Photo Credit: Frah Abdi
This Black Expat Shares Tips For Choosing The Best TEFL Course To Teach English Abroad
Teaching English abroad can be a great way to experience a foreign country and immerse yourself in its culture. Many Black expats have been able to earn a better income than they would in their home country, allowing them to pay off debt and elevate their lifestyles. Completing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course is one of the first steps you should take in your pursuit of a job teaching English abroad.
Frah Abdi has spent seven years teaching and living abroad. She has lived and taught in Malaysia for three years, China for three years, and Saudi Arabia for one year. At the age of 26, she decided she must live abroad, and at 27, she finally did, starting another chapter in her expat journey, which began long before she ever stepped foot out of the US.
“My soul has always known it wanted to be an expat. Let me take you back to lanky middle school Frah who collected pictures from places around the world and excitedly glued them to her bedroom walls. (Shhhhh, don’t tell my parents how the paint peeled off when we moved!) I would lay in awe every night and stare at the pictures imagining what it felt like to be there. I would consume tons of Discovery channel shows and sit for hours mesmerized by different places and cultures around the world.”
The feeling of awe that had filled and inspired Frah for many years finally blossomed into reality when she decided she no long longer wanted to stare at someone else’s pictures and adventures–she wanted her own. She wanted to live out her imagination, make middle school Frah proud, create beautiful memories, and BE in the world.
It took Frah a year to complete her TEFL program and find the right job. Then, she set off, bidding the US farewell. With her dream finally having become a reality, her heart swelled with happiness. She was doing all the things she loved: exploring new places, meeting people, building connections, and learning new languages.
“As a teacher living aboard, you get a unique opportunity to be immersed in a culture and learn about it in such a memorable way. You build relationships and friendships with colleagues from all over the world and connect with locals who are more than excited to share their country with you. These friendships span years and cross borders.”
Frah’s favorite part was getting to learn a new language. She was able to learn how to speak Malay and Mandarin, and also improved her Arabic, helping her connect with locals and access a deeper part of the culture.
“Let’s get to the best part, though–the perks of teaching abroad. Let’s be real, the pay is better abroad and so are the benefits (health, accommodations, flights, visa expenses, etc.) Teachers abroad have more time off, fewer contact hours, and the overall workload and stress are generally less than teaching stateside. Keep in mind that this can vary greatly depending on the country you go to and the type of institution you work in. So, it is vital to do your research and ask the right questions before signing a contract!”
Are you ready to take the leap and move abroad as an English teacher? Before reaching out to prospective employers, make sure you have your TEFL certification. This lets employers know that you have completed an accredited TEFL course and have been fully trained in teaching English to non-native English speakers.
Frah says there are certain things you should look for when choosing a TEFL course. When researching courses, be sure to select one that offers each of the following:
120 hours of coursework
“A TEFL course should offer 120 hours of coursework,” says Frah. “This is the standard requirement worldwide and many jobs won’t accept less than 120 hours.
“A face-to-face TEFL course is the best way to learn and apply the material. If a 100% face-to-face TEFL course is not available, then the course should be hybrid and offer face-to-face practice teaching with real ESL students (not role-play).”
“This is one of the most important parts of a TEFL course. The practicum allows you to practice what you learned with real ESL students and gain constructive feedback. There should be many opportunities for you to teach, be observed, and receive feedback. Many companies abroad do not recognize a TEFL program without a practicum. component.”
“Although there isn’t one specific accrediting body for TEFL courses, an institute should provide information on their website about accreditation.”
“A quality TEFL instructor is key to your future success because they provide valuable feedback and guidance. TEFL instructors should have university-level degrees and international teaching experience. Institutes offering the TELF courses should readily provide information on their instructors.”
“Scan the website of the company for information on how long they have been offering TEFL courses, how many students have graduated, and graduate testimonials. A good institute will have lots of testimonials and information on where their students were hired.”
Job search support
“Finding your first teaching job abroad can be stressful. Look for a TEFL course that offers job assistance, resume support, career counselors, or has connections with language institutes abroad and can place you. Having that support will be invaluable in your teaching journey abroad.”
Additional tips for Black travelers interested in teaching English in a foreign country:
“Do lots of research and ask questions. When I started this journey, there weren’t many resources online or places I could get questions answered, so I learned everything via trial and error. Now things have changed and there are so many expats teaching aboard who share their experiences and offer tips and guidance online. So, don’t do it alone. Seek support and help from those who have walked this path. Also, don’t take advice from those who have never taught abroad. I had so many friends and family members try to dissuade me from going abroad because of their own fears and limiting beliefs. Again, seek advice from those who have walked the path you want to walk.”
“I absolutely love helping people on their journey to teaching abroad. I want more of US to go abroad and fill this predominately white space of teaching abroad. I’ve learned a lot in my seven years and I’m here to help, answer your questions, and help you land the right job. Connect with me!”