How I Taught English Abroad
The first time I heard about teaching abroad was in university. I think I was walking through some career fair and was so excited that I wouldn’t need any special qualifications such as a teaching degree. All I needed was to be a Native English speaker and an undergraduate degree as well as a perfect criminal record. I said to myself, this will be my goal. It’ll be a perfect way to learn a new culture, a new language and to get some teaching experience all at the same time. Score!
Fast forward a few years, here I am still abroad. I would have not imagined that teaching has taken me all over the world. Over the past few years, people have asked, “How do I keep moving from one country to another and where do I find my resources?” Well, the short answer is, I kept looking. After I finish a contract in one location, I have a new goal of where I want to go next. I take that experience that I have just gained, and send out applications to my next destination.
I think the one perk of being Canadian is that working visa for teaching jobs is generally easy to obtain, so I took advantage! Here is a list of teaching programs I did both on the national level in Canada and around the world.
Canada’s Language Assistant
My first teaching experience was in a national program organised by the Education Ministry of Canada. The Odyssey program was an exchange between French-Canadians and English-Canadians, who were interested in learning more about each other’s culture and language. Native English speakers were placed across Quebec (a French province in Canada) and French speakers were placed across Canada’s English speaking communities to teach each other’s native tongue. The priority and immediate needs are in remote areas where the exposure to each other’s language is limited and therefore causes a barrier for cultural exchange.
For this reason, I was placed in a small northern Quebec city with 30,000 inhabitants to teach English. At that time, I did not know any French and was struggling to even get by day to day. No one spoke English so I really had to push myself. It was indeed difficult to integrate when you do not have any language skills, but I would say generally people were very kind. It really was a knitted community, where I could hardly get by without my students or teachers recognising me on the street. Nevertheless, it helped me to start my teaching career, learn a new language, and understood more about the identity crisis in Canada.
France’s Language Assistant
After I lived in Quebec and picked up a bit of French, I found that I wanted to expand both my teaching experience and language skills in French so I took a leap of faith and went to France! I did some research on the Internet what opportunities were there for English native speakers to teach and I found the France Language Assistant Program. This program is also government funded so it is safe and will provide you a good national health coverage. You can list out which region you prefer to work in and they will do their best in fitting you in the region. You will then get placed in a public school and you will work with local teachers.
A little tip: If you were going to do this program, just prepare yourself for the French culture way of life! There is a lot of paperwork involved, even body checks to make sure you are healthy working there, and things can be tedious and frustrating. It’s normal to hear cases of your paperwork being lost, and they need you to resend them again. I had a hard time, but not everyone did (but just be ready for culture shock!) Things can take a ridiculous amount of time to complete and for someone to aid you what you need.
The one positive thing about this program is that you do get immersed in the local school system and can work with the teachers there. You learn and experience something way different than what you are used to!
Hong Kong’s Program Coordinator
After I had a taste of Europe and the French bureaucracy, I looked for another opportunity. I was then focused on moving to Asia because it will again put me out of my comfort zone but it will be completely different. I liked the efficiency in Asia and how people were determined to get things done. I chose to go with Chatteris Educational Foundation because I wanted to work with postsecondary students and since they are near my age, I thought it will be easier to relate to them.
Chatteris placed me in a vocational college, just as I requested, and I worked with some of the lowest level students of English between 18-20 years old. Working with them made me recognise the inequality education system in Hong Kong first-handed and understood so much about the society as a whole. Some of these students have became my closest friends today.
If you look at the rates in Hong Kong, you will soon find that Chatteris does not pay as well as other companies. However, what I loved about Chatteris is their community partnerships and the opportunity to work both inside and outside of the public education system. I got to do extra workshops for university students to help them with their English oral proficiency whom also became my really good friends. So I do recommend this program to start your journey in Hong Kong! *Please write down my name on your application if you choose to apply!*
Do you teach abroad also? Is there any programs that you recommend?
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