Teaching abroad is a great way to expand your experience, strengthen your resume, and help others…all while learning the culture of a foreign country. Does this sound exciting, but you’re nervous about committing a year or more to a program? Don’t be! There are other, short-term options that allow you to teach, to travel, to live.

Are you ready? Picking the right program takes time and effort. Doing due diligence with enough brainstorming and research beforehand will go a long way in determining what kind of experience you’ll have. So grab a pencil and paper and let’s get started!

Photo credits: Jirka Matousek.
Summer Camps

Around the world, foreign language summer camps are becoming increasingly popular. During the summer months, many students will head to sleep away camps, where the primary activity is learning English. Popular in Europe, these English camps are a great way for teachers to earn a bit of pay and spend time in beautiful, countryside locations. Additionally, most camps do not require their teachers to have official certification; most are looking for college students or graduates, who have some experience with children.

Volunteer Teaching

Ideal for travelers looking to dip their feet in teaching, but only able to commit for a few weeks or so, volunteer programs are great options. Many programs work with orphanages or children’s centers, in countries where there is a lack of attention on English education.

Language Schools

Often times, contracted teachers will leave language schools in the middle of a semester or term. Schools will then look for teachers to work for short term, often looking for native-speaking travelers who wish to live in one location for a period of time. Depending on the course and school, employers may be looking for teachers with experience or certification. However, it’s always to your advantage to uncover these jobs while in-country; this enables you to go in for an interview and often times receive the job on the spot!

Tips for Choosing a Short-Term Program

After you’ve chosen a location, it’s time to weigh your options as a short-term teacher. Before you sign a contract or enter into a verbal agreement, make sure you have the following information from the institution or individual you’ll be working for:

  • Do you need any special certification, and what is the duration of the program? Is it fixed or flexible? What are possible start dates?
  • Confirm your earlier research on price, earnings, and what, if anything, is covered (such as living arrangements, food).
  • Expected hours per week and class load. What ages will you be teaching? Do you prefer children or adults? Which subjects? Are you expected to work weekends?
  • Visa situation. Do you need a visa to work there? In most cases, the employer will help you arrange a visa if you ask, or at least give you helpful information, as they’ve done this all before. The earlier mentioned State Department website is also quite a helpful for this.
Where Do You Want to Go and Why?

While teaching abroad is a worthwhile experience with plenty to offer the individual, it’s important to consider what is most meaningful to you. What do you hope to get out of it? Consider which of these popular locations most closely fits your goals… or come up with your own!

Helping others Are you interested in becoming involved in underserved communities? If your main reason for teaching abroad is helping others, you may want to consider a short-term volunteer program that can’t afford to pay as much (or sometimes at all!) to their teachers. It might also affect where you choose to teach. Though there are people in need all over the world, you’re probably going to find a lot more opportunities for working with the folks who need it most in countries where governments aren’t able to focus as much on education.

Popular locations for consideration: Cambodia, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala

Learning Something Unique Sure, you’re going to be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a student at the same time. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of learning Spanish, or crafting the perfect dish of linguini. If your main focus is to learn something new, there is no shortage of places to check out, but if your goal is to learn Riverdance, don’t move to Japan. Ideally, you want to be in a place steeped in culture, and probably within close reach of lots of other exciting things to see and places to travel to. What do you want to learn? Where’s the most obvious place to learn it?

Popular locations for consideration: France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil

Escaping the Routine If you were a hitch-hiker, your sign would read “Anywhere but Here”. You are ready to move, go, get on with it. Desk job boring you to death? Recently finished college? If you’re looking for something new and exciting, you want to teach somewhere that is as far away from normal as you can imagine, and you’re probably interested in some beautiful scenery along the way. Look for places and short-term programs with an exotic flair that will challenge you.

Popular locations for consideration: China, Myanmar, Colombia, Turkey

The Next Steps

You’re packed and ready to go. Now all that’s left is doing your job. Here are a couple of hints for making lesson plans, which will guide you and your students for the entirety of your stay. While it’s best to have a daily lesson plan, doing them a week in advance helps you stay flexible and adjust to the pace of the class.

  • Know your audience. What ages are you teaching? What is their learning level? What and how you teach should be vastly different for beginners English in elementary school and advanced English in a college setting.
  • Set goals. What can you accomplish in one lesson? How long is the class? What is the one main idea you would like to pass on for the day? In addition, how long are you planning to stay? Can you accomplish your goals during your short term?
  • Create activities. Think of a warm-up, main lesson, and a wrap-up. Include what you will assign as homework, so you can tell if they soaked up all the information.
  • Prepare materials. Make a list of everything you’ll need for the activities, whether it’s games, slides, computer programs, or chalk. Get creative to keep your class involved!
Contributed by Blair Lampe


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