So over the last couple of years or so, I’ve developed a wanderlust and passion for traveling but I definitely did not figure everything out completely on my own or make these decisions on a whim! For my study abroad and teach abroad experiences, I went through programs which were extremely helpful in assisting me and figuring out all of the confusing/complicated details! They also went above and beyond to make my experiences as wonderful as they were, so my experiences definitely would not have been what they were without them.
Throughout all of the pre-departure processes and traveling, I also did a lot of research to figure out which program I wanted to do and I also learned a lot from fellow travelers. I think it’s always good to do your own research and figure out what’s right for you, but I know that it can be very overwhelming when thinking about traveling or moving to another country and figuring out all the little details! All in all, I found that through doing research, going through programs, figuring out some details ahead of time, and actually learning some about the actual traveling and living abroad experience was not nearly as daunting! So anyways, I wanted to share here some of the different resources I have used and/or heard of through my experiences traveling! (I’ll be updating this over time as I’m sure I’ll continue to find more resources)
These are a couple of the more broad websites which can direct you to some more specific programs (these include study abroad, degrees abroad, teaching abroad, work abroad, intern abroad, volunteer programs, TESOL/TEFL courses, etc.)
There are of course countless study abroad programs out there, and if you are at a university it would probably be most beneficial to go to your international studies office and speak with an advisor there about the different opportunities available for studying abroad! They should have plenty of resources, brochures, and people who have had experiences studying through these programs or in certain countries. Also, attending study abroad fairs at your school are great ways to connect with people and learn about different programs offered. Most of the programs I looked into included not only the homestay, tuition, meals provided, but also excursions and social events with your group.
The most important things to consider would be:
1. Where are you most interested in traveling?
2. If you have no idea where you want to go, what are your interests in relation to travel (landscapes/nature, architecture/city, people/culture, language experience, etc.)
3. What is your major and what are the courses required for your major? (make sure you can get credit at your home university for the courses you take while abroad)
4. What is your budget (some country programs are much more expensive)? Are there scholarships/contests available to reduce costs?
5. Do you want to stay in a homestay or apartment type situation? (I personally recommend homestay because it gives you a comfortable environment/”family” and you get to experience the culture, food, and language firsthand!)
So all of these factors come together in helping you decide what program will be best for you. I know that I had absolutely no idea, so I did a ton of research on different programs, countries, and checked to see which countries offered the courses that would transfer back to my university towards my major.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong as long as you do a little research with your program. Anyways these are a few of the programs that I looked into most in my own process:
- CIS Abroad: I am biased for CIS Abroad because I ultimately chose to study abroad through their program. They have programs in countries all over the world from Australia to China to Ecuador! Of course, I studied abroad in Costa Rica and absolutely loved my experience through CIS Abroad. Their programs include year-long, semester, winter break (1 month), and summer programs, as well as internships. Depending on the country and program, the prices and time frames vary but I really liked my program as it was a little more affordable than some of the others – and also they offered either 12 or 16-week programs. I opted for the 16-week program which included an extra intensive Spanish course before the beginning of the typical semester.
- CEA: This is another great agency to study abroad which offers similar types of programs to CIS, and also has programs in many different countries all over the world. Many of the students that I studied abroad with at my university in Costa Rica came through CEA and I’m sure they had an equally amazing experience as me through their program!
- ISA: This is yet another agency (and one of the larger ones) which is very popular and has all sorts of programs available in lots of different countries! Many people at my university in Costa Rica also came through this program and I’m sure they had a great experience as well.
Many people (myself included before I started traveling) do not realize just how many opportunities there are for working abroad! There are plenty of Teach Abroad programs pretty much in any non-English speaking country which are easily available to us native English speakers all the time – and you are getting PAID! So if you are overwhelmed by the cost of traveling and want to experience a more long-term experience in another country and great working opportunity, it’s a really great opportunity to teach abroad. And no, you don’t have to have a background in teaching to do this. Most countries require a Bachelor’s degree in any subject area, and many of the better-paying jobs will require you to have a TESOL/TEFL/CELTA Certification (I’ll get more into this later). Anyways, the certification and this process is not as overwhelming as it may sound (or at least it doesn’t have to be). You can find teaching jobs in Thailand without going through any sort of program and getting directly hired through an agency or school but for me the thought of figuring everything out on my own was very overwhelming and stressful, so I opted to go through a program! Anyways here are some of the resources available for those looking to Teach Abroad
- Greenheart Travel: This is the program I went through for my Teach abroad experience in Thailand and I loved it! It was one of most highly rated programs from everything I had read, and I had no problems with them! They were very good with the entire pre-departure process and keeping everyone informed and providing extra information/webinar sessions for us to ask questions. Through travel arrangements, visa application process, and creating a community from the beginning, I was very happy with this program! As I was not TESOL certified (as many people are not prior to teaching abroad), they also offer the 3-week intensive TESOL Certification course on-site in Thailand before you start working! One of the other aspects about Greenheart Travel played a part in my decision to choose their program is that they offer either 6-month or 1 year programs (most only offer 1 year, but it’s good to have the option to a 6 month commitment before signing on to a whole year right off the bat). In addition to teaching abroad, they offer a ton of other programs in many countries including volunteer, internship, high school, and homestay programs!
- CIEE: This is another popular program for teaching in Thailand, which also offers the option for TEFL certification prior to teaching. They have a lot of really great programs available as well. However, in terms of TESOL they only offer online courses for Thailand (which may or may not be better for you – depends on your priorities). In addition to teaching, they offer programs for high school or college study abroad/ other work abroad programs! This is definitely a great program with a ton of different programs as well (my second choice for teaching in Thailand)!
- Ajarn.com: This is a site specifically for teaching jobs in Thailand. Through this site, you can direct access to jobs at schools in specific locations, with salaries and information given. This is a well-known site, and a great site to use if you decide to go it on your own and directly find a job (rather than going through a program which figures out the details for you)!
- Dave’s ESL Cafe: This is one of the most popular sites for finding ESL jobs abroad. There is a ton of information on this site on jobs all over the world, information on certifications, resources for teachers and students, etc. Definitely a good site to check out if you’re looking for jobs in ESL and/or other resources!
TESOL/TEFL/TESL/CELTA, etc… Certifications:
So yeah, there’s a lot of different names for these certifications, but basically they are all certifications geared toward you teaching English as to non-native English speakers. I don’t know all the specific differences but from what I’ve learned the TESOL, TESL, and TEFL are somewhat similar. The CELTA I believe is much more in-depth. However, it is VERY IMPORTANT to do your research when deciding on a TESOL certification. Even if you are only planning to teach for a short period of time in another country, it is important that you consider which course you want to take. There are many options for very cheap online courses out there, and there are much more expensive but reasonable options. You will get what you pay for, so if you pay $100 for a course it probably will not prepare you adequately so it’s important to choose the right course that will benefit you! This certification is also something that will be good for life and able to be used in any country throughout the world, so if you are going to invest in it consider that it is something you could use again in the future!
- International TEFL Academy: This is a very good resource for finding out more information about exactly what the certification is and answer any other questions you may have. This also provides more information on choosing the right TESOL course so that you do not get gipped! And of course, they offer certification, as this is the most reputable company to get certified through!
- Certfications through other programs (such as Greenheart Travel or CIEE)
Online Teaching/Tutoring: Something else that I discovered when I started looking into teaching abroad was the significant amount of opportunities available for tutoring or teaching English online through different platforms/Skype. I have been doing online tutoring for about a year, and I have worked with a couple different companies but have learned about so many companies that you can have a legitimate high paying part-time job! There is so much flexibility with these jobs so they are great for anyone’s schedule. Depending on the company and their requirements, you can work as often or as little as you’d like! So these jobs work really well if you are solely traveling for a long period of time and want to earn some extra income. The main requirements for these are usually a college degree (but not always), a good computer with high-quality Internet connection and an energetic attitude! These jobs range in age level as well as some are focused on very young kids, while others are primarily adult learners practicing conversation or Business English! Overall, I highly recommend looking into tutoring online as this is something I actually really enjoy doing as a part time job!
- Eigox: I have been working with Eigox for over a year now! There is not really a requirement for hours per week but they do expect you to have some availability every week so it’s good to inform them if you are on vacation or taking a break from tutoring! This site is based in Japan so all of the students are Japanese and through my experience, the vast majority are adult learners. The majority of my tutoring consists of casual conversation practice and many of my students are very advanced in their English skills (so I don’t always feel like I’m teaching so much)! However, I also teach children and teens of all ages! Basically, you can set your availability for when you are open and students can book lesson slots within a certain amount of time (which you set) before the lesson time. This is certainly not the most popular site, but it offers me the flexibility that I like, and I have had great experiences with all of my students.
- VIP Kid: This one is probably one of the most well-known online tutoring sites! They are based in China and are much more specific to young children. From all I’ve heard, it’s a great site which offers very good pay (and opportunity for increases) and a more set schedule (only depending on your time zone – you may be expected to work very early in the morning!
- Golden Voice English: This is another site working with kids of elementary age and is also based in China. I’ve heard good things about this site, and they also offer good pay.
- Funbulous/JiuQu English: Another site working with Chinese elementary aged children! Also a good site, and this site generally has an instructor teaching multiple students in the “classroom” (which could be anywhere between 1 and 6). They also offer pretty decent pay!
- DaDaABC: And here is yet another site based in China working with children! They offer high pay rates as well.
- Cambly: This is another site which I also tutor for, which offers extreme flexibility! Through Cambly, you tutor students from all over the world from South Korea to Saudi Arabia to Mexico. A large portion of students are from Saudi Arabia on this site. Anyways, with this site you are generally working with adult students but sometimes kids as well. You can set “Priority hours” to be available in which you are online to answer any calls which come in. There’s no set schedule, so you can basically work whenever you feel like it!
- There’s so many more… do your own research to figure out which one(s) best for you!
- Workaway: Workaway is a volunteer based site where you can find work in virtually any country around the globe in exchange for housing/meals. Generally, the work is part-time and not overly stressful. The work could range from working in a hostel/bar to working on a farm to tutoring English, really anything! But it’s a really great resouce which I found out about from a fellow traveler. I have yet to do a workaway program but I’m sure I will in the future!
Language Learning & Helpful Travel Apps:
- Hello Talk This is a great app where you can communicate with people in another country in order to exchange languages! You can help teach them English and they can teach you their language. I used this prior to going to Thailand to learn some Thai language from people in Thailand. When I first joined, I was overflooded with messages from people in Thailand wanting to practice English. It was really cool to get to interact with people and get a feel for the language and also learn valuable information about the country and culture prior to going!
- WeSpeke: This is another great website/app in which you can learn or practice your language skills! I use this app for learning Spanish. You can send messages, make calls, or video chats with others to teach one another your languages! A completely free way to learn and practice another language, it’s great – technology is amazing!
- Google Translate: Of course, you probably know this one, but there is a lot of new technology on Google Translate which is very useful and you may not realize! You can take a photo of something with text and it will translate the words into English. You can also say something in your language and it will translate into the language you need. Of course, I recommend learning as much as you can of the language yourself but this is defintely a necessary back-up option!
- Rome2Rio: This is a great app which can tell you how to get from anywhere to anywhere! So if you want to look up different routes for traveling from place to place, it’s a great way to do that. It gives you a lot of information on prices and where to buy tickets as well.
- Hostelworld: This is the popular site for finding hostels and places to stay! Of course you will find a ton of information – pictures, rating, prices, information about amenities, rooms, extra services offered, etc. here. This will be your go-to and a necessity if you plan on doing any long-term backpacking/traveling!
- Trip Advisor: Always a good place to look to get general information and find the top tourist spots to hit in a place!
- Travel Blogs! Some of the travel blogs that I have looked at are: This American Girl and Nomadic Matt! There’s a ton of travel blogs out there that exist so its always great to read travelers personal perspectives on places and find the more unique spots.