Teaching English Abroad in Your Gap Year

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Have you just graduated from high school or university?

Are you unsure of what you want to study at university or where you want to work?

Do you want to take a break from the books and the office and travel the world before settling down?

Then you’re probably already thinking about taking a gap year.

What is a  gap year?

A gap year comes in a few different flavours. The one option is to take a gap year between high school and university. The other option is to take a gap year once you have graduated with a degree but before you start a job. The third option is one which is taking a mid-career sabbatical or a break between jobs or careers.

Young woman embarking on a gap year

The rise of the adult gap year

The so-called adult gap year is becoming more and more popular. Travelling is easier than ever, technology keeps us all connected, and our lives are increasingly flexible. We understand that a good work-life balance is important and we are not willing to sacrifice our mental health for the sake of a job. This is why people are breaking the cycle of all-work-and-no-play. The new motto now seems to be: If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. 

And we’re here for it. 

Gap years are an opportunity to take a break from “the real world” and live the life you really want to live. If you’re unhappy in your daily life, maybe it’s time to make a change. The beauty of a gap year is that it’s flexi – it can be 3 months or a year or forever. It is enough time to reflect, reassess your priorities, and make an informed choice about your future. 

As you might guess, our top pick for a gap year is teaching English as a foreign language abroad.

Why should you teach English abroad?

There are so many reasons you should teach English abroad. It might be easier to tell you why you shouldn’t!

Jokes aside, there really are a handful of good reasons why you should teach English abroad:

  • It’s a great way to earn money and travel the world.
  • You can experience a foreign country like a local more than a tourist.
  • You will meet people from all over the world.
  • It’s a flexible job so you can move around whenever you want.
  • It gives you skills which you can transfer to other jobs.
  • It could be the first step to a career you’d never considered before.

But let’s look specifically at how you can teach English abroad in your gap year.

teaching English abroad is a great idea for a gap year

Teaching English abroad in your gap year

The first step you’ll need to take is to do a TEFL course. Do your homework and find a TEFL course that is not only reputable and internationally recognised but suitable for you and your needs.

Your TEFL course can be done full-time or part-time, face-to-face, online, or a combination of both. This means that it’s possible to do the TEFL course while you are still studying or even working. You can study in your free time, which can be evenings and weekends. Rather than binge-watching the latest season of Stranger Things (okay, maybe afterwards), spend a couple of hours with your books instead.

Read more: 7 Things to Consider When Choosing a TEFL Course

Once you have your TEFL qualification under your belt, you can start looking for a job. If you have a degree, TEFL jobs are plentiful. If you don’t have a degree, it’s still very possible to find a job but you need to be a bit more selective in the countries that you apply for jobs in. For example, in order to get a work permit to teach in China, you need to have a degree, regardless of what field your degree is in.

Read more: Can I Teach English as a Foreign Language without a Degree?

Note: You don’t need to be able to speak the local language in order to teach English as a foreign language there. In fact, it can be beneficial to your students if you can’t, as then they can’t rely on translation during their lessons. Plus, if you do decide to learn the language (which we highly recommend) it’ll be a great addition to your CV – not to mention the perfect way to meet new friends. 

Finding a TEFL job

The best way to find a job teaching abroad is to decide first of all where you would like to work. Once you have chosen a country, you can do your research and apply for jobs. There are often country-specific websites you can use – such as ajarn.com for jobs in Thailand – or you can use a general jobs board, like tefl.com.

In order to apply for a job, you’ll need to submit your CV, as well as attach a cover letter. There might be an application form you need to complete. If you make it through the first round, it’s likely you will be asked to attend an online interview. This could even involve doing (or explaining) a demo lesson or submitting an introductory video.

If you are given the job, your employer will send you a contract for you to sign. Then it’s time for you to book your ticket, sort out your visa and get packing!

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TEFL job contracts are usually for 12 months, which means that you’ll spend your entire year in the same job. This is great because it gives you the chance to really experience your host country, make friendships and possibly even learn the local language.

However, if you only have a short time to spare or  you would prefer to move around, you could look at short contracts, which are usually summer contracts or summer camps. These can be from four weeks to twelve weeks long. This gives you the flexibility to move around a bit more and experience living abroad in a few different countries or a few different cities in the same country.

If you’d rather not go through the procedure of looking for a job online, you can easily apply for a TEFL internship. Internships are ideal for teachers with no experience or people who would like a more structured TEFL experience. Internship programmes generally offer airport pick-ups, accommodation, cultural and language lessons, and teaching assistance if you need it. They are a great way to ease yourself into TEFL.

Read more: 7 Amazing Reasons You Should Do a TEFL Internship

Another possibility is to teach English online. If you choose this route then the world really is your oyster as you can live anywhere, as long as you have a good internet connection and the right equipment.

Read more: The Boom of Online English Teaching – and Why You Should be Doing It

The benefits of teaching English abroad in your gap year

Teaching English abroad in your gap year is an adventure. It doesn’t matter if you take it before you study, after you study or during a career break. It is a year you can focus on yourself. Plus, teaching English abroad looks great on your CV, as it shows you are independent, adaptable, responsible and organised.

So teaching English abroad can prepare you for any career. But you might find that you fall in love with TEFL and it actually becomes your career! You might decide to live abroad permanently and teach wherever your heart desires. Or you could find a career behind the scenes in TEFL, as a school manager or coursebook writer or lesson material developer. There are a number of opportunities related to TEFL which don’t involve teaching.

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Take Carla, for instance. 

Carla is 27 years old and from Barcelona, Spain. She was working in healthcare and social work when she decided to dedicate her free time to do a TEFL course. Carla and her partner found work with an NGO in Mexico and moved there in February 2020. They worked as volunteers, teaching primary and high school learners, as well as caring for turtles! She has since returned to the UK, and teaches online in her spare time. 

So if you are considering taking a gap year and wondering what you should do with it, chat to us about teaching English as a foreign language. We promise you won’t regret it – just ask our alumni! 

Note: This post was updated 10 May 2022

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