Teaching ESL Abroad: An Awesome Job?
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Teaching ESL Abroad: An Awesome Job?

living abroad
Travel Noire
Travel Noire Jun 4, 2014

For two years I taught ESL in South Korea, in Seoul, where it is very common to run into someone working as an ESL teacher. I got so used to meeting people who teach ESL that on one occasion I mistook a Boeing Korea executive for an ESL teacher. Even as someone who consciously tries not to make assumptions, the plethora of folks in Korea who teach ESL got me thinking it’s the job choice for almost everyone there.

When I met Korean folks while living and working in the country, often they would ask if I was an ESL teacher, to which I’d say, “Yes.” Some people would say, “Oh,” with a lackadaisical or nonchalant response. With so many people in South Korea teaching ESL, this doesn’t raise the eyebrows of many. It’s popular just as it can be viewed as unimpressive.

One could look to the requirements for being an ESL teacher for some insight. What does it take to become an ESL teacher in a country? Well, each country has different requirements. Also, there are different educational settings that require different things. If you want to teach ESL in the Middle Eastern countries, you most likely will need years of experiences and perhaps some educational background in Education, ESL or teaching. If you want to teach ESL in any of the many universities all over the world, you’d most likely need a Master’s degree in ESL or Teaching or something closely related, this is all assuming you are a native English speaker of course.

But what about in South Korea? Well, South Korea probably has the best opportunity for teaching ESL, given the amount of money one could make, the total benefits package (many schools will buy your plane ticket to/from Korea, for example), and as well, because you essentially only need a Bachelor’s degree, a clean background check from your country and the willingness and diligence to do the job.

So, for some, the idea of teaching ESL is bland. It’s easy seemingly, or it doesn’t take much skill (if you want to do it well, I disagree), and the barrier to becoming an ESL teacher is low in most countries. For some, it’s something people do when they can’t or don’t do anything else. So, conversations can go like this:

“I’m an ESL teacher.”


Back in the USA, however, when I mention I lived in South Korea for two years and have traveled to a number of countries, many folks here within the black community ask if I was in the military. When I say I was teaching ESL, I usually bear witness to slightly surprised faces. Not all brothas that have been to other countries were in the military (although much love and respect to those who have taken that route!).

Nevertheless, being an ESL teacher is an awesome job, if one recognizes the opportunity and impact available.


OPPORTUNITY: See the world while you work, make money untouched by USA taxation (for the USA citizen readers), explore a different culture, develop skills that are transferable to all walks of life, save money, learn different languages, make connections within the global community, gain an understanding of other regions and economies and did I mention money?

IMPACT: Learning the English language for many people in different countries means a better life. You bring economic and social development possibilities with you to your country destination. Plus, you can build relationships, lasting ones. From the black community perspective, we can share our culture, history and sheer uniqueness with communities all over the world.


When I walk into a classroom to teach, or do some exploration on the weekends, or spend extra time after class to listen to a student flush out their ideas in English, or explain a grammar-in-use concept for the third time, I recognize the power and blessing of it all.

Teaching ESL is not the only way to see the world, but it is an awesome choice for those aware of its possibilities.


*Originally published on www.marvmillsblog.com

This story was curated by Marvin Mills.

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