English Camp in Thailand

3 Short-term Alternatives to Teaching English Abroad

There are many reasons for wanting to teach English abroad. Perhaps you’re on a mission to give back to a community, or you want experience in the teaching field, or maybe you simply want a way to finance part of your travels. Whatever your motive, if you haven’t yet signed up because of your fear of the contractual commitment, here are some short-term alternatives to teaching English abroad to consider.

1) English camps

When I came to Thailand on a whim the second time, I kept myself busy (and my pocket full) with working English camps. Many schools schedule camps for students as a way to reward them for good work and promote their continued study of the English language.

It’s different in every country, but the company I worked with often takes students to a resort outside of their hometown and spends three days alternating between games, lessons, sports, speech competitions and talent shows – all in English. It’s a fun time for all, and I had the freedom to pick and choose which camps I wanted to attend.

This situation was great for me because I could sign up last minute for a camp I knew I would be in town for, and if I decided to go to the beach instead of work, the company had no hard feelings. It’s a great way for a backpacker to earn a little cash on their way through Bangkok, plus all food, travel and accommodation are paid for while at camp.

Other countries, such as Taiwan for example, are big on longer, summer camps, usually one or two months. They hire teachers for the duration and the pay is worthwhile, plus everything is included and you get to explore the country on your weekends.

2) Substitute

Some agencies like to keep a handful of substitutes available for when their full-time teachers are sick, on holiday or on a visa run. Substituting is a great way to experience a variety of schools and have your travel and hotel expenses paid for, on top of your daily wage. This is what I spent the last two months doing in Thailand, and the reason I was able to get a one-month gig in a private primary school, and a one-week position in Trat Preschool. However, there are also options for daily substitutions and long-term, on call positions if you’re based in one location for the majority of your time.

Short-term Alternatives to Teaching English Abroad

Teaching Preschool in Thailand

3) Volunteer

A little more difficult to secure, but volunteer positions without a high price tag do exist. If you’re set on volunteering your time as opposed to working for a standard paycheck, I can help you get started with a position teaching English to young monks in a temple school or primary school children on the beach. You can also watch newspaper listings and other job sites.

My advice is to dig deep to find an organization that doesn’t charge you a preposterous amount of money.

A great way to find any of these positions it so get in touch with bloggers, teachers or friends currently living in your country of choice. Most likely they have heard of something or know somebody to refer you to, and word of mouth spreads a lot faster than a resume sent via email in these types of positions. The companies/schools will want you to be in country already, so they know you’re serious and available, but this shouldn’t be a problem if your main objective is to travel.

If none of these sound appealing but you still want to experience teaching abroad, listen up. The truth about most 1-year and 2-year contracts is they aren’t actually binding. I’m not advocating breaking your agreement by any means, but we all know life has a way of throwing us curve balls that require a change of course and, if that happens (like it did to me, when my face had an allergic reaction to China’s pollution/water and broke out in severe acne), it’s likely your school/agency will understand. They know most of us aren’t looking to make a career out of teaching English abroad, or at least not in one location.

But even if they’re not sympathetic, there’s very little anybody can do about it. Taking you to court would be an expensive and meaningless effort, as the school will still not have a teacher and you’ll likely already be out of the country anyway.

Short-term Alternatives to Teaching English Abroad

My students and I at dinner in China

My advice: If you do encounter this decision, the least you can do is finish out the current term/semester (unless, of course, it’s an emergency situation) so you don’t affect your students any more than necessary. If you leave between terms, the school can determine how best to rearrange the schedule and the students won’t be left without a teacher.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign a contract with a plan to break it, but sometimes those of us who have a fear of commitment (read about my issues here), find it easier to overcome when we tell ourselves it’s not permanent.

To be honest, before I came to Thailand on only six-month contract, I told myself I would leave when I was ready. Another part of me desperately likes to finish what I start so I knew I probably wouldn’t quit early, but this thought process is what saved me from a panic attack when I signed my name in ink and faxed it in. I need to believe the choice is mine, and despite a seemingly serious and legal piece of paper, the choice really is mine. And it could be yours, too.

UPDATE: Since writing this article, I’ve begun my own TEFL agency, recruiting for reputable courses in Thailand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Chicago and Online, all with highly effective job assistance. So what are you waiting for? Get your TEFL certificate now!

Fellow ESL Teachers and agencies: if you have any connections, information, job postings, links – leave a comment below!

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3 Short-term Alternatives to Teaching English Abroad
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

43 Comments

  1. mushette says:

    Really interesting and informative, thanks! One question though, signing up for a camp at the last minute sounds like a great opportunity, how does that work with your visa though as I always assumed the visa process takes a bit of time? I’m thinking about Thailand particularly where it all seems very complicated…

    • jessicajhill says:

      Though it’s technically illegal in Thailand, most people work English camps on a tourist visa. Depending on your passport country, most tourists get 30 days upon arrival, and you can extend several times after that. You can get a two month visa by applying outside the country and then you can extend that for an extra month in Bangkok…plus multiple border runs to get more days. Since it’s a temporary position, the government won’t grant a work permit. Hope that answers your question!

  2. lanicox says:

    Nice idea Jess. I actually got my current job through subbing. Cheers 🙂

  3. Anna says:

    Hi, I liked the ideas in your post. How did you find out about the English camps that were looking for teachers? The camps sound great but are they only in the summer holidays? Is there a website or something you could point me towards? Thanks!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Anna! I found out about camps in Thailand through a secondary branch of my agency, AYC. They actually do camps all year ’round, but more steadily during the summer. It just depends on when schools want to pay for them.

      Here’s AYC’s teaching website: http://www.aycthailand.com/

      You can send an email to someone inquiring about camps and they’ll direct you to the right person. Or, better yet, send me an email, since you’re already in Thailand, and I’ll give you the name and phone number of the guy in charge of camp recruitment – I’m sure he’d love to have you!

      • Richard J. Wilder says:

        Someone started on Wednesday, a blonde girl that looks like you without sunglasses. Do you have a twin sister? Do you know of this person?
        Richard

        • jessicajhill says:

          Haha – that WAS me, Richard. You should have said hi, I didn’t recognize you if I saw you! I swung by for a whirlwind trip to pick up my things I left behind.

  4. Richard J. Wilder says:

    I guess you don’t need the sunglasses, you have a beautiful face. Anyway, you will have a nice summer in Bend, a chance to catch your breath before Colorado and graduate school. I will certainly miss your blogs on Southeast Asia, keeps me interested in traveling there again.
    Richard

  5. I have often thought about teaching English overseas, even to the present day, but I’m just not brave enough to do it.

  6. Sarah Jane Cole-Simister says:

    Hi,
    Do you have any contact details on English Camps please. I've been living in Pak Kret for three months can't find any information. Am looking for part time holiday camp work.
    Thank you
    Sarah

  7. Simon says:

    Hi great blog, it’s now bookmarked.

    Would like to follow up with some more info on the summer camps. Would it be a good place for a beginner English Teacher to start? What’s the length of the contract for summer camps?

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Simon.

      I think camps are a great place to start as a beginner, but they are very relaxed and the ones in Thailand that I’m most familiar with do not sign a contract. Instead, they work on an on-call basis. However, if you’re looking for a good beginner place with a short-term contract, we offer 5-month teaching contracts all around Thailand. I’d be happy to help you get started. You can read more about it here: http://teachenglishesl.com/teach-in-thailand/

      Or email me at info@teachenglishesl.com

      Thanks so stopping by!

      Jessica

  8. Zara Gregory says:

    Hi I am a teacher in the UK and looking to teach abroad during the summer holidays. I only have 6 weeks. Is this possible?

    Thank you

    Zara

  9. Rebecca John says:

    Hello! This is a really useful page! I am currently teaching in China and my contract finishes in October. I would love to return to Thailand in January. I spent only one week in Thailand recently and I would love to go back! I would love to travel Thailand but to do that I would need some help with funding. So having short term teaching jobs would be really great! The English Camps sound good! If you have any conact info that would be great!
    Thank you!!
    Rebecca

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Rebecca! I’m not sure how short-term you’re thinking, but through my business site (http://www.teachenglishesl.com) I recruit teachers for 5-month teaching positions in Thailand, and the next semester will begin on October 20th and run through March. If this is something you’re interested in, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at info @ teachenglishesl.com

  10. Nicole says:

    Hey,

    I just read your blog post and went to http://teachenglishesl.com/teach-in-thailand/. I am a bit confused as to why you have to send a photocopy of your passport and a picture in an application package. This seems really suspicious. Can you explain why someone would need to send such personal information before even receiving a job offer?

    The program sounds amazing, but I am hesitant to apply for these two reasons. In Canada, employers are never allowed to ask for a photo, this is seen as very unprofessional.

  11. michelle says:

    hi! love your blog but i was wondering if it was possible for someone to teach in thailand without a college degree? more specifically someone who is currently working on a college degree but would like to spend some time teaching abroad before finishing up that degree.

  12. Gal says:

    Hi,

    Can you please advise me as to how to find a job in a summer camp in Thailand? I would like to see if I would like to become a teacher.

    Many thanks,

    Gal

  13. Hi, This is an interesting read. I am currently teaching in Thailand and have renewed my contract for the next semester. I have around 2 months off for the summer and would like to continue making some money to survive on during that time. Can you tell me how to find paying english camp work? Thanks
    Louise

  14. At the start of the article you talk about camps in Thailand that are good for a backpacker to earn cash on their way through Bangkok. This is the kind of thing I want to do this summer… but how do you find/contact these camps? I've been searching for days but can't find anything like this that lasts for just a week or two. I would appreciate the help!

  15. Shelle says:

    I have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and 20 years teaching experience. I begin my TESOL Certification program at our local college Fall 2016 and finish Summer 2017. I would be very interested in a short-term (Summer Camp) teaching opportunity. I have a husband and two young children I wouldn’t want to leave for more than a couple of months. Is it too late to begin pursuing a position for Summer of 2016…before I actually start my TESOL Cert. classes?

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Marshelle! I’m excited to hear you’re enrolled in a TESOL program and wanting to get started in Thailand. I think it’s a great place to get your feet wet. However, the only summer camp I knew of (and thus wrote about here) is 1) now defunct and 2) the Thai summer doesn’t actually with ours (assuming you’re in the States). However, if you’re interested in volunteering in May or July ( you can stay for 1-4 months), I can connect you with two great programs, either teaching monks in a Buddhist temple, or children on a beach in the south. See here: http://teachenglishesl.com/volunteer-central-thailand/

      And feel free to email me with questions at info@ teachenglishesl.com

  16. Nadia says:

    Hi Jessica,
    What a wonderful blog; thanks for sharing.

    I am 40, CELTA qualified and have 8 years of Tefl teaching experience. I loved it, was referred to as the resource person in my school and was quite flexible in my teaching style, but stopped teaching for a number of years in order to travel and pursue other interests.

    I am thinking of teaching again, but now I feel a bit nervous of fully getting back into it since I have been out of the industry for some years. I would actually like to work abroad, perhaps a 6-month contract.

    Could you make any recommendations?

    Thanks in advance.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Nadia. Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by! You sound like an ideal candidate for the paid volunteer program I represent on TeachEnglishESL.com in Colombia, South America. You can do a 5- or 6-month contract, starting again in January. Alternatively, you could consider volunteering, or teaching short-term in Thailand. I’ll send you more information in an email 🙂

      Regards,
      Jessica

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  18. Jenny Dixon says:

    Hi Jessica,

    You mentioned that some agencies keep a list of substitute teachers. How would I go about getting a substitute job like that?
    I’m interested in teaching English in South East Asia but I’m not sure where would be the right fit for me and I’m reluctant to sign a long contract in case I don’t like the job or the lifestyle.
    I have a CELTA certificate and a few months of experience with both adult and young learners.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Jenny.

      Unfortunately substitute gigs are hard to secure before you actually arrive in country since they work on an as-needed basis and through connections. However, it’s possible to do short-term (one semester or sometimes less) contracts in Southeast Asia, so you can still get the feel for it without a long commitment if you can do 3-5 months. I’m mostly familiar with Thailand but I know there are lots of positions in Vietnam and Cambodia too.

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