Teach Abroad & TEFL

CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL


Founded in 1947, CIEE is the world's leading nonprofit dedicated to fostering peace and understanding through international exchange programs.

CIEE Teach Abroad offers English teaching positions at reputable partner schools around the world along with comprehensive support through every step of your teach abroad journey.

CIEE TEFL's online TEFL certification courses exceed international standards and will prepare you for success as an English teacher. CIEE TEFL is accredited by ACCET and recognized by the US Department of Education.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Teach English Abroad Spain CiEE

This program made moving abroad very smooth! They help so much with figuring out paperwork that I personally would have been so lost with. They also make sure to keep in contact with you when you’re abroad and respond to any questions or problems you may run into fast. Getting to travel on the weekends and being able to connect with people from all over the world is something I very much appreciate about the program I did! I have now done two programs with them and definitely would recommend them to anyone!!!

  • Travel Europe
  • Immerse in another culture
  • Opportunity to try to learn another language
  • they don’t help with finding housing
  • $1000 a month means you really have to budget
  • homesick at times
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience Abroad Thanks to CIEE

Here is my story and I hope it helps others who are interested in teaching abroad understand the impact that it can have on your life. I first found CIEE at the end of 2016. I knew that I wanted to teach abroad, but I wasn’t sure how to get started. When I first applied, I was paired up with Luke Beland, who to this day I cannot express the amount of appreciation I have for him. I wanted to work in the public school system and after completing my TEFL and my application, I interviewed with the Epik program but unfortunately due to a mistake on my end, I was not given the position. Luke called me to let me know of the issue and that I couldn’t continue with public schools, but he told me that it wasn’t too late and that I could move my application to a hagwon. There were only 2 weeks left, so I knew I had to work hard to get the chance to go in 2017. After I completed my end, he got me an interview with a hagwon in Paju and I passed! I was so excited that I was finally going to go to Korea! He made the process for pre-departure very easy, including the visa process. When I arrived in Korea, I did experience a bit of a culture shock. I thought my work ethic was superb but seeing the long hours and hard work from the Korean teachers and their expectations was next level. It wasn’t to the point that I would quit or felt overwhelmed, but it definitely made me work harder and become more flexible. CIEE set the expectations for me beforehand and in my interview, I was told most of the tasks I would need to complete but doing and seeing it in person is a little different. I’m happy to say that rising to the challenge helped me grow in ways I didn’t know was possible. That’s why I would like to stress to people who are interested in going abroad that being flexible and accepting of the country’s culture (including the work culture) is crucial to getting the most out of the experience in a positive way. CIEE did offer an orientation and multiple get togethers in my first year. I was happy to meet other teachers that would be in a short distance from me. Although I was in Paju and the meeting was in Seoul, it wasn’t hard to get to. Korea’s public transportation is really the best in the world, in my opinion, and going to the orientation prepared me for using it during my stay. I was happy to also meet the in-country team that would be supporting me during my time, although I think I contacted Luke more and he was always willing to help.
My salary was standard, as all my other friends who didn’t use CIEE, received the same pay. I know people might think 2.1 KRW isn’t a lot for the month, but when you don’t need to pay rent, utilities, TV, etc. it really goes a long way. I was able to use that money to travel all around Korea and experience so many of their different festivals. I fell in love with country, the job, and the kids. I decided after my contract ended, to stay on with my hagwon. I was promoted to Head Foreign Teacher. Soon after, I got married and due to my husband’s job location, we relocated to Gimpo, where I had my first child. The hagwon in Gimpo was definitely a bit more demanding, which made me understand that not all hagwons are the same and I really appreciated the one that Luke set me up with. I eventually moved back to the States with my husband and now 2 children. Besides meeting my other half and having my two bundles of joy, I took so much away from my time in Korea. I feel truly fortunate to have had this amazing experience and it all started with CIEE and a coordinator who did not give up on me, even when things didn’t look so rosy. So, if you are reading this, I hope you can take away from it that getting the right organization to help you in the beginning is very important! It’s important to get off on the right foot and to feel supported as the first year can be the most difficult due to assimilating to a new culture. Also, being open and flexible will help you not to take things so harshly and can eliminate a lot of the stress that may come from going abroad. It helps you appreciate the opportunity you have and to take full advantage of learning and adapting to a new culture. Finally, if you are looking for a game changer in your life, this might really be a program for you!

  • Being fully supported
  • Learning a new culture and gaining new skills
  • Seeing the beauty that is Korea
Response from CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL

Thank you for your sharing your story, Cimone! It's amazing how teaching in South Korea had such a profound impact on your life.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A HUGE help in getting me started on my S.Korea journey!

I'm really thankful I decided to go with CIEE when I initially made the decision to teach English abroad in South Korea. I chose to go the public school/EPIK route, and, as someone who has no experience with teaching, I was intimidated by the program's application. CIEE provided me with LOTS of resources (lesson plan tips, an EPIK application guide) that made me feel much more confident and organized during the process. I was also really impressed with how communicative they were and how quickly they responded to all my questions (which was A LOT since EPIK and the visa require a lot of documentation). The TEFL course was helpful - and, in my case, my pay increased for having the certification. Even after my arrival in Korea, CIEE provided support, messaged to see how my experience was going, and connected me to other CIEE staff nearby in case I needed anything.

If you're thinking about teaching abroad in Korea, I highly recommend going through CIEE. Having the extra support before and after arriving can take so much stress off your plate - and your priority should be on having a once and a lifetime experience!

  • Was able to connect with others who were going to South Korea
  • Due to CIEE's connections I was able to be located in Seoul as someone dropped out last minute.
  • This was during the pandemic so there were a lot of restrictions on travel.
Response from CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL

Thank you so much for your recommendation, Taylor. We're so glad you valued CIEE's support with the EPIK application process as well as after arriving in South Korea.

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No, I don't recommend this program


Normally, I don’t write and post reviews, but I felt like I needed to warn others about CIEE. CIEE is an organization that is just full of lies. I’m actually kind of sad to write negatively about them because I really did have a very positive experience doing a study abroad program through them back in college. Therefore, I assumed I would have an equally positive experience doing a teach abroad program through them. Unfortunately, I assumed wrong. When I received my first contract offer from Luke Beland, the CIEE person in charge of communicating about job offers, I had many questions. I wanted to make sure that this was a good offer. He said that I probably wouldn’t get another offer and I should just accept the one I was given. He also assured me that 2.2 million won was much higher than the average salary because most teachers only get paid 2.1 million won. In fact, he was quite wrong. For a kindergarten hagwon, a 9am-6pm job, the pay should be at least 2.4/2.5 million won for all the work you must do. I asked him if he had any concerns about the contract and he told me no. Yet, this job couldn’t have been with a worse hagwon. The director of the hagwon had me work at 3 different branches within my 4 months of being in Korea. I never felt like I ever got into a routine because I was constantly being moved from school to school. For 2 of those months, I had to commute back and forth between 2 different schools, which were on opposite sides of the city, and which was also time-consuming and exhausting. I purposely chose the hagwon route so I would only be at one school, so obviously I was upset. There were also so many changes, extra work not specified in the contract, and a lack of help or understanding from CIEE. I paid CIEE all this money for support, yet Brad, who is supposed to be your go-to in-country support, continued to gaslight me and make me seem like everything I was going through was “normal.” In fact, none of it was normal, as I found out after talking to other foreign teachers who had been teaching at hagwons in Korea for several years. In fact, he assured me that everyone who used CIEE has had positive experiences at this particular hagwon. Actually, 5 different foreign teachers who also used CIEE have quit from this hagwon in the 5 months that I have been living and working in Korea. So that was another lie they told me. Our orientation was also a joke and was really just an excuse to eat one dinner together and then have the rest be free time. We weren’t actually given any advice on how to be good teachers or anything related to teaching. I felt burnt-out after only 3 months. In fact, I had to move to an apartment all the way across the city, a 12km distance, in a completely different neighborhood in order to be closer to my new school. This particular hagwon has many different issues. First of all, there was no support whatsoever for the foreign teachers. I was thrown into my new school with my new kindergarten class with no help or guidance, yet I was expected to do everything perfectly. Some of the students were also really badly behaved, but because their parents were paying money to the school, they wouldn’t be kicked out. They would always listen and respect the Korean teacher, but never the foreign teacher, which made classroom management nearly impossible. The foreign teachers were also required to pretty much do everything, except talk to the student’s parents. This means taking the kids to the bathroom, serving them lunch, writing weekly logs, writing weekly comments, and writing monthly report cards for all the students. We also taught up to 9 classes a day, including classes such as Math and Science. In fact, I know some teachers who taught 45 classes a week for only 2.2 million won. We were also in charge of all the special events, which occurred frequently each month. In addition, there was a complete lack of communication between Korean teachers and foreign teachers, and usually the Korean teachers would expect the foreign teachers to guess what they were thinking and get mad when we didn’t do things exactly how they wanted. There were also many last minute projects, last minute requirements, and constant changes to projects/expectations. Even though we had “break” times which were only 30 minutes here and there, we couldn’t really take the break because we had to do all of these other preparation things for classes, events, etc. I couldn’t even relax during lunch since I was constantly serving the kids more food, so by the time I ate, my food was cold. This particular hagwon is also quite cheap, as seen in the very crappy apartments we were given. I know that if I had just used a different recruiter, I would probably have ended up at a much better hagwon and I wouldn’t be leaving my contract early. Unfortunately, my mental health has deteriorated and seeing as this country does not have adequate resources to support me, I had no choice but to leave. While I did enjoy living in Korea itself, the job couldn’t have been worse, and CIEE is a large part to blame for this, seeing as they set me up with this school. Hopefully my review will help others avoid the same HUGE mistake I made choosing CIEE to guide me in this work abroad journey.

  • Everything
Response from CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL

Kaelyn, thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We work hard to support all program participants while setting realistic expectations and I understand your expectations were not met. We are interested in learning about your experience in more detail and encourage you to reach out to use directly.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Life changer - CIEE Teach in Spain

Teaching in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación has changed my life. I studied Spanish in college but never studied abroad. Coming here ignited a passion for teaching abroad as well as the Spanish culture. If you're on the fence about doing something like this, especially with CIEE, then I say DO IT! It has changed the trajectory of my life in such a better way and I've met such amazing people along the way. Teaching in Spain was a great way to better my Spanish, the 3 day weekends let me travel all the time and the activities put on by CIEE allowed me to make a lot of great friends.

  • Help with the VISA
  • Really great on-site support
  • Housing can be difficult to find upon arrival



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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I knew that I wanted to get TEFL certified and try teaching abroad, and for me, it was a no-brainer to do it through CIEE.

CIEE is based in my hometown of Portland, Maine, and when I was in high school, they sent me abroad to South Korea on a pilot summer program for free! That program was extremely well-run, organized, educational, and fun, and needless to say, I've been a die-hard CIEE fan ever since.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CIEE provides an online TEFL course with fun, interactive modules, and a tutor who guides you through the course and provides feedback to help you become a better teacher. The coursework and expectations are very straight-forward.

It will be up to you to reach out to schools and organize your 20-hour teaching practicum. However, CIEE provides you with a list of schools that are receptive hosts, familiar with TEFL trainees. Your tutor will also be there to support you and answer your questions about finding a good host school.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Make sure you keep up with the modules! Do a little bit of work each day, and make sure you are on pace with the syllabus. If you fall behind in an online class, it is much harder to catch up than it is in a traditional class. You will have to wade through hours of modules, and it might feel overwhelming.

If you do fall behind, be sure to communicate with your tutor about it. They are there to help you succeed!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You should do at least an hour or two of online classwork each day. For me, that usually meant coming home from work and then doing about an hour of the coursework on weekdays. On Saturday and Sunday, I tried to do about 3 hours of coursework in the mornings. That kept me pretty well-paced with the class.

When it came time to study for the final exam, I recorded myself reading to my notes and listened to the recording on my commute to and from work. So even with a busy schedule, it is possible to keep up with and enjoy the course if you pace yourself in a way that makes sense for you.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

You should do at least an hour or two of online classwork each day. For me, that usually meant coming home from work and then doing about an hour of the coursework on weekdays. On Saturday and Sunday, I tried to do about 3 hours of coursework in the mornings. That kept me pretty well-paced with the class.

When it came time to study for the final exam, I recorded myself reading to my notes and listened to the recording on my commute to and from work. So even with a busy schedule, it is possible to keep up with and enjoy the course if you pace yourself in a way that makes sense for you.

Has your training from the CIEE 150-hour TEFL certification course made a difference in your experience teaching abroad?

Yes, absolutely! The online course provided me with loads of ideas for games, activities, and strategies that I use every day. I flip through my class notes whenever I am trying to make a lesson plan because there is always something there to inspire me or help me along.

I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to improve upon, but my TEFL course gave me a great start and a great solid groundwork that I can build off of as I strive to become a better teacher, this semester in Thailand, and beyond.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Samantha Erwin

Job Title
Samantha has proudly worked for CIEE since 2017 with the Teach Abroad and TEFL department. Prior to her time at CIEE, she studied in Granada, Spain for a year, received her TEFL certification in Peru, and taught English in South Korea for two years. Samantha is passionate about helping others gain the skills to bridge cultural gaps around the world.
Samantha Erwin

What is your favorite travel memory?

That's a difficult question to narrow down to just one. At that moment, it might not have felt like it, but the best memories have been the ones where I was stuck in a tricky or awkward situation and was forced to work my way through it by stumbling on the few words I knew in that language, using finger puppets to explain things, or just going with the flow.

Those experiences really taught you to think on your feet and gave you something to laugh about looking back on them!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

CIEE gave me a job where I leave every day feeling fulfilled. It's helped me to grow as a person, learn even more about cultures around the world without having to leave the office, and given me opportunities to gain skills that will no double help me continue to succeed. I know that I'll only continue to grow!

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

My favorite stories are when students are able to use the skills they've gained from our courses or from going abroad and apply them to their every day lives in their home country. It truly shows how we're helping bridge cultural gaps. We all know how we've felt from these experiences and it's exciting to connect with students over similar experiences!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would participate in our Teach in Italy Express program. I love the idea of a professional development opportunity that would allow me to travel internationally and fits within my annual vacation time. Two weeks spent helping EFL learners improve their English, learning new skills, and filling up on all that delicious food Italy has to offer - I don't see how it could get any better!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

CIEE TEFL and the entire company as a whole is built around the people that our programs serve. We're from diverse backgrounds and stages in life and all believe the same mission - to help create a more interdependent and culturally diverse world. Even better, most of us have been in your shoes. We remember the first time we went abroad and want to help others have that same experience!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

One of the biggest factors in being a successful company is listening to your peers, students, participants, etc. They are the voice of the company and their experiences and feedback are what allow us to continue creating relevant and quality programs.

It keeps us moving towards improving our programs and bridging those cultural gaps!