ESL Starter


Interested in teaching English abroad but unsure how to go about it? ESLstarter is the perfect place to start.

We understand that while teaching abroad is an exhilarating prospect, there are also a multitude of questions and uncertainties to be addressed both before and during your transition overseas, which is where we come in. Our experienced team of advisers will assist you, providing as much information as possible to make sure you know everything you need to know before you embark upon your teaching adventure abroad.

From helping you secure the position you really want and guiding you through the visa process, to assisting you with travel arrangements and a comprehensive aftercare service once you arrive in your host country, we will be there for you every step of the way.



Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Teaching on a student visa

ESL Starter are actually the recruiters for Teach and Learn, who run this internship program, so my review is of the program with Teach and Learn.

My main qualm with this internship program is that as an intern you are placed on a Chinese student visa. As the Go Overseas website states, "Foreign interns in China need to have a "special business F visa" that specifically prohibits compensation. Be wary of any provider promising paid internships in China." (

With Teach and Learn, you will be placed on a student visa, not a business F visa. But, with the program, you will be working as a Teacher. During our induction week, we were told that we were not to tell anyone that we were teachers, and instead had to say we were students.

If you are caught in China on the wrong visa, you can be fined and may not be allowed to enter the country again for a certain period of time. If you are willing to risk this, it's up to you, but I do not feel that ESL starter was upfront with us about the fact that we would technically be working on the wrong visa, which is why I want to warn potential interns of the risks. In fact, some interns were "found out" by the police and had to leave the country and enter China again on the correct working visas.

The Mandarin lessons you are meant to receive every week will vary depending on the school or University you have been placed at. Some people only received a one hour "lesson" from one of the teachers at the school. Others were "taught" Mandarin by University students. They are not proper lessons and definitely did not teach us enough Mandarin to pass us off as the Mandarin students we were meant to be according to our visas.

Your experience on this program will vary depending on which school or University you are placed. Whilst I enjoyed the place I worked at and they provided decent accommodation, I was aware that I could be earning a lot more (and not living in fear of being caught teaching on a student visa!) if I had instead applied for a proper teaching job in China.

The good parts of this program are that it's only 4 months long, you teach a maximum of 15 hours a week, and you meet other interns during your stay in China. Also, a lot of interns were people who couldn't get a working visa in China - non-native English speakers and people without University degrees. So for them I guess this internship was good, as they couldn't have got a proper teaching position in China (a working visa requires you to have a degree and be a native speaker). But for others, I think you have to think about whether you are willing to enter China and live there on the wrong visa.

Ben Tollington
Yes, I recommend this program

Go to Argentina!

Overall Rating
9/ 10
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Go to Argentina

Submitted by Ben Tollington - Swindon | February 19, 2015

I still reflect very happily on my time in Argentina and I am so glad I decided to do it, and I am especially thankful to Connecting Worlds for making me feel comfortable throughout my program. I taught English for 4 months in a private school in a seaside town called Mar del Plata. As it was my first time teaching I prepared a presentation which I prepared to all the classes of a variety of ages and skill, which made for a challenging but exciting experience, followed by a range of different types of general and specific classes as I gained confidence. Everyone was fascinated to listen to my accent and hear about my life in England. I was given all the support and encouragement I needed by the teaching coordinators, and everyone was so friendly and energetic that I enjoyed every minute.

I was lucky to live with a very kind family throughout my stay who showed me the typical Argentinian hospitality, I will never forget the countless lively dinner conversations we had which I just about managed to keep up with after 4 months, and to intimately experience and learn from such a passionate culture was one of the highlights of the program. I was also really impressed with the social events that our co-ordinator in Mar del Plata organised which enabled me to meet lots of amazing people who made me feel welcome in the city, helped me learn the language and the culture, and made it such an enjoyable experience.

My advice to someone thinking of joining a Teaching English Abroad Program is if you have an open mind and the time and money necessary, then do it. Any worries or nerves you have about taking on such a daunting experience are nothing compared to the new rewarding perspectives and values you will take away from it. Regarding the Argentina program I can highly recommend Connecting Worlds who looked after me personally and offered a fair and fulfilling program. I should add that as the program was quite new when I signed up, the level of teaching I would be giving and the host family I would be staying with was subject to change, so I would advise asking lots of questions to make sure you understand what to expect, but as long as you are driven to get the most out of the experience as you can and keep an open mind I can recommend choosing this program.

What would you improve about this program?
I think the main improvement I would recommend is organising a more fixed and structured timetable to the teaching program, to ensure the volunteers have a clear structure to their program.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching in South Korea and loving it

I have been an English teacher in South Korea for 3 and a half years and it is the best decision i ever made. I was working a lowly 9-5 sales job in South Africa when i decided to use my english degree and apply to EPIK in korea. I managed to secure the position i currently have with the help of ESL starter who were wonderful.I really really wanted to come so i sent loads of follow up emails that were probably not necessary but i always received prompt replies and good advice. Life in South Korea is amazing. We earn very good money and have very little expenses so you are able to save a lot although i did'nt save that much in my first two years because there is a budding social scene here.My bank account is looking a lot better now that i stay in a lot more with my girlfriend (who i met here ). Over and above the money and the great social life what makes korea great for me is the fact that I wake up everyday and love what i'm doing.There was one time when i was feeling down about something and as soon as i walked into the classroom and the children made me laugh i felt a lot better. A huge challenge of living and working here is of course not speaking the language. My Co teacher took me to the eye doctor one and on the way jokingly said that sometimes i was like baby. You can do most thinks here alone but there are sitauations where you absolutely need person who speaks Korean to help. Thankfully Koreans are very helpful and really good to foreigners as my co teacher was that day.

What would you improve about this program?
I would arrange for a possible applicant to be able to talk to someone currently living and working in South Korea. This person would be able to provide excellent advice and answer most if not all questions. I think this would really help someone applyingto be less anxious and improve the programme
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience with EBC Elebaires

I did the TEFL course with Elebaires in Buenos Aries and found the whole experience so enriching! The teachers were so helpful and it was a great bonus to be based in a language school too. I learnt so much and have grown in confidence with my teaching skills!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Nepal voluntary scheme

With ESLstarter, I found a great placement in Nepal, not far from the capital, Kathmandu. I began by spending 2, 3 days in Thamel, the buzzing centre of the capital to become acclimatised with the culture and way of life in Nepal. I was taken on tours of the temples, given some basic language lessons, and stayed in a guest house. It was the ideal beginning.
I then was placed into a rural school some miles away. The whole placement was coordinated between ESLstarter and a coordinator in Nepal who helped me step by step. The school was extremely friendly, and also provided accommodation. The family ran the school and were excellent hosts, I fully enjoyed being part of their family and way of life during the Month. The teaching was also enjoyable, and the children a joy to work with. At the beginning I had a little surprise as I did not follow any particular syllabus, and as such had to decide on the lessons myself. However the TEFL training online I had completed equipped me to deal with this.
In the last week, I took excursions to Chitwan National Park and Pokhara, which was organised by the Nepali coordinator. These are must-see destinations.
ESLstarter helped sort the placement out, and my advisor was Claire, who was particularly helpful and answered any queries promptly and in full.


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Staff Interviews

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

Phil Negus

Phil is Managing Director at ESLstarter. He has been involved in the ESL industry for over 10 years! Phil loves to travel in his spare time and counts Korea, Laos and the hinterlands of Scotland as his favorite travel destinations!

What position do you hold at ESL Starter? What has been your career path so far?

I am Managing Director at ESLstarter and have been working at the company since 2006. I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2000 with a degree in Media and Cultural Studies and German before traveling to Australia and Thailand. This travel experience inspired me to try out teaching English abroad and so my wife and I travelled out to Thailand in 2003 to teach English. The experience was amazing and opened up a whole new world! We went on to teach English in South Korea and Taiwan before setting up our company.

Did YOU teach abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Yes, I taught in Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea. I had some previous travel experience of Thailand and was getting itchy feet after returning to the UK to work in an accounting position. So, I applied for a teaching placement in a small town in rural Thailand and three weeks later received the visa invitation letter in the post! It was a very exciting time! I loved teaching in Thailand - great students, a really friendly small town community and lots of exploring on weekends. After Thailand, I went onto Korea, which was amazing in many different ways. Taiwan was also a great experience and I found the people there to be super friendly.

What does the future hold for ESL Starter - any exciting new programs to share?

Well, we currently are looking to expand our South America presence and have some exciting new teaching programs in Guatamala, Brazil and Honduras in the pipeline! We want to offer teachers more choice when it comes to teaching locations and contract durations. As well as South America, we are focussing on Vietnam and China as emerging destinations for ESLstarter teachers. We are currently offering exciting placements throughout China and also in Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam for teachers who want to tutor adults. These placements are proving incredibly popular and we are working on more opportunities for teaching adults overseas.

What about the future of the teach abroad industry? How do you think education will change over the next 10 years?

I think teach abroad programs are increasingly moving online. Video teaching is obviously an important industry but in my opinion, there is no substitute for old-fashioned face-to-face interaction between teacher and student! I think there are many new and exciting destinations available for today’s TEFL teachers and I see increasing demand from countries such as India, Brazil and Russia as these markets emerge in the future. ESLstarter will continue to source great programs for ESL teachers and provide as much support and assistance as possible in getting people where they want to be.