Grace Austin looks at how easy it is to teach English in Asia.
We often travel to our dream destinations in the hopes of being inspired and to be able to tell a new tale. But, what we really are searching for is happiness. It is as if turning a light switch from its ‘off’ position in the everyday banal sights (albeit beautiful to new eyes) to the ‘on’ button, bright and beaming, where a whole new vista brings about feelings of joy after a rewarding journey.
After living in Shanghai for a year through the UCC twinning program with Shanghai University, I suppose my lust for travel was a natural progression. During the 12 months I was abroad, I travelled to 6 different Asian countries, including backpacking for 2 months across South East Asia.
There is a popular misconception that people who travel are ‘lucky’, or ‘enabled’ in some way, be it money, connections, special qualifications… The reality is you just need to know where to look for the right opportunity.
For an increasing number of Irish graduates, living, travelling and working in East Asia offers something completely different than the already well-documented and heavily travelled destinations like Australia or the US. You can hardly turn on the news or open a newspaper these days without being exposed to the incredible growth of countries like China, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam. These countries are becoming increasingly accessible to us.
I recently came across an Irish owned company, Teachers For Asia, who specialise in the recruitment of teachers in that part of the world. My subsequent experience with the company has left me with the distinct feeling that I have found a very special opportunity. Most importantly though, is that anyone can do this- provided you have a degree behind you.
Teachers ForAsia talk to all candidates individually through Skype to get to know them a little bit and discover what it is that they are looking to get from their year abroad. Many are really surprised to hear that you can teach in Asia with any BA background at all, you don’t need to be a professional teacher and you don’t need to speak Mandarin, Korean, Thai or whatever the case may be! This program allows you to begin your adventure of a lifetime as soon as you graduate- no need for TEFLs, teaching experience, or bank account balance for that matter! Flights out to your country of choice are covered, and so are your accommodation costs. Nothing to stop you.
What you could potentially gain from an experience like this is phenomenal. It’s an excellent opportunity to stretch your legs a little bit professionally. Your confidence will quickly grow through teamwork with people just like you from other countries. Not to mention what a huge asset it would be to your CV-for example many schools in China offer free Mandarin tuition for a few hours a week, imagine how it looks to an employer back home that you are an intermediate level speaker in Chinese language! Especially given the increasing number of Irish schools now teaching modules in Chinese language & culture and how this is set to form part of the exciting new Junior Certificate program.
The cost of living in Asia is far less than we are used to at home, and if you are earning around $2,000 USD per month you can easily save half that. A meal will set you back less than 5 euro, a beer 50c and public transport costs are tiny. If you’re tempted, but just can’t imagine going it alone- why not do what I did and apply with a friend? Schools in Asia are also very couple friendly and Teachers For Asia are well used to working with friends and partners looking to travel together. You will have the chance to travel to neighbouring countries on your time off, and if the beach and sunshine is your thing, the good news is that Teachers For Asia recruit for schools in coastal areas as well. You can check out their website at www.teachersforasia.com which is a treasure trove of info for anybody interested in teaching in Asia.
So challenge yourself. Do something you’ve never done before this notion that we must secure a job in our chosen career path as soon as we graduate is false economy. Take your time, travel, see the world, and understand another culture. Go learn something formal education cannot teach you. Meet people you never would otherwise, jump in the deep end, and stop being so satisfied with complacency. Go and teach, it is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Spread your ideas, don’t take your education for granted. And if the idea of traveling to Asia terrifies you, even better- do it anyway. The most rewarding things in life are the things that scare you.