Taking the path less traveled

GVL Courtesy - TEFL Iberia 
TEFL classroom

TEFL Iberia

GVL Courtesy – TEFL Iberia TEFL classroom

Armand Knorr

College is nearly over, and you never studied abroad. Or maybe you did, and you’re lamenting the cost and improbability of heading back to the country you fell in love with.

With a simple course, a few weeks of work and a sense of adventure, you could be jetting abroad to live, and make money, teaching English.

Opportunities for teaching English as a foreign language are abundant around the globe. The majority of job openings come in Asian countries, but jobs are available in a number of European and South American countries as well.

Richard Davie, the owner of TEFL Iberia, an English teacher training school in Barcelona, is from Scotland, and studied chemistry while in college.

Davie didn’t stick with chemistry.

“Me coming (to Barcelona) was a reaction to how much I hated studying chemistry in university,” Davie said.

Now, Davie operates TEFL Iberia, which trains prospective teachers and teaches English to Spanish natives.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) programs are scattered throughout the world, and certification usually comes through an online or in-class course and a fee that hovers between $1,000 and $1,500. Once prospective teachers complete a TEFL course, they earn a certificate, which is valid for life.

A quick internet search reveals a host of debate over the merits and costs of a TEFL certificate. In the process of earning a certificate, students learn how to teach English, how to explain the nuances of the language to a non-native speaker, classroom control and more. With a TEFL certification, the odds of finding a job in a foreign country are much higher than finding a job without one.

“I wouldn’t really recommend (not getting a certification) to anyone,” Davie said. “You’re not going to do yourself any favors, or your students any favors, at all. Teaching English is maybe a little more difficult than people think.”

That’s not to say those without a TEFL certification can’t find a job, however.

David Gonzalez, a peer adviser at the Padnos International Center and a senior at Grand Valley State University, taught English in Brazil in both 2012 and 2015. Gonzalez didn’t earn a TEFL certificate, but is still pleased with his experiences.

“For me, I felt like a got a lot of that experience hands-on and sometimes that happens to people,” Gonzalez said. “But if I could have gone back and gotten (a certificate) beforehand, would I have? Yeah, I think it definitely would have helped a lot. I think there are definitely benefits to any formal education. If you can get it, I think that it fast-tracks you.”

As with any job, the manner of day-to-day work will vary depending on a variety of factors. Different countries will yield different classroom demands, as will different companies and different classes.

At TEFL Iberia, trained teachers will work with classrooms full of students at the school itself. After establishing a clientele and getting experience, some teachers can contract students independently. Independent contracting lends itself to a bigger payday, as teachers can set their own rates, as opposed to abiding by rates of the schools they work for. Davie estimates that new teachers make between 12-15 euros per hour at TEFL Iberia, but can charge between 18-22 euros per hour as independent contractors.

The opportunity to travel, experience foreign culture and delve into an uncertain adventure are selling points for schools looking to hire new teachers. Foreign language proficiency in the country of teaching is rarely required, but can be a perk for teachers looking to expand their own language abilities in a foreign country.

College is over, and you’re not sure you even like what you studied. Grab a map, close your eyes and toss a dart. You may just find a country you’ll fall in love with.