How to start an English teaching job abroad?


Are you a Filipino teacher and wanted to teach abroad?


 

Dear Ateh D,

I’m an online ESL teacher and as most Filipinos, I’d like to try my luck working abroad— as an English teacher. How did you start and find your teaching job? What advise would you give me to start my teaching career as a Filipino abroad?

Ivy from Bulacan

 
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To be a Filipino English Teacher Abroad

My career as an English teacher started in the Philippines. Never have I thought, that I would end up teaching outside the country. But my teaching experience were all inside a classroom setting. I believe that if you wanted to jump start your teaching career abroad, you must start gaining experiences in a classroom setting, otherwise it will be difficult to find an employer that will accept your online teaching experiences.

I had three years of classroom teaching before I moved to Beijing. This was circa 2006, when the English teaching market in China was starting to flourish. I heard that these days, it has become a very competitive industry for everyone who wanted to just live there.

Sad fact though, we, Filipinos have a lower employment rate in the English teaching industry as compared with our “Western looking” counterparts although some of them are also non-native speakers. It is still sad to see job posts that indicates, “WE ARE ONLY HIRING WESTERN LOOKING TEACHER.” 😢

I do believe that it’s about time to change that tone and start inclusion. English teaching is for the experienced teacher and who really has a background in teaching, not just because your mother tongue is English.


English teaching-- like any other profession out there, is a job that one must know how to do, studied how to do it, and has a broad experience in administering it.

Employing someone should not be based on the color of his skin, the first language he spoke, or the country of his passport.

It has to be about his passion, patience, commitment, and discipline that comes with the job.


On that note, here are my advises to you on how to start your career on English teaching abroad:

  1. If you are not a certified English teacher, get yourself certified. There are a lot of online courses on the internet these days but you have to get the one accredited in the whole world. Some of these, are through the British Council or if you wish to teach English with children, get a TEFL certificate. So choose which age group you would like to teach, courses that suited with your schedule, and the course price within your budget.

  2. Gain more classroom experience. Most employers are looking for at least two years of classroom experience, so go get that one. If you have to do volunteer teaching, so be it. Nothing will ever prepare you for any teaching related circumstances if you have not taught inside a classroom full of mixed characters.

  3. After you’ve accomplished the first two, create your CV and set up your career network through LinkedIn or any other professional forum. It is through networking, that you will find people who can direct you to some work opportunities and at the same time can vouch for your skills.

  4. Join ESL/EFL teaching groups on social media. These days, this has been my source of job information in the English teaching field, around the world. It is through this platform, that you will know if the job offer is legit or scam. Or if a school is good or not. Or if they can really provide for a working visa or not. So be very mindful.

  5. Send out your CVs as much as you can. I always believe that if a job is rightfully for you, it will come to you. If the employer likes you, they will hire you. But of course, you have to be proactive in sending out your applications. Don’t give up hope!

  6. Lastly, on your interview— always present yourself in a subtle confidence. Wow the interviewer about the skills and assets that you can contribute to the job. Think about your weaknesses as well, for they are also part of your whole well-being.


As a Filipino English teacher, I have come to know that our best asset in this job is that, we are very committed and hard-working, almost double to what our “Western looking” counterparts can do. We are the ones who showed up in time. We are the ones who work in compassion with our students. We are the ones who are respectful to our colleagues and coordinators. We are the ones who hardly complain. We are the ones who will carry on a smile on our face even on a hard day. And we are the ones who will stay up late just to get things done. Like seriously.

I hope these tips and advises will help you with your teaching career in the future. I wish you all the best. And happy teaching!!!😍


Are you a Filipino English teacher, too? How was your employment experience abroad?

The Sad Truth of Living Abroad


What’s the difficult part of living abroad? How I addressed them?


Ahhh, Paris— the most romantic city, filled with arts, rich in culture, and the City of Lights. Everyone around me sounded sooo sexy! Everywhere I look— I am awestruck with beauty, sophistication, and glamour. I have an overwhelming feeling of genuine admiration to this new place that I am gradually calling, my new home.

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Truth be told, my first few months was tough. I was not HAPPY. I wasn’t feeling the magic of the city can bring to other thousands of people who wanted to come or live here. I was borderline depressed. Like, I can’t count the times I cried with Frenchie about this.

If you know me personally, I’m a very positive and happy person. And moving to a new country and starting my life all over again was already rooted in my DNA since 2006. It was never an issue or a problem for me to pack my bags and leave everything behind. In fact, I always look forward to a new beginning in a foreign place because it gives me a feeling of liberation.


It’s the chance for me to reinvent myself once again— my daily routines, my wardrobe style, my healthy habits, or just simply do a much better version of me!


What’s not to love about that part of living abroad?!

Well, France was a different move. It was something deeper. It was something I needed to do— but it took out all of my energy and time, just to get here. Hello, thirdworldpassportholder! It was more or less a sacrifice from my part. That perhaps some of you can relate with me.

You see, I came from sunny-summer Brazil before I moved here last December, in the middle of cold winter. I hate winter(!) I’m not a fan of snow and neither am I a fan of layering my clothes. I hate not seeing and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. So that was already a big turn-off from my part.

I also resigned from a job that gave me a love-and-hate-relationship with teaching, but still made me very fulfilled as a human being and as an educator. To leave behind a career that sustained me and gave me financial freedom is most likely the topmost reason why I wasn’t happy about my move here. I know I can find a job here. And I did eventually got a job offer, but was turned down because my working permit took sometime to process. Ahhh, just the bureaucracy of French government policy. But how can I complain if they will give me the best medical care and social security in the planet?! 😍

The sexiness of the French language only had it’s magic on me for the first few weeks. When the potion died down and faced with reality that I can’t speak it, I got frustrated. Although again, this wasn’t my first time to live in a foreign-speaking country— Chinese as the most difficult language and Portuguese, second. Yet those two languages and countries embraced my lack of, or almost zero language skills with light humor and fascination. Here, the Frenchies couldn’t care less and I have been raised with eyebrows in some occasion for my funny attempt to communicate with them in French. I don’t like to generalize the Parisians to be snobs because of that tiny detail. Let me be clear with that.😜

What about my social life in Paris? Well, my social life evolves with my husband, a.k.a. Frenchie. We are both grateful that we now share the same geography and bed, because four years of LDR was just long. I am happy to explore, discover, and make a lot of FIRSTS with him in this romantic city. It’s all very valuable and genuinely unique to have that in our relationship and marriage. But there are times that I wished I had a group of girlfriends and gay biatches that I can also hang out with. Because friendship made it even more meaningful, inspiring, and fun to navigate your way in a new foreign land.

I came to France several times before moving here. I had more or less an idea of what my life would be like, almost channeling myself as Julia Childgoing every morning to a boulangerie for freshly made baguette, buying fresh produce from the farmer’s market, eating my heart out to yummy French dishes, cooking those great dishes in my own kitchen, and immersing myself in the art & culture history to get inspirations. Reality is, she probably had it easy or maybe, I wasn’t as adventurous as her. Or perhaps, I was focusing too much on my misery rather than addressing some solutions to my problems.

So I’m glad to report that on this day, March 1st, I am back to my happy state and inspired self, once again. It’s a relief on my part, but mostly from Frenchie because he felt that how come his effort of support, love, patience, and guidance were not good enough to help me.

Truth of the matter is, it was all on me. “It’s not you. It’s me.”😊


The sad truth of living abroad is not about the place, it’s not about the people, and it’s not about the language. It’s all about how receptive you are to the circumstances and changes of your own self while living in that foreign land.

Especially, if it was ultimately YOUR CHOICE to move somewhere.


Do you feel sad in your new place? Think of how lucky you are and how difficult it was for you to get there. I made the excuse of winter time to feel sad because I was lazy to go out in the cold, much more to get up from bed. I made excuses of exploring new neighborhood because I was dreading to put on layers of clothes. But once I started to tell myself how lucky I am to be in this place— where some people made it their lifetime’s dream to be here, was a turning point for me. It is important to see the brighter side. It’s also really important to remind or ask yourself, why are you there in the first place? How badly did you want this to happen? Wasn’t this your dream coming to life?! Basically, slap yourself and tell yourself you’re a fool for being sad just because it was not how you expected things to be.

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Do you feel sad because you can’t understand the people around you? Learn the damn language to survive. Ha! Honestly, being a teacher of second language to children, I’m not a good example of this. Why?! Because I’m stubborn to learn a new language. I blame my Filipino mentality on this one. Bakit pa?!😜 But since it’s not only mandatory for me to learn French but also a requirement for my future, I had no choice. And I’m glad I did. Because I’ve met another amazing and inspiring group of humans! Have I not went and push myself to learn French, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet my new girlfriends!

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Do you feel sad because you have no friends? You will and you can make new friends if you make the effort. As an expat, this was no big challenge for me. I am a friend magnet! Ha! The most challenging part for me is how to make long lasting friendships with the people I met in a new place.

I am at a point in my life that it’s not how many friends I have, but how many small in numbers they are, and how they inspire, support, and build me!

I may have a lot of friends on my Facebook list, but the few good ones are the ones that made a constant connection and inspiration to me, regardless of our distances and our life’s shifts. So if you want to make long lasting friends while living abroad— invest your time, your listening ears, and your fun vibe!😍

In order of photos below: The new friends I met in Paris from studying French, my girlfriend from Beijing who is now back in Paris, and my Pinay friends from Beijing who came to explore Paris last month.

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Do you feel sad because you feel like you’re uninspired from being unemployed? Never stop looking for opportunities and inspirations. I mentioned earlier, unemployment was something made me feel down. As much as I wanted to stay at home especially this winter, there is nothing more that I wish to do— to be in a classroom with my little rascals. For three years, I was used to go on a month-long holiday in December-January. It was like my reset-button-time for I know, I will eventually go back to my work— where I am in my best element. But the case was different this year. It’s no longer a loooong holiday. It’s the real deal. That’s why I was really sad. I miss my old self, but only from that aspect.

What made me inspired again? I try to find activities that will truly fuel my inspirations once more. Believe it or not, I found the solutions in my Facebook. You see, you can find groups and people with the same interests and inspirations like you. I always start with clicking on the search button: expat groups in my city. From that simple button click, I was able to attend an education forum in UNESCO headquarter, no less and I found a group of expats who loves writing just like me!

When it comes with searching for a job, you can also build your network with your friends. From my experience, LinkedIn is still my source of employment job listings. It’s really important to build your career based on your expertise and training background.

The right job, that is truly meant for you will come, no matter what…

So if you’re still starting to build your career, my piece of advise is go into training (as much as you can) in your chosen industry because you will eventually find the right connections, people, and the best job.

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Do you feel sad because you’re not nurturing your own happiness? Acknowledge this feeling because I absolutely feel you! I have talked to several expat girlfriends here and has also shared the same sentiments & frustrations as I have. One has even shared, how it was even more difficult for her because it was her husband who had gone into the same “unhappiness” situation like me. I was starting to believe that maybe behind the beauty, sophistication, and glamour of Paris, the sad truth is— it’s the city and not us. But then again, it would be unfair to blame Le Eiffel Tower for our miseries. 😉

On this note, I have to say, our happiness begins with our self-worth.

I remember the exact moment when I felt I wasn’t worthy here. I got my very first email of response from a job posting, saying that although I have great credentials, I’m not the one they’re looking for. I cried to Frenchie but afterwards felt a lot better when phone calls after phone calls started coming in.

So what I’m trying to say is, don’t loose your self-worth. If you’re unhappy right now, pump up a loud JLo music to feel good. Reach out to your families and friends. Take short trips, if you can. Or call someone who will brighten up your day, until your stomach aches from laughing so hard.

Do not go deep with your frustrations.

Always find a way to lighten up. Meditate and practice gratitude. Thank yourself for staying strong and for making things work, no matter how hard it is.

Shine bright in your own light!

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What was your hardship in living a life abroad?

Why I'm Not Settling Back in the Philippines Anytime Soon.


My journey on expat living as an OFW!


June 6 of 2006, at age 24, I stepped into Ninoy Aquino International Airport for the very first time. Not to pick up anyone from the arrival area, but for me to get on a huge plane flying into Beijing, China.

I was a naïve probinsyana, without really understanding what it meant to leave the country that day. I can still remember my very curious eyes—looking at hundreds of Filipinos around me, most of them looking very sad or have just wiped their tears from crying too much.

It was only later I realized, that these are the bravest and strongest men & women from across the country, that we labeled as Overseas Filipino Workers. Most of whom, are also first-timers that day. Oblivious with my surroundings, I didn’t know that I will also be called an OFW, from then on.

I said strongest and bravest, because they are the modern-day heroes of the country—leaving behind their own families, to seek for a greener pasture so that they can send thousands of pesos each month for their families’ everyday needs, school education, health medicines, and material lifestyle.

When I arrived in Beijing after almost eight hours of traveling, stopping by Hong Kong— it dawned on me that I’m already thousands of miles away from my family and loved ones. There was a certain feeling of excitement, yet loneliness. There was a certain feeling of curiosity but also feeling lost. I felt mixed emotions that were of no meaning to me before, but all of a sudden came in waves—from days, to weeks, and months.

I have genuinely understood the true meaning of homesickness.

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For a period of one year, I tried to familiarize my new surroundings and environment. Me, having a curious-observer personality, has learned to navigate my way in no time. I may not have learned the Chinese language very easily, but I learned the language of patience, kindness, and open-mindedness— that made me survived the huge city of Beijing without getting into trouble.

I was in constant communication with my families and friends, because I missed them terribly. But when I started to create a daily routine with my new life, in my new community with my newfound friends— the calls and chats became lesser. I learned to embrace the new things and the new opportunities around me. The sooner I accepted that I’m no longer in the Philippines, the sooner I made new fun memories. Sometimes, it made me felt guilty, but at most times— when I had lots of fun, I couldn’t care less anymore with the guilt.

I moved on to a different direction with my life, so to speak. Which I thought made me stronger and fight back my homesickness.

After exactly a year, I went back home to decide whether I’m staying in China or go back home indefinitely.

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This time, the decision was easier. I’m staying in China.


Why?


I felt lost in our own family home. Sure there was a feeling of familiarity, but after being away for one year— all I felt was strangeness because it’s not the same for me anymore. For example, I couldn’t find where the coffee or sugar are. Or how to turn on the gas stove because it’s different from mine. Or just the comfort of my bed. Small details but big feelings.

I can no longer relate to the topics of my former colleagues and friends. They have inside jokes that I can’t laugh with them. I told them about my life in China, but none of them can relate to my stories. They told me about their lives but all I can think of in my head, saying to them— you can do better than that! We tried to reconnect but we knew their was a certain invisible gap that we will subtly acknowledge. I mean, we still love talking with each other, but it’s all mainly about the past— where I belonged. We seldom made a talk about the future or the present moment. These days, I’m only in constant communication with friends who live as OFWs.

The town looked smaller to me. And for the first time, I felt suffocated and bored. I was looking for the energy and vibe that my body was used with for one year in Beijing. But it meant that I have to go to the city and search for it. And when I went, it’s not the same. Funnily enough, when I was in Beijing, I was looking for that peace and simplicity of my hometown. Yet, when it’s right in front of me, all I felt was uneasiness.

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I complained and compared the way things are from my life in China. Which made me grumpy and angry, in a way. But my comparison was mostly on how things were readily available to me or how efficiency was a huge part of finishing a task. I found myself on several government offices one day— trying to comply their gazillions of requirements being an OFW. And all of the persons I dealt with that day, were neither helpful or productive with their jobs. They made everything harder, unclear, and remotely impossible to finish! How I survived that day, was even wild to me! #OnlyInThePhilippines

I learned that my open-mindedness is not normal to most of my families and friends. One year of immersion in a culture somewhat different (and a little similar) from ours, has opened my eyes in many perspectives. I appreciated my values and Filipino culture in many ways, for sure. But at the same time there were certain things that definitely falls on the category of “I wish we could do this back home.” That when I conveyed this message to my families and friends, I struck as somehow self-righteous or boastful to them. (And maybe how you will think of me after reading this whole post.😜)

Although I became more appreciative of mother nature and how beautiful the Philippines is, I was sad to see the picture of how we have abused that beauty for the sake of money-making and tourism. Everything has a price. Everything needs to be paid first before you get to enjoy the beauty and scenery. I would have understood the price tag, if it also extended to the development of the area. But sadly, no.

It also pains me to see that although we are gearing towards for a better country, we are still electing corrupt officials and still treat them as GOD wherever they go. When can we learn that these officials are representing us?!? Which means their job is to serve and care for our needs— not the other way around. We are not suppose to be intimidated by them, they’re suppose to openly communicate with us in order to hear what problems needed to be solved. They’re not suppose to take the people’s money for their personal needs and luxurious lifestyle, because that money is intended for all of our education, health, and welfare. And most of all, they’re not allowed to put their names on any government projects. It’s the most douche-bag and asshole move ever!

I love the Philippines! Always have been and always will.

I have promoted the country in any possible and little way that I can— may it be our food, our scenery, and our culture. We are the most fun-loving, resilient, generous, hospitable, and kindest humans in these planet. We love to give. We love to share. We love to make other people laugh. We value our families in the most unselfish ways. We value our relationships. We value our fear with God. Yet, somehow we failed so miserably to change into the best versions of ourselves— for our loved ones, community, and country.


Throughout my years as an OFW, I have met and talked with Filipinos on my travels. I remembered the very first time I saw Central, Hong Kong on a Sunday. It was overwhelmingly fascinating but when I came closer with a group, I have nothing but profound sadness. I was sad that it was the only day in the week they saw their friends or have even gotten out of the house. I never knew that they had that kind of life. All along, I had a picture in my head that they were living their most awesome lives because I had classmates from primary school that were so happy and proud to present new things from their mothers who worked in Hong Kong. Although, Vilma Santos: Anak had accurately depicted them in the movie, none of my classmates believed that their moms were living like that.

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To this day, the most humbling experience I’ve ever had was my brief stay in Hong Kong while waiting for my Chinese visa papers. I stayed with a 69 years old Filipina, who charged me 20HKD/day for a bed space in her tiny apartment in Wan Chai for three weeks. During that amount of time, I have not only learned about her life but also about the lives of six other Filipina women who came to stay with her, during their days off. I learned about their struggles, their heartaches, and their heartbreaking journey of raising other children while being away from their own children. Sadly, not all of them have success stories to tell me. They have several debts, their children have not finished school, their husbands cheated, they have a sick elderly to finance…the problems went on and on. They can barely (and impossibly) save their own earnings. That’s why they see themselves working harder and longer in Hong Kong as domestic helpers— some of them spanning over two decades already.

With that experience, I vowed to always better myself. I have greatly valued my life as an OFW. I learned to focus on the the things that will give me lessons, inspirations, and aspirations. I also learned to save money for my future because working abroad is a fleeting opportunity, except if you’re given the chance to be an immigrant in a country. And more importantly, I tried to distance myself from the chaos and dramas within the Filipino community.

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I know, I’m a rare breed and I’m fortunate. #blessed

I’m fortunate to practice my profession as a teacher abroad. I’m fortunate that I have no husband and children that I left behind in the Philippines. I’m fortunate that I have my sister in supporting our parents, financially. I’m fortunate I get to enjoy my earnings by traveling the world. I’m fortunate that I can freely choose to stay or leave my job— without compromise. I’m fortunate I was able to live an expat life because of my teaching career. And I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring people from different cultures.


After almost 15 years of being away from the Philippines— having lived in China (8 years), USA (1 year), and Brazil (3.5 years), and now in France— I don’t think Philippines is my home.

Home seems to have a vague definition anymore. After moving to several places (continents, countries, and apartments) it’s hard to tell where it is. I have just moved into my fourth country and continent to be with Frenchie. But this new life in Europe may be brief because we have plans of moving somewhere unknown again. As cliché as it may sound, but “home is really where your heart is.”

My Filipino values are still there, especially being God-fearing, but I have now grown into a totally different person because I have lived and experienced different cultures. Which I hoped have only made me a better version of myself. I became more open-minded, tolerant, patient, and sensitive. I am now more understanding and appreciative, not only being a Filipino but also being a decent human while respecting other nationalities, gender, cultures, and religions.

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I am, without a doubt, still proud to be a Filipino.

I will continue to introduce and showcase who I am. At the end of the day, life is a choice we make, regardless where we came from. Whether we like it or not, we have to choose what we feel is right and what we feel will ultimately make us a better and happier person.

To live this life of change or being nomadic can be overwhelmingly good and bad. I love the adrenaline of exploring the new surroundings around me and being able to try something new. The bad side is of course, the stability of your relationships and life. I may be used with packing and saying goodbyes, but it is still very hard every time. 

It also means, that choosing a life to live abroad, is not for everyone. It’s for the bravest of hearts, that’s for sure.❤


Are you an OFW, too? Or an expat living abroad?

How was your experience?