After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to Seoul, South Korea where he lived for three years teaching English abroad. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master's degree.
A few weeks ago I was at a work dinner and had the opportunity to speak with a colleagues friend about our jobs and how we got to where we are today. We spent a good amount of time on college and what we majored in and some of the same professors that we both had at the University we both attended. This inevitably paved the way to bring up what we did after graduation. She admitted that she is still working in the same job that she had throughout college while I went in to some detail about my ESL teaching gig overseas. Several times throughout our conversation she made statements about how she always had wanted to do something like that but her fears of living in a foreign country, cut off from her life back home, always dissuaded her in the end.
After talking to a few more people since being back in the United States, I have seen that her fears were not entirely unique, in fact, most people that I caught up with or have met since have stated things along the same line. But what about if you can get past all that? What does a job overseas offer you once you make the decision to jump past all the scary unknowing? The answer is a lot. The skills, experiences and changes I underwent during my time teaching abroad is are some of the best moments of my life. Below are five of the most beneficial things my three years overseas taught me.
See the World
I think it goes without saying that getting this chance to see and experience a part of the world that would have previously been unattainable is one of the biggest draws of choosing to teach in an ESL environment overseas. Depending on your area of choice and your recruiter, you may be given the opportunity to teach in a rural environment. All I can say to this is, DO IT! Exclamation aside, teaching in a rural area will give you experiences and the opportunity to see and do things you never thought imaginable. While teaching in a large city definitely has its perks and ease of access to a similar lifestyle stateside, teaching in a rural area has the potential to change your life in ways you never thought possible. As an added benefit, you may be eligible for a pay incentive for teaching in a rural location.
It’s no secret that the cost of living while abroad is significantly cheaper than it is in the United States. While this can be skewed either way depending on where you end up teaching, for the most part, school and teaching institutions will pay for your monthly rent, and perhaps also your health insurance, utilities and even a cell phone. Because of this, it is not uncommon for expats to send as much as 70-80% of their salary home each month to take care of bills and financial obligations back home. In countries like South Korea and Japan, expats also pay into a national pension which becomes available to them at the completion of their contract. This amount ends up being about 9% of the first year’s wages and about 6.7% of each subsequent year. For one year, the average expat can save about $15,000 if they are smart about their money.
Your Own Growth
I know I can speak from personal experiences that the person I was when I graduated college and the person I was when I returned home some three years later look nothing alike. Moving overseas saw me separated from a life, friends and a family that made up a huge portion of who I was as a person. Initially, the shock of losing these things was great. Everything that I grown accustomed to was ripped out from under me (albeit by choice). But what is interesting about all of this, is what happens to you when these things are gone. Redefining your life once these things are removed is a pretty spectacular thing.
Bolster Your Future
Getting a great paying job that is in line with your passions and expertise is no easy feat. With hundreds of people sometimes vying for the same position, it’s easy to feel like you are just one of the many who hold a degree in Journalism and also wrote on their school newspaper. Extra-curricular activities that you poured your soul into because you believed they would play a vital role in landing a job outside of college are often the same things that everyone else did. So how do you get ahead and stand out? Teaching abroad can certainly help. In every interview I landed since I returned from teaching overseas my experiences living abroad came up. Employers liked that I was capable of putting myself outside of my comfort zone. They like the leadership skills I developed and the organizational methods I used to keep my class organized. I went in to each one of these interviews ready to explain and detail why my time overseas makes me the best possible candidate for this job. Only two weeks of applying and a few interviews later, it worked.
Change Someone’s Life
Bring on the cheese. It may sound tacky. Completely cliché and trite, but teaching overseas really does give you the chance to change and impact someone’s life for forever. Many of the students that I taught came from affluent families who were involved in trade, business or medicine on the global level. In order for their children to reach the same amount of success as the parents, learning English becomes of the utmost importance. The person you choose to be each time you enter the classroom can make or break these student’s passions to learn a new language and enjoy the same accomplishments as their parents.
As mentioned above, each ESL teaching destination offers different salaries, housing packages and demographics of students you will be teaching. It’s important to ask your recruiter or school every question imaginable in order to make sure you are going to wind up in the best possible situation.
Ready for the next step? There are a variety of starting points, take a look at the job forums on Dave’s ESL Café or if you’re looking into teaching in Europe head over to Oxford Seminars to look into getting the necessary TEFL credentials for your work visa. If you're interested in Teaching English Abroad in Asia, check out all the schools where you can work and get paid on the GeoVisions website.
I'm a new teacher in china and I'm looking for any materials you have available to help me better prepare lessons! I teach beginner english to elementary in preschool students.
My name is Betsy Bruneau and I am an ESL teacher here at GeoVisions. I have worked with children of every age and even taught adult education. It sounds like quite an exciting adventure that you've taken on. My high school has done exchanges with Chinese high schools. I'll have to find out where they are and let you know.
Anyway, it sounds like the children you teach are pretty young. They are probably very sponge like and ready to absorb everything around them. You are probably a real novelty. I would begin by introducing yourself completely. Show them pictures of you, your family, friends, your home town. Pick up postcards of your home state. Show them what children their age from your home area do for fun. Show them an elementary school. Do a really simple comparison chart of the two places.
I would pursue lessons in literature. Children that young are not as inhibited as older children and handle it better when they don't pronounce something correctly. Introduce some of your favorite children's literature. Create story maps, new endings, prequels, etc. You can go anywhere with children's literature.
The other thing I would do with them would be to play games. This makes the learning fun and anytime you are engaging them and giving directions, you are using and reinforcing good English. Teach them games like Concentration, Hang Man, Duck Duck Goose, tag, whatever. Teach them games that you played as a child and have them teach you games. Have them teach you in English.
Write me back, Anthony, and tell me what your supervisors are expecting of you. This can help me direct you with ideas. Also, can you please be more specific about the ages of the children you are charged with teaching. These little bits of information will help me to help you a great deal.
I hope I helped a little bit and I look forward to hearing from you. Have a good couple of days.
Hi, Betsy. I teach in several different schools. The school I spend most of my time at has me teach a variety of different classes in half hour segments. The students in the school are generally between the ages of 3 and 6. There are a few classes where the students are around 8 to 11 years old. There's no good way to prepare for this style of teaching. My materials are a set a flash cards that I'm given by the other teacher. They inform me what the class is learning today, and I try to engage the students with the new words and new sentences, or new concepts as is the case with the older students. What I'm looking for is a toolbox that I can use on a moment's notice. Games and activities that are fun for children, and can be used with a wide variety of concepts and vocabulary.
You have a perfect opportunity to play games and teach your students without them every knowing that they are learning. Anytime you interact with them you are modeling good English. So with your littles, play Duck, Duck, Goose and tag and four square. Sing silly songs and read to them. I don't know what type of resources you have available, but any children's literature can be helpful, even if it isn't your first choice. Let me know what you have so that we can plan accordingly.
Are you able to access the flash cards before class or even the day before? This would allow you a little time to prepare. YOu can also focus on games with the older kids. Try to remember songs and games from your childhood and share them with the kids.
The ESL lounge has this great template that allows you to download games. The games are not yet created, it is simply a template. You can go crazy with this. Either create your own games or have the kids create games in English for each other. No matter the age, I have found that my students learn the most when they have to create the game or quiz themselves. Have you checked out the ESL lounge for other resources? There are some really good ones.
Show the kids pictures and photographs of what children their age are doing from your hometown. Despite the age, they are interested. Show them schools, playgrounds, geographic features, your family, etc. Your older kids can make a t-chart comparing the two areas of the world.
Let me know if any of this helps, Anthony. Have fun.
It all began on Sunday January 8th, 2012. The January intake group for GeoVisions' Teach in Thailand program met Kevin and Jaco in the lobby of the Ratchada Hotel in Bangkok for their debriefing. After a little question-answer session, the group headed back to their rooms in preparation for the journey to Hua Hin on Monday morning. All of the students shared 2 minibuses for the two-hour drive down the coast. As soon as they arrived, everyone had a choice between three different accommodations. 12 of the students chose the Hillside, while 3 chose accommodation closer to town. For the rest of the first week, the group had Thai language classes, culture and politics lessons, as well as getting bank accounts, sim cards, and scooters sorted out.
In honor of the group’s successful first week in Thailand, we held a Braai on one of the most beautiful beaches in Hua Hin. On their first Friday evening, the staff, our January group, and even some of our friends from the Wildlife Rescue Centre joined to celebrate their new adventures. Everyone was telling stories about home and anxiously asking questions about Thailand or motivations for coming here. After one full week the teachers are settling in well and starting to build the type of connections that will last a lifetime. As the night went on, the food was served, drinks were finished, and the conversation dwindled.
As a supplement to the practical portion of the TESOL course, students get to observe an English lesson at a local middle school. The class is currently working on their food module. The teacher, a native Thai woman, revisited vocabulary from the day before, and had the teachers create bubble charts (one main idea in the middle circle branching off to other ideas) for the various types of food. An example was “Brainy Foods” and vocabulary that fell underneath the category was blueberry, banana, strawberry, and milk. The students were divided into groups, but sent an individual to present the bubble chart to the class. Through observation, these soon-to-be teachers get to see different forms of classroom management as well as how to teach older kids.
Throughout the TESOL course teachers are given many opportunities to practice presenting lesson plans. We encourage our teachers to act as if the classroom is filled with Thai children, giving instructions and eliciting vocabulary much like they will in their teaching placements. There are three main types of lesson plans, but teachers can be creative with the activities that will help the children learn vocabulary and conversation skills. Our teachers this month are all doing very well, and we cannot wait for them to get out there and teach!
For more information about the "Teach In" programs offered by GeoVisions, check out our Teach in China, Teach in Korea, Teach in Thailand and our newest, Teach in Vietnam programs to learn how you can travel to Asia, become a teacher and earn a great full time salary with excellent benefits.
Last week in Beijing, visiting some of our projects in China, I took a day out of my busy schedule to volunteer at Beijing Century Experimental School (Bai Nian School). This is the largest school for the children of migrant workers in Beijing, and the largest educational institution established by the community of Chaoyang District.
Schools of this kind lack the superior facilities and learning conditions common in ordinary schools in China. As such, the students typically have no opportunity to learn English from foreign teachers. Even a day of practicing English with a native speaker is considered a huge benefit and extremely rare.
[Of course, before you try this on your own, be sure to remember that anytime you stray off the straight and narrow in China, you need permission from the authorities and school officials, and that can take time and a lot of probing!]
I also thought a lot about the age-old argument of short-term volunteering vs. long-term volunteering. And one day does indeed fall on the side of short-term volunteering, no doubt. As a former high school English teacher, I recall the benefits of having someone from the "outside" come in for a day and jazz up the class and provide different stimulation for the students. So I took the invitation to spend a day in the classroom teaching English, and I'm so glad I did. After that experience, I've decided it's just fine to test drive a volunteer abroad project. I had an incredible day, and so did my students. And that's what's important.
I wasn't there to eradicate poverty...although as children of migrant workers...they certainly lack the finer things in life. China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010) —a number equivalent to 2/3 the population of the United States or 4X the number of people who emigrated to American from Europe over a century—have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years.
There are about 20 million migrant children living in Chinese cities. Many of them attend migrant schools that have often been set up by the migrant workers themselves. These schools tend to be basic but are often manned by committed, decent-quality teachers. As of 2007 there were about 200 migrant schools in Beijing with 90,000 children.
The first school for migrants to win government approval in Beijing was opened in 1993 by a teacher from a rural school who was shocked to find that many children of migrant workers were basically illiterate because their parents were too busy to help them and because they lacked residency status necessary to attend local schools. The Beijing Century Experimental School, where I volunteered for a day, was founded by a migrant worker in 1998 who luckily was able to pull himself up, and get this school opened.
Kicking the tires on the Voluntourism bus is just fine. I learned a lot about migrant workers, the children of migrant workers, and I learned that exposing them to a day of English, spoken and taught by a native English speaker, was better than me not going there at all. These kids are in no position to come in contact with native English speakers by themselves.
In total, I was in China for six days. Of those, two were free days. I volunteered for one of those free days. The rest of the time was spent in meetings. So I ended up volunteering 50% of my free time. I was able to learn a great deal from the experience and the children had a native English speaker to practice with for a day.
But the best result of the experience is that I was able to alert a friend who works at one of the premier language schools in Beijing, Live The Language. He joined me at the school and by the end of the day committed several of his students each week to volunteer at the school to speak English with the children. So my day of test driving volunteer abroad resulted in possibly 800 hours of native English speakers at this particular school.
What a difference a day makes!
We would love to hear about any test driving experiences you have had. Take advantage of the comments section below.
Hello from 35,000 somewhere over Siberia. In a few hours I'll be landing in Beijing.
I'm going to be in Beijing for a week. I'm taking 2 tours, 1 cooking class, I'm volunteer teaching at a school. And I have an afternoon of seminars to moderate and 2 days of business meetings. I'm traveling with a computer bag and a small carry-on.
Recently, I read a Blog post from an author who is out doing a book promo tour and he listed out the items he always includes in his packing list. I travel so much, it is always helpful to read what others pack in their bags. I thought I'd list out a few "must-pack" items of my own, and hopefully others will add some of theirs in our comments section.
I always bring a bag for dirty laundry. Some hotels provide them, smaller hotels and hostels tend not to include them. I find they keep clean clothes, well, clean.
For a week-long business trip, I'll pack:
- Exercise clothes
- 2 pr. slacks
- 1 pr. jeans
- 3 dress shirts
- 2 tee shirts
If I'm not having formal business meetings, I'll modify it this way:
- Exercise clothes
- 1 pr. slacks
- 2 pr. jeans
- 1 dress shirt
- 3 tee shirts
In the toiletries department, I always include:
- disposable sanitary cloths for the germophobe in all of us. A bottle of Purell can open or break…the disposables are just that.
- Lip balm. Silly to think about, but chapped lips can be really painful.
- Instant stain remover. I've never eaten a meal that I didn't drop some kind of food or drink on a shirt.
A lot of people ask me about foreign currency. Remember travelers checks? I take the minimum amount of foreign cash on the flight. (I include $20 U.S. simply because that is habit.) ATMs are everywhere now and your local bank ATM card will work anywhere. Just make sure you have the cash in your checking account! You get a much better exchange rate and you don't have a lot of money tied up in a wallet that can get lost or stolen. At the end of the trip I try to keep about $100 and bring it back. First, my youngest son loves looking through it. But it is helpful when you go back to that country to grab that cash and put it in your travel wallet. If connections are tight…you have a little cash with you to get you started.
Small bag for the day out. Not exactly a man-purse, but a smaller bag to easily fit my iPhone, a journal, some note cards and snacks.
If you take presription medication, be sure you tape the label to the container so anyone at an inspection area will know whatever it is is a prescription. I find when I fill my 3-1-1 bag and have a prescription...the agents will let me get away with it if it's labeled.
Don't forget your adaptor…most of today's electronics have built in converters. I have to charge an iPhone, MacBook Air, Bluetooth headphone, camera, and tooth brush. Everything on that list needs only an adaptor except the tooth brush. As many hotels have at least one 110 plug in the bathroom…I can normally keep that charged. So I'm always converterless.
I travel with an iPhone, so the day before I depart I sign up for the data plan and International calling. You can buy an international calling plan, a data plan or both. Be sure to wait a week after you return, and turn all that expensive stuff off. Check with your phone company for their plans because using it ad hoc or accidentally turning it on abroad, without a plan, can be very costly.
If you have items I haven't mentioned, or ideas to make packing easier and lighter, please leave them in the comments section below. Everyone is always eager to learn new packing hints.
Our paid Interns have been in China for two weeks and today we received two new photos.
Our office in Beijing reports that the Interns are working hard and adapting to life in China. They are working on the high school program (Chinese high school students coming to the U.S. for an academic year) and with Work and Travel students (Chinese college students coming here to work for 4 months and travel.)
What do they do? They interview Chinese students and screen them for their English ability and also talk to them about life in America.
The visas have been successfully extended and the host families where they live are happy to have them and they are enjoying living in Chinese homestays rather than an apartment. They were offered both options but chose homestays to get a real feel of living and working in China.
So all of this is good news. The bad news is that GeoVisions has filled 100% of the positions for the rest of 2010. If you are interested in a paid Internship in China that costs only $800 look no further. But it will be 2011 before you can go. Still, now is the time to get your application to us. 2011 will be full before you know it.
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