Guest Post by Sean Lords
Gearing up for a year of teaching abroad can be both a stressful and exciting time in your life. On one hand, you are preparing for what will probably be one of the most memorable times of your life, but on the other, you are getting ready to leave everything you have come to be familiar with behind.
I remember the nervous/anxious panic that fluttered inside of me in the weeks leading up to my departure. There were goodbyes to be said, bills to get in order and documents to be procured.
While destinations like South Korea, China and Japan are quite popular among ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers, locations throughout Europe are gaining increased attention for teachers due to their rich architectural history and culture.
I set my sights on Prague.
Getting everything in order before that day of departure is an integral step along your jet-setting journey.
Below are some of the items and documents that you will need to have ready before you board that plane for your teaching gig overseas.
Get Your TEFOL/TESOL
Most European countries require the prospective teacher to have taken and passed a TEFL or TESOL course either online or in a classroom setting.
A TESOL certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or a TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Langauge) is essentially a certified document that states you have the competency and training to teach adults or children the ins and outs of the English language.
These courses can range anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the frequency of classes. The classes are often quite rigorous and by no means should be taken lightly.
The first week of such a course is often spent reviewing grammar and language rules. The rest of the lessons then pave the way to practical teaching methods with the final weeks of classes seeing each teacher giving a mock lesson to a class that than critiques the information both on delivery and factualness.
A little stressful right?
You can put your worry aside however, as every individual in the class is in the same boat. Each student is going to be just as nervous as the next and trust me, upon your first solo lesson overseas, this is going to look like nothing.
Once you have passed the class, you’ll get your certificate. Schools you are interested in teaching at will generally require either a scanned copy or in some cases, the original certificate by mail.
Grades and Diploma
Aside from your TEFL/TESOL most schools will also require some sort of proof that you have in fact graduated from a four-year college. For this you’ll need two kinds of documents — your official transcripts and your diploma.
Getting your diploma should be relatively easy as it should be located somewhere in your home. It has been my experience that diplomas are mailed via certified mail. This step can be a little scary. You are in essence sending away the proof that you attended school for four years to another school and individual of which you barely know outside of an email conversation.
You can put your fear aside as I have yet to hear of anyone who has lost their diploma through this process. A good school will reimburse you for any charges you incur during this process.
Your official transcripts can be a little bit more work. Most of the time, a university or college will have a pretty easy way to request these transcripts. But word of warning, these request often costs a little bit of money, on average, about $40 so be prepared to put in your debit/credit card information when making the request.
Once you have the transcripts in your possession, you will need to get them notarized or, in fancy government jargon, apostilled.
An apostilled document is generally handled by the Secretary of State and shows that the document you are sending abroad to your prospective school is in fact verified and legitimate. It’s important that you account for the amount of time that this process can take. If you live in your state’s capital city, this usually only means a short drive down to the offices and a 15 minute wait. But living some distance away will have you sending it again, via certified mail, and waiting for the process to go through.
Schools have a tendency to want to rush the teacher over fairly quickly as a vacancy in their ranks usually results in a loss of income for the school. Make sure you are crystal clear with your recruiter to avoid any miscommunication about when all of your paperwork will be completed.
Background Check and Visa Interview
Most schools will also require that you pass some sort of background check.
While it is up to that country’s government whether you will need a state or national check, the Czech Republic currently does not officially require one for visa privileges. Having said that, schools can bend these rules however they like and it is not uncommon for them to request that you follow through with one.
After applying for a visa, you may be asked to come in for an interview with that country’s consulate. This can be done over the phone, in person and sometimes via mail. Check with your school or your recruiter to see which one (if any) will suffice.
Depending on the status of the school you are applying with, you may need other documents. Schools with more accreditation and notoriety generally have higher hiring qualifications.
It is not uncommon to be asked for:
- A cover letter
- Professional photos
- International Resume
- Medical forms
Also, it should go without saying that any form of international travel will require a valid passport, so don’t forget that along the way.
Laws constantly shift and change, so check with your recruiting services, your local government and intended school of employment to make sure you have covered all your bases and your year abroad will be the best that it can be.
After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed his bags and left for Seoul, South Korea where he lived for three years teaching English abroad. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master’s degree.
judith moy says
To add some updated info to Sean’s entry: in Europe, it is virtually impossible for an American passport holder, regardless of qualifications, to land a full-time EFL job with benefits and long-term contract. That’s because Europe already has a more than ample pool of highly qualified candidates with EU passports. Also, tThere are lots of English native speaking backpackers working in Czech Republic at language schools at a low hourly rate with no benefits and often involves extensive hops on the metro. Living expenses are also not that attractive so one is fortunate to break even. In other words, it is not a career where you can save for retirement, not in Czech Rep. Candidates are alsoin stiff competition with a flood of Americans, Canadians, etc. armed with Master’s degrees or Ph.Ds in TESOL and Applied Linguistics plus years of tertiary experience who are leaving their native countries for greener pastures. The big bucks are in ME (where they are also downsizing on the perks) but again, those are the institutions that require a related M.A. plus 3 years+ post M.A. experience teaching academic skills. Coupled with the fact that C.R. boasts its own well-educated, highly qualified English professors, there is little need to hire “foreigners” for those coveted contract positions. As Scott also mentioned, though, things are always changing so its best to keep abreast of the most recent posts.
judith moy says
How old is too old to teach overseas? See the list at this link:
PS I tried to apply online as an EFL instructor to various institutions in Panama in attempts to secure a position prior to arriving there. Thus far, it appears to be true, as imparted from others in the same situation, language schools prefer candidates to apply in person, although a few universities provide an online link for highly qualified candidates holding the M.A. or Ph.D. in specialized subjects and for which there is a contract. Best wishes!