What to take into consideration when choosing an ESL volunteer programme

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you may decide to work as a volunteer ESL teacher: so you will have to take several things into consideration when choosing a volunteer programme.

Whether you are applying to, say, a BUNAC http://www.bunac.org/uk/volunteer, or a VSO http://www.vsointernational.org/, or a Govoluntouring http://govoluntouring.com/, or any of the other numerous volunteer programmes, you should ensure you take the following points into consideration. The first thing you should take into consideration is the country you intend to do your ESL teaching in research its cultural, political, and social structures – and always research your intended country BEFORE you commit yourself; it may turn out on closer investigation that – your dream destination has suddenly become a dread destination. You should also research the climate and physical geography of your intended country, for example: if you can’t stand hot climes, you should avoid hot destinations.

Always pick a volunteer programme in a country which will make you feel comfortable. The next thing you should take into consideration is the voluntary organization that has organized the volunteer programme. Make sure that it is a well-established organization: a reputable organization should also have a mechanism in place that allows potential ESL volunteer teachers to be able to communicate with former ESL teachers. Research your chosen organization BEFORE you commit yourself.

Although you will be working as a volunteer ESL teacher, you should still take money matters into consideration. You should ensure that the voluntary organization will be paying for your flight to and from the country as well as any internal return transportation costs, e.g. from the airport to the town or village in which you will be teaching. You should also enquire about how much of an ‘allowance’ you will be given by the organization: this will help you to determine how much of your own money you will need in order to supplement your daily expenses.

You should also determine if you will be required to pay for your own medical insurance or whether the organization will be responsible for medical insurance as part of the volunteer programme: never go anywhere without medical insurance. Another important consideration is the question of accommodation: will free accommodation to be provided as part of the volunteer programme or will it be subsidized accommodation. If it is the latter, how much of the rent will be subsidized by the organization?

Finally, you should also take the following four questions into consideration: How long do you want to volunteer? What do you hope to get from doing voluntary ESL teaching?  How immersed in the culture do you want to get? Are you really sure that you want to do voluntary ESL teaching?

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