A gap year is traditionally a period of time taken by a student who has finished their A-levels, with university next on the list. It is often felt that this is the perfect time to take a break from studying and gather your thoughts about the next road you take. It is seen as a chance to explore the world and get out on your own to find yourself. Of course, some people take a gap year later in life; there really is no right and wrong; it is a year to make some memories.

However, money is also pretty important, so many people choose to work as they travel to ensure they can enjoy their year away without draining their bank balance, and we highly recommend TEFL as the perfect way to make the best year possible. It is also a qualification that will never leave you and something you can fall back on at any time. It’s so enjoyable that many of our gap year explorers continue to teach English online once they return home to bolster their income while at university.

Why TEFL is Perfect for a Gap Year

If you haven’t really considered TEFL as a gap year option, we are here to help! Here are the top five reasons why teaching English abroad is the perfect way to spend your year out. 

  1. You Get to Travel

There are many countries that do not need a visa and several where you are welcome to teach English even if you haven’t got your degree yet. If you are a citizen of an EU country, you can head out to Europe without worrying about visas. If you find it hard to secure work without a degree, make sure you look in South America, as there are plenty of roles on offer there. You could also teach English as a volunteer, but admittedly this is not going to help you earn money. 

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  1. You Get Paid

Travelling is never that cheap, and when you get back after your gap year and head to university, you will discover that things just get more expensive. A large part of adult life seems to revolve around paying bills, so being able to travel and earn makes sense. Especially if you are able to save as you go as well as enjoy your time exploring a new country. You can teach part-time, and often language schools offer evening work which means the days are yours to see the sights and have some fun. 

  1. You Learn a Lot 

From your studies to obtaining your TEFL qualification to your time immersed in a new culture. There are so many learning opportunities you can take advantage of. It looks great on a CV and university application. It shows you have the skills and personality type needed to do well on a degree course. Living and working in a new country means you will naturally start to pick up new language skills. These are also highly rated in the modern world. Immersion is by far and away the best method of learning languages. You will soon find your understanding goes from nothing to almost everything in just a few weeks. Spend a few months in a new country, and you will gain some really impressive language skills that will stay with you for life. 

  1. You Grow as a Person 

If you take your gap year as a school leaver, things can be a bit daunting. Being alone is huge and learning how to deal with life is fantastic. Even if you are older, living in a new country away from everyone you know is a big deal. Add work into the mix, and you are really opening up to personal growth. It may require a little bravery, but once you are there and teaching, you will be surprised how much you enjoy it and cope with ease. You may get a lot of comments when you get back about these changes, and it will undoubtedly make university life a lot easier and a walk in the park after being alone in a new country. 

  1. You Will Make a Difference

There are many different roles on offer as a TEFL-qualified teacher. There are private schools and language schools and even camp volunteers. In many countries, people are keen to learn English because it can offer them a better life. Many areas of the world as still classed as developing. This can be a real eye-opener for people from first-world countries. English can genuinely improve their lives, opening doors for better-paid jobs and access to education in other countries. You can be part of making their dreams come true as an English teacher abroad. It can be very humbling to teach people who are so committed to learning. You really will leave with a real sense of achievement. 

So How Can You TEFL Your Gap Year?

If this all sounds pretty good, you are probably wondering what happens next and how you can actually make this happen. So here is what you need to know. 

You Need a TEFL Certification 

Without the correct certification, you will probably find that the only option is volunteering. However, this isn’t great for the bank balance. If you start your planning early, then you can get yourself qualified and find a wealth of paid opportunities. If you begin researching TEFL qualifications, you will soon realise that there are a lot of different routes you can take. We would highly recommend our online 180-hour diploma. This will give you all the skills and resources you need to tackle your first English teaching job abroad. 

You will also see there is a range of other courses designed to add a specialist skill to your basic training, and any of these could be good, depending on your goals moving forwards. For example, we have a course that helps you teach exam preparation if you have plans to work with refugees and asylum seekers. There are also extension courses in teaching English online or teaching business English. 

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You Need to Choose a Country 

We don’t just mean from a dream destination basis either! Of course, it is essential that you go exploring in a country you really want to see. But the opportunities on offer vary depending on whether you already have your degree. If you are taking your gap year after university, there are plenty of countries crying out for degree-level, TEFL-certified teachers. If you are planning to do your degree on return from your gap year, you will still find opportunities on offer but not in all counties. Many European countries require a degree, which can be frustrating if you are an EU citizen because it can be the perfect place to look for work. However, there are cases that break the mould, and if you can offer everything they are looking for except the degree and they like your demeanour, you may be lucky and find work. 

You Need to Consider the Options 

When it comes to teaching English abroad, you will find a combination of the following opportunities. It all depends on the country, but most places offer all or most of these—state schools, private schools, international schools, language schools, business schools and volunteer programs. 

State Schools: Tend to pay lower wages than their private counterparts and, in many countries, stick to local teachers. However, the work here is always reliable, and some are looking to foreign teachers to bring native English skills into the classroom. 

Private/International Schools: These tend to be fee paying which means that parents expect the best. It’s almost a given that a degree will be needed to work at these establishments. They can also be run more like a business with a very formal approach to teaching. 

Language Schools: These are found all over the world and are a great starting point for new teachers. Experienced teachers also love them. They teach children and adults who, for whatever reason, have no other way to learn. The pay may be lower than formal education. However, they often teach during the evening and weekends to accommodate people who work. So you get an interesting work schedule and time off to explore. 

Business Schools: Funded by businesses, these are often on the company premises and are designed to help their employees hone their business English skills for a global marketplace. Attendance is often compulsory for their staff, who will always be adults. Some English teachers travel around a collection of businesses each week to make up their hours. 

Volunteering: Many poorer areas have charities working with them to provide English skills, and although you don’t get paid, board and lodge are generally free, and you get to obtain valuable experience. 

I Plan to go After Getting My Degree

If you have a degree, when you are looking for work as a TEFL-qualified teacher, you will find there are more doors open to you, but your lack of experience can also be a stumbling block. It is an age-old problem of how you get experience in a field when employers are looking for experience already. Thankfully there are some fabulous destinations that are happy to be your first experience of teaching. Check out Greece, Germany and Georgia, as they are always very welcoming to new teachers. If you have a degree, you can also explore Asia and the Middle East, as there are counties there that do not insist on experience, provided you have a degree and TEFL qualification. 

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I Plan to go Before Getting My Degree

If you have yet to head to university but have a TEFL qualification, you can still find work. If you have time, then you could get some experience as a volunteer teacher. Or you could spend some time as a classroom assistant, as this counts as experience. However, if you just want to get on with it and begin your gap year, then consider Latin America and Africa. The only downside to these countries is that they can be more expensive to travel to. Much of Latin America is still developing. So if you are keen to work with people and make a difference, this could be a great choice. 

You Are Ready to Look for Work

Finding work has been made as easy as possible! We have a great list of current vacancies. You are given full access to our job listings when you enrol with us. You need to spend some time updating your CV to reflect your new, awesome qualification. Furthermore, you should also devise an introductory cover letter. A cover letter that you can personalise and tweak to make sure it is unique and appropriate for each role you apply for. 

When you choose the countries you think will work for you, consider the visa regulations and whether you are able to meet these. Most first-time teachers will make their applications online from the comfort of home. However. there are a few who prefer to first head out to their dream destination and then look for work in person. The order that works for you will depend on finances and visa regulations. Some countries do not allow those on a tourist visa to seek paid work, and some only issue a work visa if you can prove you have a role waiting. So there are a few things to consider.

If you want to look for work in person, then the same universal rules apply. Have copies of your documentation, dress smartly and be polite to everyone you meet.  We have met many TEFL teachers who have travelled the world and always applied in person once arriving in a new country. However, the majority of our students have found work using the internet. Many schools will also be happy to conduct interviews using tools like Skype. So it is perfectly reasonable to assume you can find employment before you get on the plane. 

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