The Perks of Working Abroad

By: Jenna Longoria

Streets of Taipei
Streets of Taipei
The unemployment rate is 7.5% in the United States, 7.8% in England, and a whopping 14% in Ireland. In many countries, it’s the same sad tune. But this article is not about the politics of the situation, or who is to blame. This article is about finding a solution.

Luckily, the answer is simple: work abroad.

I graduated from university in 2008, which is right about the time the job market nose-dived. Every coffee house in my hometown of Austin, Texas had a barista behind the counter with an MA or a PhD. The average graduate was overwhelmed with debt, interning for no pay (minimum wage if lucky), and consequently, apprehensive and pessimistic about their future.

Most graduates couldn’t find work in their “field”. Oh the freedom to find work in your “field”. Tell us again Religious History major, what exactly is a job in your “field”? The bitter truth was and is, times are rough, and most of our generation doesn’t have the option of waiting for a job in our “field”.

Seeing as I was a bright-eyed optimist upon entering university in 2004, I made the decision, like thousands of others, to obtain a degree in the Humanities. Meaning, my degree was worth as much as a bag of rocks. On the bright side, it did give me the chance to explore my world in an open environment of creativity and free expression, which I’m happy and thankful for. It didn’t, however, prevent me from being another cliché; after graduation, I too joined the service industry world. I worked as a hostess, server, and even a bartender.

But I always had a goal in mind: Work, save, and travel the world.

So I did just that. I worked, I saved, and I invested in a 6 week TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course. A year and a bit after graduating, I landed my first gig teaching English in Surabaya, Indonesia. Excited for the new adventure, and aware that Surabaya was a concrete jungle, I bought a one-way ticket. Although Surabaya isn’t the prettiest place in the world- actually, it’s more of the polar opposite-it was there that I learned the ins and outs of teaching, and became aware of the perks of working abroad.

On another note, working abroad is not for everyone. If you enjoy paying high taxes, working at a job that you are over-qualified for, have a passion for sitting at a desk all day, love staring at a computer screen until your eyes burn, couldn’t imagine a life working less than 40 hours a week, have a fetish for pretending to be busy, or are enthusiastic about paying 25% or more of your monthly paycheck for a decent health insurance plan, working abroad is not for you. If, on the other hand, you have a desire to see more of the world, explore new cultures and enrich the lives of some kids while you’re at it, then teaching abroad might be a nice fit.

All I know for certain, is that working abroad has suited my lifestyle perfectly. Between every one -year contract, I take time to visit new places, see my family, and enjoy life. I never thought I would be a long-term teacher, but after Indonesia, I taught another year in Honduras. Currently, I am teaching my third year in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Taiwan is hands down the best place I have worked abroad. The quality of life for expats is excellent. The demand for teachers is high, and the compensation is more than generous. I work 25 hours a week, and get paid as much as a teacher in the States working at least 40 hours a week. Also, add to the equation that the cost of living is about 30-50% of that in the U.S., health care is affordable, and the medical treatment is top notch. As an added bonus, I do not have to contribute taxes to a government that spends my money on wars and pushes policies that I disagree with. Finally, I am able to save, pay off my debts, and travel the world at the same time.

There are some minor annoyances about working abroad. My main qualm about working in Asia is the lack of communication between employer and employee. And no, this can’t be blamed on the language barrier, because my boss speaks English. It is completely cultural, and I have learned (or am learning) to accept their ways. So no, it is not peaches and cream all of the time, but hey, when is anything?

Regardless, after experiencing the adventurous and rewarding life of teaching abroad, I could never return to a world of fluorescent lighting, data entry, or one of serving food and drinks.

Answer the questions below to find out if teaching English abroad might be right for you:

1. Are you able to make a commitment to live away from home for a minimum of 1 year?
2. Do you have a University degree?
3. Do you love to travel?
4. Would you like to make a nice salary?
5. Are you able to put the norms of your home country on the backburner, and immerse yourself in a new culture?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are probably an ideal candidate. Below is a checklist to prepare for teaching abroad:

1. Take a TEFL or CELTA course. Oxford Seminars offers a 6 -week intensive TEFL option for those with busy schedules. The course is a little pricey, but it’s an investment worth making.
2. If you are planning to teach in Korea, and are from the United States, get your FBI background check ASAP. They take forever to process.
3. Photocopy all of your important documents (resume, transcripts, diploma, TEFL certificate, passport, headshots) and put them in one file on your computer so they are easily accessible whilst applying.
4. Make sure you have enough savings to survive on for one month until you receive your first paycheck.
5. Do your homework on the country you are thinking of moving to. This isn’t a light decision; so make sure you are well prepared.

Where to teach?

Asia is a great place to make money, and is perfect for new teachers. South Korea, for example, is willing to hire teachers with no experience, however it will be tougher to find a position in Taiwan for first timers.

Countries in the Middle East are known to pay the most, but they are usually looking for teachers with more experience, and prefer 2-year contracts.

ESL jobs in Latin America are harder to find, and usually do not compensate very well. I worked in Honduras for one year, and my salary was that of a paid volunteer. All though Latin America is an enriching experience, it is not lucrative.

Helpful links:

Daves ESL Cafe
Oxford Seminars

About the author

Expat Blog ListingJenna Longoria is an American expat living in Taiwan. Blog description: Tales of expat living, teaching and tramping via native Texan Jenna Longoria, who has been teaching abroad for the past 4 years. Follow her on her latest adventures living and teaching in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Help to win!
Help this expat WIN by sharing a link on your website/blog/forum/groups!

Grab a badge that links to this contest entry!

Copy and paste code to display this Contest Entry Badge:

Contest Comments » There are 36 comments

Jacquelyn Longoria wrote 9 years ago:

Very informative! I would recommend this to anyone interested in working abroad, thanks for the information!

Allison wrote 9 years ago:

Awesome article!! This is inspiring me to stop everything and teach abroad myself! I love it!

Ken Mccormack wrote 9 years ago:

I found this article fun, easy to read, and informative! Not often is that the case. Great Job Jenna!

Mickie Hillman wrote 9 years ago:

Really enjoyed your article, couldn't put it down. What an enlightenment. You should be so very proud of yourself for a great article, service your providing to these children and yourself for the accomplishments you've made!

Sara wrote 9 years ago:

Awesome article

Yvonne wrote 9 years ago:

Yeey for teaching abroad! A good article and it will def motivate some people to go abroad to. I've been teaching English for 3 years now, traveling, a good life, free time and my plus? I'm working in my field! :)

Brenda wrote 9 years ago:

Great Article

Sylvia Longoria wrote 9 years ago:

Always looking forward to reading Jenna's informative and insightful articles!

Marcel wrote 9 years ago:

Great Article!!

Dominic Le Croissette wrote 9 years ago:

Inspiring stuff, Jenna! Expat life is not only fun (and challenging), but is also a great opportunity for personal development. I hope this excellent article persuades others to take the plunge!

Nicole Le Croissette wrote 9 years ago:

Excellent article Jenna, How I would love to travel again soon-certainly got me thinking!

Beth Fly wrote 9 years ago:

Enjoyed reading this! Also, so very tempted to make a move to Taiwan now. :]

Kolby Rodriguez wrote 9 years ago:

Great article Jenna. Very informative and well written!

Cindi wrote 9 years ago:

Inspiring and informative article

Andrea O. wrote 9 years ago:

Great post. I look forward to the next!

Annie M. wrote 9 years ago:

So true about miscommunications not stemming from only a language barrier, but also from cultural differences. You definitely have to be able to go with the flow in those instances. Great read!

Marsha Lewis wrote 9 years ago:

This is a great article.

Molly Gardner wrote 9 years ago:

Love it!!!

Kyle Housworth wrote 9 years ago:

Great entry. Not only informative but solution driven, which is helpful for inquiring minds. Jenna, your personal experience only adds to the clarity of your voice and the truth of your words.

Mike Carlson wrote 9 years ago:

This is a great article. Really liked it.

Shirley DeBerry wrote 9 years ago:

Great article about a great opportunity.

Karen Prater wrote 9 years ago:

Great Article

Candace wrote 9 years ago:

Great job!

Keri Dann wrote 9 years ago:

Jenna is a talented writer! Great article.

Portia Schmidt wrote 9 years ago:

Excellent article!

Cornelia Küffner wrote 9 years ago:

When I read this article I get appetite myself! Especially the words "adventurous", "learning about new cultures" sparkle for me. What I assume (although you left it out) is that you do a valuable job for underprivileged ones, right? That is great. Well written and all the best wishes that you are not ending up in 20 years with any boring desktop job! Cornelia (my second name is "Wanderlust")

Carmen Gonzales wrote 9 years ago:

Love your article! Very informative.

Alan Beaubien wrote 9 years ago:

The article perfectly details everything I loved about working overseas. It is a great piece of descriptive writing. Love it!

Karen Hodges wrote 9 years ago:

Awesome job!

Brenda Schaefer wrote 9 years ago:

Outstanding work!

George Singer wrote 9 years ago:

Jenna, truley amazing! very well done

Terry Walling wrote 9 years ago:

Really liked this one....

Stephanie wrote 9 years ago:

Great job on the article

Summer W wrote 9 years ago:

My sister is doing this right now and she absolutely loves it. I know from her experience that she would agree with everything you are saying! It's great that you are educating others on such a great opportunity. Thanks for the article!

Janice Stacy wrote 9 years ago:

Great inspiring. I imagine you have to have a little adventure in your soul to be able to do this type of work and I think Jenna qualifies 100%.

Lolita wrote 9 years ago:

Not that many articles about abroad are so informative and fun to read as this one! Great job Janna!

Leave a great comment and help to WIN a prize:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
Website (NOT required - include http://)

IMPORTANT: Rules for comments to be accepted:
- Positive in nature - If you haven't got anything nice to say... you know!
- More than 10 words - We're not looking for simply "Great post!" etc, make it meaningful please :)
- Verify your email address - One time only, we'll send you a verification email (CHECK SPAM FOLDER!)
Comments that fall outside of these guidelines won't be published!
Please note that there MAY BE A DELAY BEFORE PUBLISHING comments, so don't worry!

Your Comment: *
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Latest Headlines

3270 Expat Blogs By Destination

Submit your blog for inclusion!