency who had advertised in the New York Times. I had some over-the-phone interviews, was then offered the position and within a week they had faxed the contract. From there, I booked my international airline ticket and arrived in South Korea not knowing anyone or any Korean. The waiting room at the airport quickly cleared out and I was the only one left there. Then this man drove up with a young kid. They were there for me. The kid was with the adult because he was the English translator and the owner son of the small English language institute.
I was very disillusioned by the position and only stayed a few months even though my contract was for a year. My contract stipulated I would have my own luxury apartment and 1.5 days off, plus evenings. Instead I was living across the road from the institute with a Korean family who had sent their child to Canada for his education. The parents wanted to improve their English prior to joining their son in Canada. So I did not get my own luxury apartment and 1.5 days off, plus evenings. Whenever I was finished teaching at the school, I would go home and teach the parents. I was unable to plan my lessons due to lack of time so they became very stale. From this, I burned out rather quickly. All parties agreed it wasn’t working and I returned to New York where I am living and working.

Helen – Thailand


Helen in Chiang Mai, Thailand

After university, in a bid for an adventure, I bought a book entitled “Work your way around the world”, and discovered a program where you could teach English in a school in Chiang Mia, Thailand in return for free food and lodging.

It provided a window on the world I would never otherwise have experienced. In preparation, I read a TEFL text book. On arrival I was given a timetable for teaching students aged 12 – 36, not only English, but also dance and PE. My training was woefully inadequate but I like to think they did receive some benefit from conversing with a native English speaker during my 3 months at the school. I‘m not sure if anyone’s dancing improved.

I have subsequently trained as a teacher and can see my techniques were rudimentary. As a minimum, a formal TEFL course would have been of real benefit. I got by with very little Thai, but learning a few words before you visit goes a long way and is really appreciated by your colleagues. I’m sure this goes without saying, but dress conservatively.

I stayed with the headmistress of the school so it was a totally immersive experience. I was her plus one at a Thai wedding, spent a weekend sewing banana leaf votives with the other teachers, addressed a crowd of devout Buddhists in a golden temple and participated in a parade in traditional Thai dress (where I featured in the local paper, shaking hands with the Mayor).

 I would totally recommend the whole unique experience.

Author Bio: My younger carefree self spent 2 and a half years pottering around the world. I am now all grown up and work in a school, which does allow me plenty of time, if not money, to keep exploring with my children and sharing the mishaps, surprises, stories and lessons learned in my new family adventures travel blog www.holidaysfromhels.co.uk.  


Luisa Kearney – Bulgaria


Luisa teaching in Bulgaria
I started teaching English as a second language in Bulgaria when I was just 16 years old. Coming from the UK, where it is possible to leave school and start work aged 16, I didn’t think it was strange at all but it certainly was to some of my students and the other teachers at the school. I got the job through some fellow expat friends who were also living in the area at the time. They knew of the school and recommended me for the job because I had not long relocated to the area from England and was looking for work. I later found out that it was quite difficult for foreigners to find employment in Bulgaria and so your best option is to look for English teaching work.
I initially started with conversational lessons and incorporated aspects of drama and art into the lessons to make them fun and interactive. This went down very well because at the time, practical lessons of any sort were not common in Bulgarian schools. I worked in a private language school and later went on to receive on-the-job training and I also signed up to become TEFL certified of my own accord. I worked as an English teacher for 4 years in total. I really enjoyed it, but left because I wanted to set up my own business and I also later relocated. You can find English teaching jobs online or ask around to see if any individuals or schools in the local area need an English teacher. 
Luisa Kearney is a full-time fashion blogger and stylist at Online Personal Stylist  https://onlinepersonalstylist.com/ 

In Conclusion

As you have read, Teaching English is a great way to help you travel the world and discover new cultures. It is not always an enjoyable experience but mostly is. One thing that I note from the first-hand experiences in this blog is that having a TEFOL qualification is most helpful not only to get a good job but you will have the knowledge to undertake the job. If you are seeking more information about Teaching English overseas check out my ebook Teach English. It has extensive information on gaining the TEFOL qualification, an overview of countries to work in and has many language school contact details. Finally, enjoy the experience of teaching English overseas.

Teach English e-book

If needing more info then check out my ebook Teach English. Inside the ebook you will find:
– Are qualifications needed and what are they?
– What is the difference between TEFOL and TESOL?
– Which countries are the jobs in?
– How do I find a job and can I arrange a job before I go?
– Who will I be teaching? Kids, Adults. Business People?
– Where am I going to live? Does the school I work for provide accommodation?

If you need these questions answered then get a copy of my e-book ‘How to Teach English Overseas’. It answers all these questions plus more.


Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from Eurail and Interrail Passes. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. World Nomads is great for general travel insurance while SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers.

Need something else? Check out my Resources page.


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Hi. Sharyn here, the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve been travelling all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. My aim with this blog is to help you work abroad or work online and travel the world.   Read more.


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  1. Steffi

    This is great, really interesting to read about other people’s teaching experiences!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Many people teach English as they travel. Some have a great experience while others not so. But all have a tale to tell.


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