Preparing to Teach English Overseas

April 26, 2011

By Judy Smith

Teaching Chinese Drama StudentsRead Part 1 of the series on Teaching English Overseas for information to consider before pursuing a job. This article will help you find a TESL job and give tips on how to prepare for your move overseas.

How to Find a Job Teaching English Overseas

Applying for jobs overseas is like tossing a net over the sea of possibilities and seeing what gets caught. Although some postings can be found in newspapers, magazines, and job fares, the majority of listings are on the Internet. There are several on-line sites for job searches. Two of the most popular sites are:

  1. Dave’s ESL Café has a host of postings available in different countries around the world. It includes forums for each country, whereby teachers can post comments and ask questions about living or working conditions. You can also post your resume on Dave’s Café, then sit back and wait until prospective employers contact you.
  2. TEFL site. Once you are registered with you are sent updates of new jobs daily. You can also fill out the template for applications so that it is easy to apply for positions: all you have to do is change the cover letter.

Great TEFL Deals


Students in Omani ESLIf you’re more interested in adventure than money, you might consider volunteering in an underdeveloped country. There are some volunteer positions listed with Dave’s Café or in countries in South America. There are also volunteer organizations that provide people and services like the VICS (Volunteer International Christian Services). They are a Catholic and Canadian-based organization, and prefer older people with practical skills to offer a developing nation.

Financial Matters You Need to Know Before you Leave

Remember that you will not be present in Canada for a year: you will need to make all necessary arrangements for anything that might happen in your absence.

  1. Unless you are legally declared a non-resident of Canada, you will have to pay Canadian taxes on your overseas income. To be declared a non-resident, you need to see an accountant or lawyer. The main requirement is that you do not own property in Canada.
  2. Canadian income taxes can be done by an accountant on line, but you will need to gather necessary documents before leaving home.
  3. You can still collect CPP and OAS while working overseas, but not GIS. You can have any cheques directly deposited into your account.
  4. If you are renting out your home, you will probably need a property manager.
  5. You might consider issuing a limited Power of Attorney to someone for any emergencies that might arise.
  6. It is not necessary to bring a lot of cash with you—only enough to live on until you can get to an ATM, in which case you can withdraw money in local currency from your bank back home. This is the cheapest and safest method of “carrying” money, but ask your bank or employer if you can use the ATM in your host country before leaving home.

Packing for a Year Tips

Here are a few tips I have learned about packing for a year:

  1. Pack light. You will need to carry your own luggage between flights or up and down stairs. Never mind about the weight restriction for air lines. If you can’t carry it, it’s too heavy.
  2. Invest in good quality, strong suitcases with solid rollers, but plaster them with duct tape so they look battered and old. That way they will (hopefully) not be stolen.
  3. Keep your carry-on baggage light, but include a change of clothes, cosmetics, all important documents, contact numbers for your new employer, and medication in case your luggage gets lost en route.
  4. If you go to a country which has more than one season, pack winter clothes and extra footwear in a strong box labelled with your address overseas. Once you are happily settled in your new place, have a friend or family member ship the box to you by parcel post. When you leave, ship a box home rather than carrying it.
  5. Ask yourself: What do I really need? Medications, vitamins, and shampoo are available wherever there are people. Books are heavy.
  6. A wardrobe that matches, is durable, and doesn’t need a lot of care is priceless. Comfortable shoes are a must to bring, as they are difficult to find in other countries. You’ll need both dressy clothes for work and casual clothes for your time off but clothes can be bought or tailor-made for a fraction of the prices in Canada.
  7. Make sure you have a good quality, relatively new lap-top computer: it is your life-line to home, and sometimes your sanity.
  8. And of course: a camera to record your adventures.

This seems like a lot of things to consider before embarking on a new career, but once you have jumped through all the hurdles and become settled into your new home, you will find that wherever you go, there you are. You will feel almost like you’re at home.

About the Author: Judy Smith is Canadian living overseas teaching English as a second language. Along with her husband, Roger, they have taught in China, South Korea, Omun and Thailand.

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  • EBarrett

    I’m almost 55 and have been carefully researching teaching ESL abroad (particularly in Asia). Though I’ve felt enthusiastic about the idea all the information on line about age discrimination was been discouraging. Your article reminded me that my attitude and how I present myself is something I can control. Thank you.

    If you’re able to respond to my comment: Where did you teach first? What country and/or school did you enjoy the most? Which did you enjoy the least? Any other tips for? Thank you.

  • Judy Smith

    We first taught in South Korea and were lucky to work with a great employer. After spending 4.5 years in Korea (off and on) however, we became disgruntled with the culture, the food, and behavior of the children. I think it’s a good place to start, and one year would be enjoyable. I would suggest you apply for jobs with the public school system.
    Oman and China have been the best places to work. Things seem to be somewhat unsettled in the Middle East right now, but a year in Oman will provide you with a lucrative salary and the students are mostly enthusiastic. It’s the most liberal of the Middle Eastern countries, so you can wear streeet clothes. China pays poorly but the cost of living is low and the students are fantastic.
    We didn’t like Thailand very much, as the children were terribly unruly, but that could have been because the private school we taught at catered to wealthy and spoiled br…children. It was a wonderful place to live; I would go there on vacation.
    I hope this helps.

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