Teaching English Abroad Step 3: Getting an EFL job

Where to start from? How do I know which job to go for? How do I choose? Should I go with the best paid position or the one with more benefits when it comes to professional development or the best location? LOCATION! Should I go for Asia, Latin America, Europe? What if it’s not a good school? What if I end up overworked and underpaid? Who should I trust? WHAT SHOULD I DO?

A minefield. Overwhelming. Stressful. At least not as stressful as the CELTA (nothing is as stressful as a CELTA).

If you are a newly qualified English Language teacher you certainly had all of these thoughts whilst trying to do the impossible, decide what teaching job to go for, especially for your first one.

There are, no exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of EFL teacher job posts everywhere: on Facebook, on EFL websites e.g. tefl.com, teachaway.com, tefl.org, on some of the largest International School franchises e.g. International House (IH), British Council, English First and the list goes on.

I managed to secure my first EFL teaching job pretty much straight away, through word of mouth. My cousin recommended me to a language school and also Cambridge exam centre director in Cyprus who offered me a part-time position.

Getting my first full time EFL job was easy (the process was) but deciding where to apply for and which position to go for was incredibly difficult.

One of my CELTA tutors recommended a language school in Southern Italy as well, which offered great professional development and it’s an IH school, which guarantees at least a good level of organisation and support, though the money and the location (a small, quiet town) were not ideal. I also applied for a position at another IH school in Hanoi in Vietnam and I had an interview with a private school owner in Genoa. I had also applied for a few other positions that were filled but were still advertised.

In the end I went for IH British School Reggio Calabria, where I’ve been working at for the last month. I remember my tutors pointing out emphatically how our first year of teaching will be the toughest and we won’t have much free time to do anything else other than lesson plans and preparation and teaching, so I decided it was better to go somewhere with not many distractions and get as much experience as possible. And that’s what I did. I don’t know if I made the right decision, only time will tell, but all my fellow teachers, senior teachers and Directors have been tremendously supportive so far, not only with lesson planning and teaching so far but also with settling in, and important life adjustments and situations one needs to deal with when moving to another country, especially Italy (I’ll tell you all about in another post!).

So what did I learn from job hunting so far?

Word of mouth is highly ranked. Schools recommended to you from people you trust e.g. your tutors or fellow classmates/teachers or people recommending you for a job, that most of the time means you’ll get it!

Don’t trust random people/recruiters on social media. If you are a member of the big TEFL job seeking groups on Facebook, you will have already noticed how many profiles with fake pictures and fake promises are out there. I was offered a job in China, though I was aware that it’s illegal to teach in China if you are not an English native speaker. The recruiter insisted that wouldn’t be a problem. Emm, no thanks, I don’t want to end up in a Chinese prison.

Research the city you are applying for. Cost of living, bills, transportation etc so you can avoid nasty surprises when you get there. Make sure your salary covers all your expenses!

Don’t be shy to ask all the important questions in interviews e.g. working hours, whether there’s a syllabus, age groups you’ll be teaching, professional development opportunities, which days you’ll get off (some schools are open on weekends and/or you may not get two consecutive days off), whether you’ll have split shifts, what textbooks does the school use, holiday leave, sick leave, salary, national insurance, ask to speak to a current teacher etc. Thankfully our lovely CELTA tutors gave us a list of questions to ask which I religiously used in every single interview. Happy to share. If anyone would like that, let me know.

Update your CV. As you can imagine recruiters get a large amount for applications from all over the planet, so you need to make your CV stand out. Have relevant teaching/CELTA qualifications and experience on the top as well as any other relevant, impressive achievements. That’s the first thing employers will see.

Prepare for interviews. It’s difficult to come up with answers on the spot if you are newly qualified and you haven’t taught before the CELTA, so prepare a few examples from your CELTA on important topics e.g. classroom management, your most/least successful lesson so far, lesson planning, time management, dealing with challenging students/situations etc.

Be confident. Interviews are nerve wrecking, especially if you are a newly qualified teacher but remember at this point they are looking for confident, energetic, enthusiastic teachers, they are aware you have no experience. Also you are interviewing them as much as they do. You can tell a lot from an hour long interview, particularly when it comes to organisation, knowledge and professional support.

Trust your instinct. If a job seems too good to be true or if your interview didn’t leave you with the best impressions, then you know. Trust yourself and listen to your gut feeling.

If you are a non-native speaker that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent job. Unless it’s a legal requirement e.g. in China (which I think it’s obscene and unethical and unnecessary but anyway) then there’s no reason you can’t apply for any teaching job. Yes, in some countries recruiters favourite English native speakers and there’s no market for NNES but there are hundreds and hundreds of positions out there elsewhere.

Don’t sign anything until you read the contract and terms of employment carefully. No need to explain this in detail but I’ve heard plenty of horror stories.

Finally as with jobhunting in any profession, be patient and don’t take rejection personally. You need to remind yourself, particularly in this occupation, recruiters get lots of applications from candidates across the world. A lot of it is down to luck.

Wherever you end up, good luck and take care of yourself. The first year of teaching is hard work (if you are at a decent language school and teach a variet of different groups full-time) but there’s only one you and you need to be strong mentally and physically to be able to cope. More on that on another post.

Hope this was helpful!



Buongiorno principessa!

Ι’m sitting at a cafe at Roma Fiumicino airport, sipping on my cappuccino and forcing myself to finish my baguette, I’m too anxious and excited to eat, whilst waiting for my next flight to Reggio Calabria, a place I never knew existed until a month ago. How did I end up here?

Everything happened very fast, I didn’t have time to tell many people. Many of you will only just find out. So here it goes.

The day after my uncle died a teaching position came up at an IH school in Reggio Calabria, the job I didn’t apply a month ago when one of my CELTA tutors recommended the school. I always kept thinking whether I should have applied the first time, so when another job came up at the same school, I thought I’d give it a go. I had nothing to lose and I now knew that my priority was to get as much experience teaching as possible.

I’ve been applying for teaching jobs abroad for a week or so, I’ve been itching to go for a while, but I didn’t know what to do, whether I should go or not and what to go for. After uncle Spyros’ death, I felt like the universe was reminding me again that life’s too short to sit and wait. When this job came up again, I guess I saw it as a sign.

I applied on that morning and I had my first interview the same afternoon. I had a second interview two days later and by the end of the week I was offered the position (I’ll write a separate post on the whole TEFL job hunting subject and what to look for, it’s a minefield!). I was offered two more jobs, one of those in Vietnam, a country on my bucket list, but I loved the people at Reggio Calabria from the first interview, everyone I talked to has already been incredibly helpful and considerate and it’s obvious they love their job and their school. I also realised that I won’t have much free time to venture out much on my first year teaching. I need to be at a quiet place with not many distractions where people care about what they do and a great school at a small, coastal town in Southern Italy, with scenic views of Sicily across the water sounds perfect!

A week later, I’m at the airport on my way to Reggio Calabria and tomorrow I start my new job. Who would have thought. I’m thrilled and at the same time terrified. How will I teach English to little Italians?? Will my students, colleagues, flatmates like me? Will I be a good teacher? What if I disappoint everyone?

I guess I’ll have answers to all these questions very soon.

Every time I visit Italy the first thing that comes to my mind it’s a salutation from a classic scene in one of the best films ever made , La Vita e Bella (Life is beautiful). That’s what I thought when I woke up today to this view.

‘Buongiorno Principessa!’


My News!

I’ve been meaning to accompany the video I posted two days ago with a blog, but life got in the way. The last couple of weeks have been surreal…

For those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while, the first half of the vlog is just a few words about me (that you probably already know) but on the other half I reveal my news and briefly explain how all came together.

There are some things that didn’t make it into the vlog as I tried to keep it as short as possible. The original recording was 40 minutes long, so I thought it’d be better to give you some background info here.

As you probably know, I have been for the last three years trying to get out of my desk, number-based, not for me job. I’ve coped relatively well, considering my mental health struggles (anxiety, depression) and a million other things that got in the way (e.g. living with a flatmate for a while in order to repay my loan), the set of coping techniques I came up with worked great for a while (and my post on that was one of the most read ones), but I’ve reached a point that I feel I’m wasting 8 hours of my day in front of the PC that I would utilise much better, the money and comfortable life are not enough, so now the time has come.

I’m finally in a position (or at least as close to as I can ever be) I can quit my job and try different things.

Initially the idea of completely abandoning my efforts for another 9 to 5 job, leaving security and certainty behind was terrifying but the more I thought about it the more it felt like the best time to take the risk.

After I came back from Cyprus in January I was actively and intensely looking for another job, more meaningful, more creative more of everything, but the ones I was interested in I either didn’t have the experience or didn’t pay enough. Then I had an idea for a YouTube channel which will hopefully now come to life in September, if all goes well.

That kept me going and fed my creativity cravings. I was going to work on it whilst in my full-time job but that would have given me zero free time, with the volunteering and other things I do outside work. It got me thinking…

How can I make it out of a full time, 9-5 job completely?

Co-incidentally a couple of friends whilst talking about what else I can do mentioned teaching and how they’d thought I’d make a great teacher and that could put my creativity to great use, but the problem is, every single teacher I know is overworked, underpaid and have no social life. That’s not a compromise I was willing to take.

Then Donna, in a chat we had a couple of weeks later, mentioned TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). And it all came together. I can teach English aboard, to enable me to travel like I always wanted and give me the freedom to visit Cyprus more often to see my family and start work on my Youtube channel project idea.

I wanted to visit home longer than a few weeks for a years. And now it’s my chance. And a TEFL qualification would be the perfect way to ensure I don’t get stuck in Cyprus, otherwise all this would be for nothing.

So after some research on Teaching English abroad (I’ll write a separate post on that with lots of useful information) I decided to apply for a full-time, month long CELTA course, just after the rental agreement expires for my flat, in a city I’ve never been before, Cambridge. I applied, I had my interview and I got a place. I even got an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the fees for now until I can afford to repay it.

Next step was to book my one way ticket to Cyprus. And I now have a date, 25th of August. I’m spending four months back home, finally catching up with all my friends, SUNSHINE, quality time and Christmas with family, exploring my little island whilst I work part-time and kick off my Youtube project.

Then if all goes as desired, in January I’ll secure my first TEFL job in a country ideally outside Europe, as I’ve never been.

I’m absolutely terrified and excited in equal measure.

Worried my course will get cancelled or something might happen and ruin my plans. Petrified that the little money I’m saving won’t be enough to keep me going, horrified I may get trapped in Cyprus, terrified I will struggle with living with others after three years living on my own, in a country other than the UK, that’s been home for the last 10 years.

But so excited I will finally at least attempt to chase my dreams. Try different things, travel, use my creativity every single day.

Needless to say my anxiety levels are reaching dangerous highs almost daily but the thrill and absolute joy of what is about to come makes it all worth it.

A few friends and family still hope that I’ll ‘find the love of my life’ and either stay in Southampton or Cyprus. Even in 2019 it’s tough for some to comprehend that being in relationship is not a priority. Of course I still would like to have family, but not now and not ever if it’s not with the right person. That’s another compromise I am not willing to make.

I sometimes feel guilty I feel this way, that a boring but OK job, with lovely colleagues and a comfortable, conventional life is not enough. I am aware that others would love to be in my position. But I am not. It’s just doesn’t fit my personality, as hard as I try. And I’ve tried hard the last three years. I have to at least give myself the chance to be who I am full time. There’s so much I can do and so much I can help with.

I feel I need to talk about the B-word. Though it wasn’t the main reason, Brexit and the current political situation definitely helped my decision. I truly can’t believe what is happening right now. Moving outside the UK was something I wouldn’t even consider a year or two ago but right now, it probably is for the best. It will always feel like home and I will come back, I think. That’s a whole other post though.

Despite the anxiety, doubts and everything else, this just feels right. Maybe I’m wrong but I have a good feeling about this.

So that’s my news. I’m leaving my job in July, moving to Cambridge for a month to study CELTA, moving to Cyprus for four months to draw, film, take pictures, try random jobs like I always wanted to e.g. work in a farm, waitressing and other odd ones I have in mind and then travel teaching English.

Wish me luck!