Recently I caught up with Matt Kepnes (better known on-line as Nomadic Matt) in Seoul, Korea while he was visiting briefly for a few days. Although many know Matt for his ‘nomadic’ lifestyle, it may come as a surprise to hear that he was once an ESL teacher in Asia for nearly a year and a half. Not long ago I was asked to do an interview in his book about teaching abroad. Upon completing the interview I was given a copy of the book to review. I wish I had a resource like this before I went overseas to teach for the first time.
During my first contract in South Korea I was given a shack on top of a roof (when I was promised an apartment) and I was cheated on my healthcare and pension services. Looking back in hindsight, I could have done a better job researching my position before signing the contract.
Matt’s How To Teach English Overseas book is full of valuable information that will allow one to confidently pursue a position overseas:
Q1) Can you briefly describe your career as an ESL teacher abroad.
A1) I taught English in Thailand for close to a year and in Taiwan for 3 months. I taught test preparation and business English while in Thailand and basic English to little kids in Taiwan.
Q2) How important was your experience as an ESL teacher in relation to your eventual transition to becoming a backpacker?
A2) The two are very different. I wouldn’t even relate the two experiences.
Q3) There is a lot of misleading information on the web regarding teaching English overseas compounded by the fact many recruiting agencies do not tell the truth regarding placements and working conditions. How does your Teaching English Overseas assist somebody looking for a quality teaching position?
A3) My book uses information gleaned from my own teaching experience as well as interviews from other teachers from around the world. It gets updated each year so that the information stays fresh. The book isn’t some spam site designed for you to click on ads or buy some products. I have no agenda with this book other than to provide good information.
Q4) What are some of the top ESL destinations for one to consider in terms of the potential to save money for travel?
A4) South Korea, China, Thailand, and Taiwan. If you are older and are a certified teacher, you can get a job in the Middle East and that pays well too.
Q5) What do you think is a common mistake made by English teachers going abroad on assignment for the first time?
A5) They don’t research their school enough to know if it is good or not.
Q6) What advice would you give to somebody who is sitting on the fence regarding teaching English overseas that is caught up in fear of leaving home and/or getting up in front of students and conducting a class for the first time?
A6) Teaching isn’t that hard. It seems scary but most schools provide pre-made lessons. You don’t have to know how to be an expert teacher. People from all walks of life teach. It’s easy.
Q7) What do you think the greatest strength of your book is as a resource for somebody eager to teach abroad?
A7) The country guides that detail visa information, salaries, working conditions, benefits, and cost of living.
Q8) What can teaching English overseas offer an individual in terms of life experience?
A8) Teaching a foreign country will definitely help you learn how to survive in an unknown environment as well as adapt to different circumstances.
Q9) Setting salary or savings potential aside, what are some destinations you’d recommend others consider for teaching ESL with more of an emphasis on leisure activities, recreation, culture and fun?
A9) Thailand, South Korea, China, Central America, Ukraine
Q10) Finally, what is one tip you’d suggest to any new teacher before he/she signs a contract to teach abroad?
A10) Make sure every last detail, especially those regarding benefits, bonuses, and time off are clearly stated. You want everything in writing.