teaching in thailand

Teach Abroad Myth Revealed

Teach English Abroad

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers and travelers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog at the beginning of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with Dean at dean@reachtoteachrecruiting.com, and he will let you know how you can start participating!

Teach Abroad Myth Revealed


When I first started looking into teaching English abroad, I would sit up late nights in my bed, wading through the sea of Google info. It was one of those pipe dream reactions, where one article would inevitably lead to another website, or blog, or photo story or forum, each subsequently heightening my excitement for this journey, but none providing the answers I needed to actually do it.

I was surprised that the most common advice I found was to take a chance, go out on a huge limb, and go seek a job only after arriving in my country of choice.

I didn’t take that advice.

teach english in Thailand

My high school students in Thailand

I wasn’t brave enough to fly to a country I knew little about, where I didn’t speak the language, and I didn’t trust that I could walk into a school and find a job with no prior teaching experience. Plus, I didn’t have the money to take a leap of faith, and fail.

Now, after having taught in Thailand and China, where each position was arranged beforehand, I’m still going to argue against all those brave souls who told me to do otherwise. I consider myself fairly brave, and as much as I hate to commit to a plan when I’m traveling, securing an income is an entirely different story. It could take weeks or months to land a job, even if you’ve arrived during the popular hiring season, and that’s assuming you’ve made it past all the other barriers.

teach english in China

My Chinese students painted my face for Halloween.

In Thailand, for example, not speaking the language might prove difficult since, in my experience, many school directors outside of Bangkok don’t speak enough English to explain the intricacies of the position. Also, if it’s a school that hasn’t previously employed native English speaking teachers, they might not know what it takes to secure a proper working permit, which could leave you susceptible to working illegally, among other issues like infrequent paydays, or none at all.

Showing up uninvited also means you run the risk of looking like a backpacker. There’s nothing wrong with looking like a backpacker…if you’re backpacking. But schools are looking for reliable teachers who dress and act professionally, and who are willing to fulfill all the requirements of their contract, not just make a few dollars and then leave.

teach english in Thailand

Thai preschoolers dancing Gangnam Style

If you’re a seasoned traveler who understands the way of the world, or even a repeat ESL teacher, you’ll likely disregard my advice in favor of adventure. But if you’re a rookie, like we all are at one time, I say ease your mind and secure a job before you go. It’s easy to do with recruiting companies like mine (shameless plug! – Teach English: ESL), and sites like Dave’s ESL Cafe and Teach Away and Go Overseas. Really, the opportunities are plenty.

With so many resources at your disposal (as long as you know where to look, unfortunately), why would you not secure a position before going abroad?

If you’d like to talk to me about how to get started, contact me here.

Teach Abroad Myth Revealed 
Written by:Jessica J. Hill


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