For Caterina Marie Herrington, teaching English abroad has proven the ticket to a world of exciting travel and cultural opportunities.
Over the past seven years, the native of San Antonio, Texas has lived and worked in Mexico, South Korea and Turkey.
Currently based in Istanbul, where she teaches at a private university, Herrington loves having the opportunity to "live [overseas] and travel, have more vacation time than in a traditional job, and learn new languages and meet diverse people."
Your first step towards working in a foreign classroom is to get certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). Most English-language schools also require teachers to have a bachelor's degree. Herrington, who is TEFL-certified, holds a bachelor's degree in the psychology of organizational development and master's degrees in organizational development and teaching.
You may also get teaching pointers from a school. Another veteran teacher, Michael Fad, who has lived and worked in Japan for nearly 15 years, was initially trained at an Eikaiwa, or English language conversation school, run by Aeon.
"All of the foreign teachers had to go through the process," says Fad, who holds a master's in education and previously taught high school social studies in the U.S. "There were also experienced teachers who helped us with the methods the company used."
The big move
You typically will need a visa for teaching English abroad. Schools will "sponsor" teachers by verifying they will be working for a certain number of hours a week and earning a set amount, and may even foot the bill for the paperwork. Salaries vary, with English-language teachers in Japan, for example, typically earning $2,000 to $4,000 a month.
"It is far easier to move if you are young and single," Fad says. "Most of us got our visas, and came with one or two suitcases, and took it from there. It was not a difficult logistical thing to move to Japan at all."
Although some schools also may provide a token amount for housing expenses and even subsidize a teacher's rent, such arrangements are specific to each situation.
"Some schools help set up housing for your prior to arrival, and others generally leave you on your own to sort it out," Herrington says. "It varies greatly from school-to-school and the market expectations."
You will find the classroom workload depends on the country and the school setting. Fad's current job teaching social studies in English at an independent high school in Okinawa is more demanding than previous stints at language schools, colleges and universities.
"I teach a variety of classes to different age groups and with different levels of English," says the Philadelphia area native. "This means that there is a great deal of preparation time."
Fad's responsibilities also include coaching students for English speech contests, essay competitions and debates, as well as accompanying them to events on Saturdays.
For Herrington, her teaching load has varied, depending on the school and age and commitment of her students.
"Proper planning is vital to keep students motivated and engaged," she says. "Students often aren't as motivated to learn English as their parents would like them to be. These are the same problems you experience anywhere or with any subject."
You are likely to reap benefits from teaching English abroad that extend well beyond the classroom experience.
According to Fad, "the biggest advantages of living and working in Japan are the respect given to teachers, the kindness of the people who live here and the safety. The students are not all angels; however, it is much easier to teach here. The students follow what you do, and they listen. In general, people in Japan get along very well."
Fad knows of what he speaks: He met his wife, Yuka, in Japan, and has been married for more than 11 years.
But he also has taken the opportunity to partake in Japanese culture, including learning kendo, or Japanese fencing, and iaido, or sword work.
"You begin to understand the Japanese penchant for things like flower arranging, the tea ceremony and martial arts," he says. "These things keep you going in a nation, where there is a great deal of pressure to perform and conform, and are what feed the spirit."