Studying abroad during the summer is one thing but living abroad to teach English for an extended period of time is something completely different.
Yet that is exactly what many graduating students are choosing to do after college. Instead of jumping head first into the job market, many seniors are choosing to go abroad to teach their native language.
Marcie Kirk-Holland, a project manager at the Internship and Career Center (ICC), said there are an overwhelming number of programs for students going abroad to teach English.
“Try Googling ‘teaching English abroad,'” she said. “There are so many different programs, different durations, some that [make students] pay to participate and others that require a certificate.”
In order to help students save time, the ICC narrows down the list by suggesting favorites on their web site. The ICC currently has 54 favorite programs, each highly suggested by former abroad students.
“To be categorized as an ICC favorite, we have to have had at least one UC Davis alumnus participate in that opportunity and have a positive experience,” Kirk-Holland said.
Between 100 to 200 UC Davis students go abroad to teach English in foreign countries every year, some for two-year contracts. Those students often have a set of characteristics that make them ideal for these programs, Kirk-Holland said.
“People who are adventuresome and really enjoy people tend to go on these programs,” she said. “They usually enjoy culture, exhibit open-mindedness and have a zest for life.”
However, not everyone is a perfect candidate for teaching English abroad.
“I encourage students to look at what their needs are and then honestly assess their skills,” Kirk-Holland said. “If their English grammar skills are not strong, then it’s probably not going to be a good match for them.”
Ryan Harber, a junior English and economics double major, said he plans on going to Thailand after he graduates with Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
“People always say to explore the world before you have to settle down and start your boring life, so I’m using this as an excuse to travel and do something constructive at the same time,” Harber said. “I’ve always been interested in learning about cultures different than mine and Thailand is certainly different but also very interesting and beautiful too.”
Many countries around the world offer visas to students for internships and jobs related to teaching English. Most countries tend to be nations that are either developing or looking to better relations with the United States.
Countries also often hand pick universities to offer programs to. Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) from the Korean government would be an example of a program only offered to UC Davis students.
UC Davis is only one of two northern California universities targeted for recruitment by the Korean Ministry of Education. On June 2, dignitaries from the Korean government arrived to the campus to sign a working agreement with the university.
“I think we got chosen by the Korean Ministry of Education because we have a great reputation,” Kirk-Holland said. “We have a really strong internship program and a strong international internship program.”
TaLK is a prime example of the best teaching English abroad program available. The program offers a six-month to one-year contract to teach in elementary schools Monday through Thursday. It also provides free housing and roundtrip airfare, at least a $1200 monthly stipend, and even a transcript notation through the ICC.
“When I look at ESL teaching opportunities, those offered through ministries of education often are the absolute best,” Kirk-Holland said.
Julia Saelee, a senior community and regional development major said she intended to study abroad in Korea with TaLK until she recently decided to withdraw her application. However, she wanted to go because her friends currently in similar programs are truly enjoying it.
“I have three friends that are teaching in Korea and Taiwan. Everyone is having a great time,” Saelee said, in an e-mail interview. “They’re able to travel and have a source of income at the same time.”
Although TaLK provides many benefits, many programs are not as reputable or safe. Going abroad with less reputable programs or without a program can have many security issues.
Jed Willard, a representative from Language Corps, said the primary reason for students to use an organization is for safety.
“If everything goes perfectly, you don’t need a program – if you are lucky,” he said.”[However,] if you do get sick, injured, lonely or your contract isn’t honored, you will want a program to handle that. There are a lot of things that could go wrong.”
Kirk-Holland also said students have come back with stories about not being paid and being stranded in a foreign country. It is not uncommon for students to be told they will be paid at the end of their first month of work, only to hear that their paycheck will be postponed for months until no money is available, she said.
For students who are interested in teaching English abroad in foreign countries, check out the ICC’s international internship web site for more information.
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.