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Teaching Abroad Series Part 1: Teaching English in Asia

This is the first installment of the Teaching Abroad Series. Find out why these three people loved their experiences teaching English in Asia — with stories from South Korea, Thailand, and China!

Teaching abroad is one of the many things I want to do after I graduate. Why? To immerse myself in a new culture, to make some money while travelling, and just to experience something new. While the idea of living abroad for an extended period of time by myself actually scares me quite a bit, that’s exactly why I’m going to do it!

If you are a native English speaker or are fluent in English, teaching English abroad is a great option that allows you to work and travel at the same time. English is the dominant language of international business and communication and so English language teachers are highly sought after. Requirements vary from country to country, but most require that you complete a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification: a course that provides training to teach English as a foreign language. While a TEFL certification is not required in some countries, it is still highly recommended to take because it helps you to develop the skills and tools to become an effective teacher.

As I looked into overseas opportunities to teach English, Asia seemed to be the most popular place for people to go. I’ve been considering teaching in South Korea, or perhaps Vietnam, and more recently I’ve been looking into Malaysia as well. It seemed like the more research I did, the more possibilities I discovered. In addition to Asia, countries in Europe and South America also offer a range of teaching opportunities. There are just so many places around the world where you can teach and inspire students!

I’ve decided to bring to you a collaborative series about teaching English abroad, where others who have taught abroad share their teaching tales with you! Without further ado, here is the first part of the Teaching Abroad Series: Teaching English in Asia. Read stories about teaching and living in South Korea, Thailand and China!

SOUTH KOREA — Linda from Linda Goes East

If you are planning on teaching English abroad, South Korea is a great destination to consider. The salary and benefits (paid housing, severance pay, and pension) are great and you will be able to save a lot of your monthly paycheck. I’m currently teaching at a private English academy in Cheongju City, less than two hours south of Seoul, and am very happy here. The children are very educated and have a high English level. Even though private academies do have longer hours than public schools, “Hagwons” (Korean private academies) are an essential part of the Korean society with children attending multiple academies after school.

South Korea is a great country to live in. Even though the country is quite small, there are a lot of attractions and beautiful places to visit: the old palaces in Seoul and Gyeongju, beaches all around the country, and mountains that offer spectacular views when hiking or transform into exciting ski resorts in the winter. One of my personal favorites is the Jeonju Hanok Village featuring over eight hundred Korean style houses in an old town city.

Besides amazing scenery and natural attractions, Korean food is a big part of living here. Locals praise and worship their food and with good reason. Korean cuisine is very varied and ranges from sweet and sour to salty and chili spicy. Be sure to eat famous Korean stews when visiting the country or enjoy fresh seafood from fish markets

Overall, I can highly recommend coming to Korea to teach. It’s an amazing country, is rich in culture, has delicious food, and offers a fun and adventurous lifestyle!

THAILAND — Rahul from Rookie Travel Diaries

Teaching English in Thailand was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I spent two months teaching at a school in a small town called San Pa Tong near Chiang Mai, Thailand. To be honest, I was actually quite nervous about the whole teaching thing and I wasn’t really sure if I’d be able to pull it off. However, the atmosphere at the school, warm reception by the other teachers, and the excitement showed by the kids at the school made me feel comfortable and relaxed.

The school is located in a quite town with almost no sign of tourism and I was the only foreigner there at that time. Language barrier was always a problem but that actually motivated me to learn some Thai words so that the locals would feel more comfortable while talking to me.

And I couldn’t be more proud to say that the kids just loved me! They were quite a handful in the beginning, but eventually, they started to take me more seriously. Come on, who wouldn’t like a teacher who brings them sweets every now and then and doesn’t fail to embarrass himself with his stupid jokes, right?

Teaching English in Asia, Assembly in Thailand

Apart from teaching, Thailand (especially Chiang Mai!) is pretty charming. No wonder it’s a paradise for all those expats who just refuse to leave this country. It’s special in every possible way with amazing temples, bazaars, food, nightlife, smiling locals, and natural beauty.

I highly recommend this place to anyone who wishes to experience a foreign country and am, myself, dying to get back as soon as possible.

CHINA — Kyle from Go Drift Abroad

I spent one year teaching English in Shuangcheng, Harbin in Northeast China. Harbin’s population is roughly 10.5 million and is one of the larger cities in China.

The teaching experience was a great one. In the West, we think Chinese kids are all hyper-disciplined and obedient, but they’re much like the kids I’ve encountered in the rest of the world: full of life, humor, and they absorb information very fast! I loved those kids. The teachers were friendly and skilled as well. Some took a little while to warm up to me, but we all became friends by the end of my 12-month contract. Were it not for my wanderlust, I may have stayed a second year. I became very close to one of the teachers there.

The school itself was a cram school. Kids go to regular day school and then to cram school for a few hours of extra study two to three times a week. The school building was not very big, but it was well-kept and had between eight and fourteen students per class on average.

Exploring Northeast China was an adventure. There are influences from Russia, western culture, and heavy influence from China’s rich history. It was most visible in the architecture, food, and shopping centers (read: goods from the Western world were always overpriced). I went skiing in the mountains, visited temples, museums, historical landmarks and more. Harbin is famous for it’s Winter Ice Festival and a few other monuments in the city core.

Views of architecture in China

Now, I’m a 6’4” black guy born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Canada. Locals had the full spectrum of reactions to me, from shock to fear to joy. My encounters with locals were mostly pleasant, even amidst the thousands (no exaggeration) of requests to touch my skin, take photos, and take videos with them. The experience became even more fulfilling when I learned to speak a bit of Mandarin Chinese and could converse with them. The food in that region of China is known to be spicy and flavorful and, aside from my mother’s Caribbean cooking, it may have been the best food I’ve ever tasted.

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