Teaching English Abroad Part 2: The Search

The search for a job teaching English abroad can be done in several ways. It mostly depends on the country where you are interested in teaching. Developed countries will have more requirements for being hired and will usually have more visa requirements as well. Whereas developing countries typically do not have as much red tape and make the search a little bit easier.

The Internet is going to be your key to finding a job abroad. If you Google the phrase: “teach English abroad” you will get six million results back, so I suggest making your internet search a little more specific. If you can determine a few cities you think you would enjoy being stationed in, then it will make your search a bit easier. At the same time though, you need to be flexible. If you have your heart set on one city, it might take you a while to find a job, or you could be disappointed when you only find listings in other cities.

If you are interested in teaching in a developing country, I usually suggest packing your bags, buying a plane ticket and just showing up in your country of interest. This sounds incredibly scary and risky, but is worth it for a few reasons. The first time I left the country to work abroad, it sounded like it would be a great fit, but I quickly found out upon arrival that the city I was going to be living in was not ideal for me. Throughout my stay in Thailand, I was constantly offered teaching positions everywhere I went. I realized that I could have just wandered the country until I found a suitable location, and then accepted one of the many jobs offered to me.

If this is an option you might actually consider, then you need to be a very proactive person. Sometimes being offered a job is as easy as mentioning that you are an English teacher to the right person, but if you are avidly looking for a job, you might need to be a little more aggressive than that. Tell everyone you meet abroad that you are an English teacher looking to settle down in that area. Most people you will meet know at least one other English teacher or school, and this can lead to important connections. Schools can’t hire you if they don’t know you are out there looking for a job. Make sure you let people know you are interested. Networking is your best friend in this type of search, not the Internet.

Things can be much more complicated if you are looking to teach in a more developed country. For example, South Korea requires that you send them your diploma, a background check, and transcripts from your university. Not only do they need all of these items, but they also need you to be in your home country during the application process. So it would be a poor idea to show up in South Korea and hope to get a job.

If you are leaning towards teaching in a developed country or don’t want to show up in a developing country looking for work, then your next question is “How do I find a job on the internet?” Before you start googling, let me warn you that many of the ‘jobs’ you will find listed are not in fact jobs. Many times they will ask you to pay them to come teach English.

Volunteering is wonderful and I am sure that there are pay-to-volunteer programs available that put a lot of the money you pay towards helping the organization you work with, but unfortunately there are many that don’t. Sometimes the organizations that will set you up with a teaching position if you pay a couple thousand bucks are just scamming you. For one of my previous jobs I worked with volunteers who came through a rather large name in the pay to volunteer business, and I can say without a doubt that almost all of the money went directly into their pockets and did not reach our organization. So if you choose the pay-to-volunteer route, make sure your money is going where you want it to.

Remember what I said in my previous post as well, TEFL and TESOL certification is not completely necessary to teach abroad. Before you spend the money on it, make sure you absolutely need it.

Sifting through the results that your search engine will turn up is definitely a process. Idealist.org is a great website for the global job search. This website allows you to search by country, language, categories, job type, etc. If you are interested in teaching English in South Korea I recommend going to Dave’s ESL Cafe and checking out the listings there. I wish I had a list of websites for prospective teachers for every country, but I don’t. If you know of a great website for teaching abroad in any country, please comment below. Let’s compile a list of helpful websites for prospective English teachers!

This post was written for www.diwyy.com.

Teaching English Abroad: Getting Started

My favorite way to travel is to stay in one place for an extended period of time so I can fully immerse myself in the country I am visiting. If you don’t have a large sum of money saved up, then the only way to really travel this way is by getting a job in the country you are interested in. Lucky for us native English speakers, English teachers are in demand in many exciting parts of the world.

There are several things you must have before you are ready to teach abroad. Most organizations and people looking for English teachers want a person with a university diploma. Most of the time it doesn’t matter what you major was, they just want to know that you went to school and got a degree. Your chances of getting a competitive job are usually greater if you received a degree in education or English, but it’s typically not a requirement.

The most debated question is whether or not you need TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification to be hired. I really hate wasting money and so I’ve debated whether or not I need to invest in this certification over and over again. The first time I was looking for teaching jobs, I was bombarded by advertisements attempting to persuade me to invest in their certification program. I quickly found out that I could get hired just by being a native speaker and by having a degree from an American university.

While looking for a job in South Korea this summer, I was told by a recruiter that the job market is very competitive right now and that my chances were significantly better if I completed an online certification course. The online courses run about $200 or more and the classroom courses can run a lot more than that. One of my travel buddies told me that the online courses are pretty much worthless, and for the most part, employers know that. I chose not to take the course and I still got some really great job offers. So in my opinion, the certification programs are fine if you have time and money to spend, but if you don’t, you will still be able to find a good job without it.

When applying for English teaching jobs, it is important to put every single teaching experience on your resume. I used to teach figure skating to children and adults, and although that has nothing to do with teaching English, it still shows that I am capable of explaining concepts to a class and keeping a group of children under control. Think of every single teaching or tutoring experience you’ve had and share them with your prospective school.

Since you’ve decided you are ready for a job teaching abroad you most likely have a region already in mind. If you don’t, start making a list of your top picks for countries or cities you’d like to work in. It is perfectly okay to choose a region based on wanting to travel around it. When I went to Thailand to teach English, I chose it because I knew I wanted to be in Southeast Asia and it was central to all of the other countries I wanted to visit. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized that I wanted to learn about Thai language and Thai cooking.

The next part of the search is to determine whether you are a city person or whether you could handle living in the countryside. This might be a tough question for some of you. I used to think that I could be happy anywhere. Turns out that that’s not true for me. I now know that I need a good group of fellow foreigner friends around to keep my spirits up. At the same time though, I don’t like to live in areas that are flooded with foreigners because these areas are very touristy and the native culture tends to get lost. So I like to live in large cities because you can find almost anything you need there, whether it be other foreigners or native culture. Large cities also tend to be good jumping off points for other adventures. I know people who have been perfectly content living and teaching in the boonies, I just have figured out over time that I am not one of them.

Once you’ve figured out all of those important details, you then need to start looking for employment. This requires a lot of searching and patience. I will talk about the process of looking for a teaching job in my next post.

This post was written for www.diwyy.com.

Not Another Pad Thai

I’ve noticed that foreigners in Thailand get stuck in a rut when it comes to food. I can’t help but roll my eyes every time someone orders another Pad Thai. I’ve eaten with people who ask for Pad Thai for lunch, dinner, and then lunch again the next day. I find this sad and absurd because Pad Thai is usually cooked poorly where tourists eat. No one should eat the same thing over and over again while traveling because there are so many other yummy dishes out there waiting to be tried. Part of the problem is that people just don’t know what to order, so here’s a few dishes you can eat, other than Pad Thai, while in Thailand or at a Thai restaurant at home.

Som Tum

Som Tum is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. I have yet to meet a Thai person who isn’t obsessed with this dish. Som Tum is made with shredded green papaya, garlic, chili peppers, fish sauce, sugar, dried shrimp, tomatoes, and long beans. All of these ingredients are put in a mortar and pounded a few times with a pestle to release the juices, and then served with a side of sticky rice.

I prefer Som Tum Thai which is sweet, has peanuts, and isn’t very fishy. If you don’t mind a fishy flavor you should give the Som Tum Blah a try. This version is very popular and has tiny crabs and more fish sauce in it. Som Tum is sold in restaurants and by street vendors, so you can pretty much pick some up everywhere. This dish is an absolute must while in Thailand. If you are afraid of spicy foods, just remember to ask for only one or two chili peppers.

Tom Yum Goong

This is the most famous Thai soup. If you get into a conversation about Thai food with a Thai person, they are inevitably going to ask if you’ve tried Tom Yum Goong. So try it!

Tom Yum Goong is a hot, spicy, and sour orange soup. The base is a stock flavored with lemongrass, kaffir limes, fish sauce, and chili peppers. Inside the soup you will find prawns (goong) and mushrooms. You don’t have to love this soup, but since it is such a staple in Thai cuisine, you at least have to taste it once.

Pad Siew

This is my alternative to Pad Thai. It is my favorite noodle dish in Thailand. Pad Siew is made with flat wide noodles, a soy based sauce, and broccoli. I think chicken goes best with this dish, but pork or tofu are usually options as well. I always introduce new comers to Thai cuisine to Pad Siew, and have yet to get a bad review of it. If you are craving noodles, try this instead of Pad Thai. Please!!

Pad Gapow

This is a spicy dish so beware. Pad Gapow is made with chicken, basil, chili peppers, sugar, garlic, and fish sauce. It is typically served with rice and is one of the only spicy dishes I consistently order. I recommend getting a beer with this one; it tends to thwart the burning sensation a bit.

Pad Pak Boong Fai Dang

I never knew I could love a vegetable dish so much until I tasted Pad Pak Boong. This dish translates directly to Fried Vegetable Morning Glory Fire Red. You are guessing correctly if you think it might be a bit spicy. Pad Pak Boong doesn’t always have to have the fai dang (red fire) in it, and it probably won’t if you are a foreigner ordering it. Thai people know that our tolerance for spicy peppers is far below theirs, but let your server know if you want it spicy or not, just in case.

Morning glory is also known as water spinach for us. It isn’t wide spread here in the United States, but is wildly popular in Asia. I miss it greatly when I return home, so while I’m in Thailand I order this whenever I can. The morning glory in this dish is stir fried in a brown soy based sauce, which I recommend eating with some sticky rice to soak up the delicious sauce.

There you have it: five alternatives to eating Pad Thai! After trying these dishes you probably won’t want to go back to eating Pad Thai. Happy Travels!

This post was written for www.diwyy.com.

Thank You

While traveling you are almost always relying on the kindness of people who are native to the country you are in. They might give you food, advice, directions, a place to sleep, or a ride along the way. It is important to say thank you to these folks of course, but it makes it more special when you say it in their language. That’s why when I arrive in a new place I always learn how to say thank you.

While traveling through Asia, I found that in Asian cultures  a head nod with your hands in prayer is part of giving thanks to someone. In Thai this gesture is called a wai and can be done in three different ways depending on who you are talking to. It is a wonderful expression of gratitude and I really wish I could pull it off in the States without looking like a total hippie weirdo. One of the great things about the wai is that if you forget how to say thank you in the native tongue you can just use your hands. It’s foolproof.

I am by no means the manners police, but it makes me sad to see simple thank-you’s abandoned. I am still a snail mail kinda gal who adores making and writing thank you notes. I don’t expect everybody to be this way and when it comes to travel, hand written thank you notes are not only difficult, but also a little excessive sometimes.

I am writing this post because I would like thank-you’s to be pumped back into our fast paced lives. I recently spent over an hour writing travel advice to an old college friend who requested some tips regarding countries I had been to, and still have yet to hear a response three weeks later. I don’t mind giving travel advice, in fact I really enjoy it. Writing those kinds of emails or having those types of conversations lets me relive my adventures, but I don’t like wasting my time. Most people out on the road feel the same way.

Let them know that their effort and time spent helping you is appreciated. Thank them as best you can in their language and maybe share your blog address or web photo gallery address with them. If they gave you advice on where to go, maybe ask for their email so you can send them a thank you after you’ve gone there. People love to know that what they did helped you. Unfortunately, people also become jaded really quickly when rude and assuming tourists make bad names for the rest of us. So do your duty and mind your manners please. It will make someone’s day, I promise.

Road Queen…again

Another one of my posts was published on diwyy.com yesterday! It’s one I wrote last year on this blog entitled Road Queen, so you may have already read it. If you haven’t checked it out already, then you need to read it right now!! Seriously, follow the link below and read it immediately.



A Few Photos from Malaysia

Two weeks ago I went on a visa run to Malaysia and while I was waiting for my visa I think I officially discovered Paradise. All of the pictures were taken with my favorite new toy the Panasonic Lumix DMC TS1. It’s waterproof and shockproof and incredible! Feel free to sponsor me Panasonic!



The Future of Koh Tao

It’s 5:50 on a Wednesday morning and I have been awoken by a “Dance for Peace” party up the road. As I laid in bed staring into the darkness, I began contemplating why I travel. I travel for adventure, excitement, food, new cultures, and to see beautiful or interesting places. I typically don’t stay too long in tourist destinations or hang out with groups of other foreigners. Meeting other foreigners along the way is definitely part of the experience, but I don’t want to see foreigners all the time. I want to see how the country I’m in really operates and moves, not the way the locals cater towards our different and sometimes absurd needs. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a travel purist. I’m sure none of this surprises any of you who know me though.

I’m not sure how this cacophony of idiotic European techno beats, loads of alcohol, and foreigners up the hill is supposed to help promote or further peace of any kind, but I’m pretty sure none of the proceeds go to a charity. I thought it would have been more of a hippie party by the title, but I should have known better. Where there are Europeans vacationing there will always be obnoxious techno music. Not that I have anything against Europeans of course, I just don’t agree with the techno “music” they find so amusing. The so called music barely changes for hours, it just fades, pauses, or kickbacks into a faster or slightly slower beat. That’s the music. I really don’t get it.

Since the music is this crap instead of reggae or something a little more peaceful, I’m thinking the only reason the party theme is peace is because they are either doing a lot of drugs up there or it was a way for people to justify attending a rave while in tropical paradise. It’s probably a combination of both.

All this venting is leading to a point, I promise. When I am traveling abroad I don’t get plastered. Part of it is because I’m a five foot tall girl and I would prefer having all of my faculties working so I don’t get taken advantage of. The other reason is because people usually lose money, passports, valuables, etc. when they are being stupid. And I think we all know that people are not exactly smart when they are drunk. So I prefer to stay sober when I am traveling around the world.

The other reason I have for not going out and getting hammered all the time or even just a few times, is because that’s not why I travel. I don’t travel to a faraway land because I want to party with a bunch of other foreigners. I really don’t want to spend money on events like the one going on up the road because money talks. If Thai people think that we would rather spend money on a party than going for a hike or snorkeling then they will build lots of bars and have zero incentive to keep forests or coral around the island healthy.

It’s really sad. I am sitting here listening to the crickets, song birds, and roosters competing with the music up the road and it seems like a frightening sign as to what the future has in store for this island. We all know who wins in the end. At this point I’m sure you’re thinking I’m a pessimist. But I wouldn’t be here trying to help with land conservation if I weren’t an optimist as well.

I’m just a realist. I know the fate of Koh Tao is set already. The only thing I can do is help slow down the destruction and try to protect as much of the island as possible. Koh Tao is on its way to becoming another hellish Koh Samui and although people like me will stop coming, there will still be thousands of morons who just want to party and get a tan while recovering from their hangover who would be happy to take my place. These people are not travelers. These people treat Thailand like their own personal Disneyland which is why so many people say Thailand is already ruined. I know that you the reader can’t do too much about this while you are sitting in your home reading this, this is just my strongly worded letter to the universe. Thanks for listening!

Thailand: Round 2

I’m back in Thailand again; only this time I don’t have an excruciatingly boring job in an equally as boring city. I’m doing Thailand right this time. Beaches, stunning views, and getting paid to help protect it all. Does it get much better than that?

Tourism in Thailand is an interesting animal. Anyone who has recently visited this wonderful country hopefully noticed that while an increase in tourism increases local incomes and makes the life of a traveler a bit easier since the road is already paved for you, it also comes at a cost.

While living in Khon Kaen last year, I got to live in a part of Thailand that has remained fairly untouched by tourism and learned an incredible amount about Thai culture. Unfortunately, most of my favorite things about Thai culture disappear upon arriving in popular tourist destinations. In Khon Kaen I never met an angry Thai person, but where there are tourists there is money to be made, which inevitably brings greed. We all know that money can’t buy happiness and greed seems to breed anger and resentment in some Thai folks, which goes against the general joyful Thai attitude that I love so much.

Another example of the deterioration of Thai culture in touristy places can be seen in the food. Thai food is truly exquisite. I have yet to meet someone who can disagree with that statement. When it comes to food, Thailand knows what it’s doing. Yet in tourist destinations they alter their cuisine to what they think the farang (foreigner) wants, which is not nearly as yummy and really disappointing for the hungry farang.

I could continue complaining about the changes tourism creates in Thai culture, but that is not what brought me to Thailand. This time I will be working with an organization called Save Koh Tao. I am the project coordinator for the land conservation projects that the organization arranges to help prevent and reverse the environmental degradation on the island of Koh Tao that has come with the ever-growing number of tourists.

Cultural deterioration in popular tourist locations is sad, but in this day and age it can be argued that we all are suffering from that and eventually globalization will cause some kind of global homogenization of cultures. I’m not sure what can be done about this. I studied how to help the trees, birds, fish, etc. and in my opinion, those creatures which cannot help themselves need our help more right now. If we don’t protect our environment, then cultural homogenization doesn’t matter because we won’t have a very enjoyable planet to live on in the first place.

This blog entry is getting a little more philosophical than I expected. Where I originally intended on taking this topic was to the grand possibilities that come with my new job. If the permanent residents and visitors of Koh Tao don’t start treating the island with more respect then it won’t remain a beautiful island for much longer.

Many people come here just to scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy the beaches. If these are destroyed or polluted not only will the world lose a wonderful example of nature at her best, but also the tourists will stop coming and Thai people will lose quite a bit of money.

This is probably obvious to most of you, but you would be incredibly surprised by how many tourists and business owners don’t seem to care. I have a massive task ahead of me and I’m very excited to finally put my degree to good use. I have the opportunity to do some really great things for this island and I can’t wait to see where it leads me. There is a lot to be done here which is a great distraction from the fact that I miss my wonderful family, boyfriend and friends, all of which are constantly in my thoughts. Pictures of my new home will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

A Vietnamese Massage With A Not So Happy Ending

In my last blog entry introducing the concept of saying yes to the situations you encounter abroad, I mentioned a Vietnamese massage that went rather poorly. For me it was just an incompetent massage, but unfortunately for my good gay friend, it turned out to be life scarring. So I would like to add a footnote to my yes policy: learn from the things that happen to you after you say yes. This being said, I was rather new to the yes concept a few years back and did not learn from my first inept Vietnamese massage, and naively walked into another massage parlor three days later.

I had spent the past couple days trekking in the Cat Tien National Park which resulted in some muscle soreness. My friend Tyler and I decided that a massage was in order so we ventured over to the local karaoke/massage parlor. The fact that there was a karaoke bar in the front of the massage parlor should have been a big tip off that we were not in for top-notch massages, but like I said, we were naive.

We each paid three US dollars for what was supposed to be an hour long massage. Tyler was then escorted directly to a massage room and I was thrown into a storage room to change. When I came out of the storage area there was no one there waiting to show me where to go next, forcing me to timidly journey back to the karaoke bar in my towel.

I proceeded to the woman who I had paid earlier, pointed at my neck and asked for a massage. She then angrily ordered me into another small room and closed the door behind me. It was a sauna. I’ve never really been one for saunas. I get bored very fast and in a country like Vietnam I don’t feel the need to sit in a hot humid room. If I wanted to be in a sweltering environment sweating my ass off I could just go outside where I would at least have a scenic view while doing so. I figured that they were just trying to loosen up my muscles though, so I patiently waited… and waited…and waited.

After ten minutes I was bored out of my mind and uncomfortably sweaty. Nobody had come to retrieve me, so I decided to go back into the karaoke room and ask for a massage again. If they thought they were going to get away without giving me an hour-long massage they were wrong. This time instead of bringing me to a massage room like I expected would happen, the irate Vietnamese woman threw me into a shower room with a door that refused to stay shut.

I rinsed off quickly and was exasperated that Tyler had been getting a massage for at least fifteen minutes while I was being shuffled between rooms. I marched into the karaoke bar again and asked for my massage. The third time was the charm and I was led to a small dimly lit very beige room. The satin sheets were a washed out seventies floral print that may or may not have been washed since they were first thrown onto the bed a few decades ago; it was impossible to tell.

This massage was very similar to my first Vietnamese massage. It was wimpy and careless. She prodded my back like a six year old touches raw hamburger meat with disgust. On top of the mediocrity of the massage, my masseuse, a term I use loosely, kept leaving the room every ten minutes or so. At the time I had no idea why. There would be a knock on the door, she would have a quick talk in Vietnamese and then she would leave. These mystery talks apparently were revolving around the topic of the man in the next room, my friend Tyler.

To put it simply, he just wanted a massage and they wanted to give him a little something extra. After his straightforward refusal of a happy ending, his masseuse decided the problem was that there weren’t enough girls in the room to satisfy him, which is why my masseuse kept getting called back to duty in the room next door. Poor Tyler.

After my masseuse returned for the fourth time, she started forcefully talking and pointing at my back. I figured that she must have been asking if she could rub harder so I nodded and said okay. Boy was that a mistake.

She left the room again and when she came back she poured tea tree oil on my back. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the severe pain she began to inflict on me next. She had brought with her some kind of torture tool and decided to dig it into my back as hard as possible. The tool craved outlines around my shoulder blades and vertebrae. I wiggled and writhed under the pressure she exerted with her torture tool, but she refused to relax.

When the abuse was over, she yelled at me in Vietnamese which I took as a cue to roll off the bed and escape. As I slid off though, something metal fell to the floor. We both reached for it, but I got there faster only to find that the terrible torture device had been a dog tag! Yes my friends, it was a dog tag, the kind the US army gives our soldiers. She grabbed it quickly out of my hand and shuffled my confused and horrified self back into the storage room.

I was still connecting the dots in my boggled mind so I couldn’t defend myself when the indignant madam barged in on me half dressed and stole three whole dollars from me for a tip. My ongoing shock from the dog tag discovery prevented me from fully realizing what was happening at the time, but shortly afterward I was furious. I had given the masseuse a 100% tip for a massage that left my back bruised for a week!

Tyler was nowhere to be found when I was leaving because he had left early due to his sexual harassment. I was worried because our guide had warned us that the women in our group should not walk alone around the grounds at night because the male monkeys might attack us. According to him, male monkeys are attracted to female humans and have no problem showing their affection. Tyler had left me to walk home alone so I sprinted as fast as I could back to the cabins because I didn’t want my terrible massage hour to end with a monkey rape.

After I got back to the cabins I showed my battle wounds to my fellow travelers and Tyler told me all about his own disturbing massage. We have no idea why my masseuse attacked me with a dog tag. It could have been her idea of a good way to exfoliate, a release of some pent up aggression against Americans, or maybe she was just having a terrible day and decided to take it out on me. What I do know is that I should have learned from my first massage in Vietnam, but I didn’t.