Teaching Traveling: Is it worth it to take an online TEFL certification course to travel by teaching abroad? Here’s an interview with a young woman named Laura Mcloughlin that dives into her experience with exactly this. Laura, tell us about your background.
Laura: I am from Nottingham, England and have taught English for 5 years now. I used to work at the University of Nottingham and got tired of the grind. I wanted to travel and experience new cultures, and although England is a wonderful place, it didn’t fulfill everything I wanted in life.
I had spent the earlier half of 2011 travelling around South East Asia with my boyfriend. We didn’t really have a plan or purpose: just to be enlightened by new cultures, scenery and ways of life. I loved it so much I knew I wanted to return, but next time with a purpose.
I mulled over my options for a return visit, and after receiving a recommendation from a girl on a bus between the cities of Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam, I decided South Korea, the “Hermit Kingdom.” as it’s often called (although I felt more of a hermit being despicably unaware of anything Korean, even the demarcation between the North and South), would be an extremely attractive option. So post-travelling I returned to England and signed up for an online course to be certified to teach English abroad.
I was a bit scared to start teaching as I really didn’t know anything about it, but I completed my TEFL certificate online with a course called Global TEFL, and that provided me with the confidence to teach.
TT: Interesting! How did your transition from the online course to an in-person teaching job go? Did the course help you get hired?
L: The course did indeed help me get a job, and my first teaching experience was in Asia, where I was hired teaching girls at Gimhae Girls Middle School in Gimhae, South Korea. It was a great experience
The students were kind, hilarious and hormonal; teenagers are the same the world over. The regular teaching schedule is built on a foundation of memorizing grammar and improving listening skills. The students could write and understand, but struggled to produce English sentences themselves.
They soon opened up, however, and dug deep down into that unopened box of vocabulary they’d subconsciously stored up since third grade of elementary school. Finding the key to that box often involved sweets! Haha. Beyond candy, though, I managed to create relationships and build bonds with many students that I’ll forever cherish.
The bonds I cemented with students and teachers were so unforgettable that I’m still in touch with many of them now. The same goes for the expat community I connected with in South Korea. This community is so important when your usual support network is miles, countries, and even continents away. I made wonderful friends from New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, America and England, all of whom made my stay incredibly special!
TT: Love it. Tell us more about the travels you were able to take while teaching abroad.
L: The fantastic pay-to-living expenses ratio meant even though I planned to save, I could still afford to travel and explore a ridiculous amount, too. I enjoyed a temple stay in the mountains at Haeinsa, a New Zealand wine festival on the 81st floor of a hotel overlooking Haeundae Harbour, sludging in natural mud at the annual Boryeong Mudfest, and drinking libations at my first ever baseball game.
I ate out at least four times a week: BBQ, live octopus and everything weird and wonderful in between (occasionally ordering the McDelivery scooters to drop off a Bulgogi Burger)! In the winter, I skied in Pyeongchang (not to be confused with the capital of the non-worldwide event hosting North), a venue for the 2018 Olympics, and in the summer I lounged on the bustling beaches.
Beyond all of this, the location and financial benefits of teaching abroad provided me with a fantastic opportunity to travel. During my stay I visited Taiwan (twice), Japan and the Philippines, and went onto to spend two and a half months in India!
TT: Amazing. How did you find these opportunities, and how did you find the money to fund this travel?
L: I found the Global TEFL course through an online search, and after I completed the course, they helped me find a job through a recruiter in South Korea.
I had some funds saved up after I graduated from university, but I had an offer that included some perks and my salary.
TT: Nice. Tell us some moments from your time teaching abroad that were particularly heart-warming and memorable.
L: I can recollect Class 3-3 throwing Kyeongseon and a teacher’s day party with cake and balloons. A first grade student, Min Kyeong, imitated my jumper and procured an exact copy. Jung Hyeon, a third grade student left a note on my desk declaring she’d finished Jane Eyre, “England’s book” in one day! Jun Hyeok’s Mum embroidered my initials on a homemade pencil case, and Seung Min always apologised for his bad English, perfectly. I went from addressing them as merely “students,” to “my students.”
TT: So beautiful. How have your travels impacted you?
L: The bonds and friendships created will be with me forever. I will miss my students… and the food, too! I learned more than what my students may have learned from me.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
L: I would say that having a TEFL certificate does open doors and also provides you with an opportunity to travel and experience life in other countries. The TEFL course I took provided me with training I needed, and the support to get a job abroad.
TT: Thanks, Laura! Readers, are you interested in online TEFL certification? Teaching Traveling has partnered with Global TEFL to offer you 35% off (click to see) a wide range of TEFL courses. I hope this opportunity helps your teaching traveling endeavors!
This article contains affiliate links which provide a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. In fact, they give a discount to you! Happy travels!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is National Board Certified Teacher from Boston who has been a full-time public school educator since 2003. She launched Teaching Traveling in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and additionally runs Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following on social media with the links below!