Marrying two long, lost loves

It’s the age old story. Boy meets girl / teach meets travel. They fall in love and Amy lives happily ever after… we hope.

No, this post isn’t a love story in the traditional sense, but instead a story about partnering up two aspirations of mine: teaching and travelling.

I’ve wanted to teach for as long as I can remember. Critiquing it for being too cliché (given my eldest brother had already taken that route), I took the long road and pushed it to the back of my mind and locked the key to the conscious cupboard. Then I stepped into my career. And as I did, so did my friends. Many of them became teachers. I even managed to lumber myself with more teachers when I moved to London. That’s when the desire to teach elevated. Could I really suppress it anymore?

A long and confused conversation took place with my big brother about two years ago. Do I put my savings towards a teaching qualification or do I travel? A teacher himself, he tried to get me to understand the daily routine of a teacher and to see that it’s not all roses and school holidays. There’s far more to the role that goes beyond the regular responsibilities. I understood his points. Took them on board, as always. But that desire was still alight. His chat didn’t dissuade me. But as we spoke about travel, the light dimmed and the focus turned to backpacking to the other side of the world.

Two years on and I’ve found myself trying to marry up the two Ts in my life. The solution came to me a few months back when I started my desk research. Now I’m at the point of booking a course after what feels like a lifetime of research, disappointments, effort and confusion. Take a Teach English as a Foreign Language course.

TEFL / TESOL courses are a popular choice for backpackers looking to prolong their travels and in some cases, do something they love.

I’ve had my fair share of hiccups. To help you avoid the major ones, here’s a few important considerations for anyone looking to teach English as a Foreign Language across the globe:

In-class versus Online

Online courses seem to be accepted in some schools globally, but better paid teaching jobs will require more in-depth training. Plus, you’d be closing a lot of doors as you’d have little to no experience in actually teaching. I’d recommend aiming for a 120 hour in-class programme. These typically last 4 weeks and you should always look for a minimum of eight observed practical training hours in real schools.

Personally, I believe it would be better to invest time and money into what’s going to give you the best opportunity. It’s no surprise that the practical courses come at quite the cost, given the teaching resource that’s required – on average 1600 USD / 1000 GBP – often without accommodation. Dig around, though. There are smaller businesses out there doing a good job for less and maybe even little extras such as airport transfers and transport to and from school buildings.

When researching, do look out for all-inclusive style packages. As a backpacker, you need to get the best value for money. The course I wanted to embark on originally was in Chiang Mai and offered a very competitive package. You can check out uniTEFL here. Must mention that this reason for not going ahead with this course was due to being informed of renovations taking place from May to the end of August, which prevented the course from taking place.

Be warned, after finding this out I paid the deposit for what I thought was another course – under ITTT. It wasn’t until after payment that I was sent collateral that highlighted uniTEFL would be running the course. Disorganised chaos and bad comms given that course wasn’t even going ahead for the month I had booked it for. Luckily I quickly realised the screw up and ordered a refund. Disorganised chaos, but still worth considering uniTEFL if you’re looking the SE Asia area. Its Ultimate Package offers a serviced apartment, three full day excursions, mobile SIM and airport transfers.


South East Asia is the best region for saving money. In Latin America, it’s expected that you’ll live comfortably, but break even. In Europe it’s the same as the latter. Most backpackers are aware that it’s also considerably cheaper to travel SE Asia than Latin America – mainly due to the cost of navigating around this continent. I guess it just depends on your budget, goals and what you’re looking for from the experience.

Is a degree really necessary?

There’ll be confusion when it comes to whether or not you need a degree. In most cases, courses will enrol people without a degree, but the issue may come later – when you need to apply for work permits or visas. Here’s decent graphs from the International TEFL Academy that drove me to getting my degree sent across to Australia

Further to the point above – I witnessed a lot of courses stating that not having a degree wouldn’t be an issue when it came to obtaining work in South East Asia. Fortunately, the ladies at Samui TEFL highlighted to me that in order to work in schools in Thailand, you need to be the owner of a degree – and importantly, you need to share with them the original certificate and transcripts

Have you got any questions? I’m no expert, but I have spent a fair amount of time researching courses and conversating with those in the TEFL industry. In fact, I’m heading to Ko Samui tomorrow to start my course with TEFL WORLD. So if there’s anything you’re unsure of, please get in touch and I’d be happy to help offer some advice.

Published by Amy McKenna


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