Thinking about moving abroad to teach English? In this post by Zoe MacKenzie, you'll learn what it's like to teach English abroad from 3 TEFL teachers – living in Poland, South Korea, and Myanmar.
Teaching English Abroad: 3 TEFL Teacher Stories
What it's really like to TEFL abroad: TEFL.org’s Teacher Stories
Uprooting your life to pursue a TEFL abroad opportunity without any real idea of what to expect is daunting, understandably. However, in the aim of easing any concerns and apprehensions you may have, TEFL.org have put together some of our own teacher stories to give you an idea of what to expect from your TEFL experience!
In this post, you'll learn about teaching English in Poland, South Korea, and Myanmar.
- Teach English in Poland: Katie (jump to section)
- Teach English in South Korea: Sarah (jump to section)
- Teach English in Myanmar: Holly (jump to section)
Prefer teaching online? Here's how to become an online English teacher.
Teaching English in Poland: Katie
Katie's Story: TEFL Abroad in Bielsko-Biala, Poland
Katie initially discovered her love for travelling on a volunteering trip to Ecuador in 2014, where she helped out in local schools and villages. From this experience, Katie realised just how much travelling enriches your life, now living by the quote ‘collect moments, not things’.
After completing a university degree, Katie soon realised that she wasn’t quite ready for your typical 9-5 job and needed to feed her hunger for more travel – and this is where she discovered TEFL. After undertaking a 120-hour combined online and classroom course, her next step was choosing where she wanted to teach from the multitude of TEFL destinations available.
Katie now teaches in the small city of Bielski-Biala in Poland also known as ‘Little Vienna’ – just an hour away from the lively city of Krakow. With the charming architecture, fascinating museums, and beautiful lakes of Bielski-Biala, Katie says that she ‘couldn’t have asked to live in a better location’.
In regard to teaching, Katie has taught a wide variety of people, from adults to children, groups of people to one-on-ones and companies.
Whilst enjoying getting to know all of her students and teaching people with different levels of English – Katie says that living independently in a different culture has given her so much confidence and a realisation of both her capabilities and limitations, believing that she is now a more rounded and knowledgeable person as a result.
Katie now hopes to continue her TEFL experience by teaching all across the world for many years to come!
To learn more about Katie’s story, check out her vlog’s on YouTube.
Teach English in South Korea: Sarah
Thinking of sharing your TEFL experience with your partner? Sarah did exactly this and moved to Gwangju in South Korea with her husband to teach in an elementary school:
Sarah made the big decision back in February to move to South Korea with her husband – leaving their hectic and stressful jobs back in the UK. Having quickly adjusted to their new life and roles as English teachers, Sarah and her husband are already planning to extend their trip from 2 years to 5 years!
The school which Sarah and her husband currently work in consists of 6-40-minute lessons a day, in which they usually take 2 or 3 of with classes typically being made up of 10-15 students – who Sarah notes are generally very well-behaved, making the lessons really enjoyable. The teaching day finishes at 3:10 pm – providing plenty of time for lesson planning until the end of the working day at 4:30 pm.
Fortunately, there is lots of flexibility in the curriculum, meaning as long as certain areas of the textbook are covered by set points in the year, then teachers are able to try out other fun ways of teaching. Sarah’s favourite part of the day is lunchtime as they have been able to try lots of different foods from the school canteen, which they would have never thought to try otherwise.
Outside of work, Sarah and her husband enjoy a great social life – eating out, drinking and shopping. Also making the time to attend Korean classes every Tuesday night – this has been a great way for them to meet other people who have just arrived in South Korea, whilst allowing them to also communicate better with Korean friends and local shopkeepers.
A huge advantage of teaching English in Korea is that your rent, internet, gas, and electric bills are all covered by the school – making living costs very low – this has meant that Sarah and her husband have been able to pay off their debts back home in the UK whilst enjoying a comfortable lifestyle in Korea.
Sarah notes that along with the culture, the scenery and the wonderful people, another great aspect of living in Korea, is the close proximity of other places that they plan to visit, ‘we’re planning to spend a few days in Laos in August as well as hopefully visiting Hong Kong and Shenzhen in January and squeezing in a long weekend in Tokyo at some point’.
If you want to ask Sarah any questions about her experience teaching in Korea or just want to follow her journey, take a look at her blog (not public anymore).
Teach English in Myanmar: Holly
Holly is into her second-year TEFL contract in Southern Shan State, Myanmar, teaching pre-school and running a drama club:
Holly lives and TEFL in a small but budding town in Taunggyi, teaching grades 7-10 – a change from the language centres, summer schools and public schools she previously worked in, in different areas of Asia and Europe.
Fortunately, the funding in Holly’s school is more flexible, meaning she is able to dream bigger and explore different methods of teaching.
Holly says she feels really encouraged and supported by the school which allows her to be the best teacher she can be, noting that the students are wonderful, funny, kind and smart – with their level of English also being incredible!
More reading: Cost of living in Myanmar
Holly has been lucky to be welcomed into a kind and friendly community, whose locals are keen to show her their unique culture. Whilst in Myanmar, Holly has sampled interesting foods and explored the spectacular beaches and waterfalls – making use of the areas cheap and accessible transport links.
However, there is, like anywhere aspects of Myanmar which Holly has found less than pleasant. Men can be inappropriate to women, this can range from taxi drivers making unwanted comments to cases as serious as rape.
Holly notes of another culture shock – the mistreatment of animals – although this is not something that anyone admits to – it does happen and is obviously shocking.
Still, Holly describes Myanmar on a whole as ‘a dream’, noting that the majority of people really are brilliant.
Holly describes Myanmar as her favourite home so far – this has been down to a number of contributing factors, the breath-taking scenery, her fantastic group of friends and neighbours, but most importantly – the immeasurable experience and skills she has gained as a result, allowing her to grow as both a teacher and person.
Feeling inspired by our teacher stories? Head over to TEFL.org.uk to find out more about our courses and how you can create your own story!