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How to Overcome ‘Imposter Syndrome’ as an English Teacher Abroad

So-called “imposter syndrome” affects many first-time English teachers abroad – so, if you’re feeling its effects, know that you are not alone!

Here, we’ll explore what “imposter syndrome” is, how it commonly affects teachers (especially if you’re new to the field), and a handful of proven strategies based on psychology that you can use to overcome it.

What is ‘imposter syndrome’?

First things first: what is “imposter syndrome”?

Here’s a concise definition via Psychology Today:

“People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them. Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold high office or have numerous academic degrees.”

Some of the telltale signs of imposter syndrome, according to Asana, include, but are not limited to:

  • Poor self-confidence in the classroom
  • Over-sensitivity to making mistakes
  • A fear (usually unfounded) of letting your co-workers and/or bosses down
  • Burnout due to trying to overcompensate for the feelings of inadequacy
  • Setting impossibly high standards for yourself
  • Disbelief that you “belong” in your position

The thing to understand about imposter syndrome is that it can affect anyone – no matter how well-credentialed or experienced.

If you have an advanced degree and even if you’ve already got teaching experience but you still feel unsure about yourself without justification, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome.

So, what can you do to compensate for these feelings and feel just as good about yourself and your abilities as everyone else who watches you work does?

Let’s explore.

Strategy #1 to beat imposter syndrome: Talk about your feelings with someone you trust

Because individuals affected by imposter syndrome are already insecure about themselves, they might hesitate to discuss their feelings with anyone else for fear that their insecurities will be externally confirmed, or that their feelings will be interpreted as strange and they will suffer socially as a result.

However, repeating your internal, self-defeating dialogue out loud in front of a trusted confidant is an excellent first step to begin to seriously grapple with your insecurities.

Strategy #2 to beat imposter syndrome: Seek out honest feedback from respected sources

In some cases, seeking out an honest appraisal of your talents and the quality of your work from an authoritative source might be all you need to overcome your anxieties.

However, for others, the utility of soliciting this sort of feedback is often limited.

Even after receiving praise for your performance from a respected source in a position to know how well you’re doing, like a co-worker or boss, it’s not uncommon to go on feeling the same sort of self-doubts as always.

Strategy #3 to beat imposter syndrome: Play to your strengths

In the context of English as a second language (ESL) instruction, the “playing to your strengths” strategy could look like incorporating something you know for sure you are good at, something you feel confident in your ability to do and do well – like musical instrumentality, illustrative prowess, etc. – into your lesson planning.

By including these elements you already feel fully confident about in your work, you increase your chances of feeling better about your ESL talents that you might be less sure of.

Plus, if you add elements that you genuinely enjoy into your lesson plans, your students will pick up on and reflect that joy. Enthusiasm is contagious, after all.

Strategy #4 to beat imposter syndrome: Assess your performance objectively with real-world examples

One method that may work for some people to ease feelings of inadequacy as an ESL teacher is to objectively assess your performance using evidence.

In the context of ESL, such evidence might include but is not limited to observations from other teachers or administrators (you can use observed teaching practicum from a TEFL course or real-world notes from actual classroom work).

If the feedback does include any suggested areas of improvement, then develop a plan, perhaps in consultation with a trusted colleague, to improve your relevant skill set in that area. If the feedback contains no such suggested area of improvement, let that ease your mind.

This strategy may not work for everyone, as imposter syndrome is almost never based on an objective analysis of your ability or performance, but rather is fueled by negative self-talk.

Strategy #5 to beat imposter syndrome: Acknowledge, validate, release

As any therapist or counselor worth their salt will confirm, ignoring your feelings is no way to overcome your anxieties and fears. When you try to suppress negative emotions, they have a nasty knack for popping up in all sorts of surprising and horrifying ways.

Instead, a better way to process imposter syndrome is a three-parter: acknowledge, validate, and release.

In other words, make a conscious effort to really feel what you are feeling without attempts to bottle it up, reassure yourself that it’s okay to feel those feelings and that it’s not at all uncommon, and then simply let them go.

Realize and accept that there’s only limited utility in trying to rationalize your way out of imposter syndrome because, in fact, it’s not a rational condition in the first instance.

Strategy #6 to beat imposter syndrome: Meditation

This one is related strongly to Strategy #5, in that one of the main goals of meditation is to learn how to manage intrusive, persistent mental “noise” that harms quality of life overall, not just in the professional context.

If you’re new to meditation, feel free to experiment with different methodologies and disciplines.

If you’re looking for a good place to start, consider this guided meditation tailored specifically to individuals affected by imposter syndrome:

Strategy #7 to beat imposter syndrome: Create a list detailing your skills

One common trait of individuals battling imposter syndrome is a reluctance to acknowledge their personal strengths, and to instead harp on their perceived limitations.

Many people incorrectly regard listing their positive traits as braggadocio or narcissism. But that need not be the case.

Accordingly, a big part of overcoming imposter syndrome is reframing your mind to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

To this end, consider making a list of your most positive attributes. Don’t be shy, and don’t hold back; no one but you, unless you elect to share your list with someone close, will ever see it but you.

Strategy #8 to beat imposter syndrome: Commit to ongoing professional development

In some cases, imposter syndrome might be borne out of a sense of apathy or stagnation in your career. You might be able to remedy this by consciously committing to ongoing professional development, which for an ESL teacher might mean taking an advanced TEFL course or attending an industry seminar.

Strategy #9 to beat imposter syndrome: Join a professional network of ESL teachers

Similarly to the previous strategy, enlisting in a professional network of ESL teachers can help you reify your status as a serious, bona fide ESL teacher.

Having the proverbial seal of approval from a recognized professional association not only cements the perception of your legitimacy in the minds of prospective employers and colleagues, but also in your own mind.

Contact RVF International for more info and tips regarding teaching English abroad

Our mission is to help you reach your greatest potential and thrive in the classroom as a first-time English teacher. We’re in your corner!

To learn more about the work we do placing teachers in rewarding ESL positions across beautiful Spain, contact us.

If you’re active on social media, get in touch with us via Instagram. Or, if Facebook is more your style, we have a presence there as well.

When you get serious about getting started in the wide world of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) by getting universally-recognized certification, take a hard look at our fully accredited 120-hour self-paced TEFL. Set. Go! course!

Ben Bartee is a Bangkok-based American journalist, grant writer, political essayist, researcher, travel blogger, and amateur philosopher. Contact him on Linkedin and check out his portfolio.

Cultural Differences Between Living in Spain and the United States

Life in Spain and the United States is quite different. If you’re looking to teach English abroad in Spain, you might be wondering what cultural differences you might encounter. At RVF International we help hundreds of people achieve their dreams of teaching English abroad. Keep reading to learn more about the cultural differences between Spain and the United States you might encounter!

Culture can be defined as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”[1]. Spain and the United States are located on two different continents with historical differences that have shaped their cultures. First of all, the United States is 19 times bigger than Spain, with a population 6 times greater than Spain. This means that there are also a lot of different cultures within the United States, just like within Spain. Here, we are going to generalize the cultures and talk about the major differences you will experience. The best part about moving to a new country, is to immerse yourself in the culture!

Since you are looking to teach abroad in Spain, you are probably interested in differences in the working cultures. In Spain we often say that we “work to live, and not live to work”. This saying might describe the biggest cultural difference between the two countries. When meeting a new person in the United States, the first thing you might ask is “and what do you do for work?”. Your professional life defines your personality in many ways. In Spain, work is also important to enjoy a good life. However, it’s life outside of work that is important and prioritized. The coffee culture in the two countries paints a good picture. In the United States you have drive-through coffee shops everywhere, and you typically drink coffee on the way to work while driving. In Spain, colleagues will take a coffee break at a café and maybe sit down for an hour to talk. On the downside, things move pretty slowly when it comes to bureaucracy in Spain, as efficiency might not be the main priority.

Another big difference is meal and resting times. Meals are generally enjoyed much later in Spain. Breakfast is more or less the same time. The Spanish breakfast is typically something sweet, like toast with jam and coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Breakfast is also often eaten at local cafés, and a full breakfast will usually cost around 3 euros. You wouldn’t even get a coffee for that price in the U.S.! In Spain, many businesses have “siesta” in the middle of the workday, where workers will typically go home to eat lunch around 3 PM. Lunch is actually more like a dinner, and is the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is eaten very late, usually between 9 and 10 PM. Between lunch and dinner you will have a “merienda”, which is a snack between the meals. Eating dinner at restaurants is also very affordable. At typical Spanish restaurant they will serve a “menu del día” (menu of the day) for around 10 euros. That’s more or less 10 dollars for an starter, main course and dessert! And yes, it typically also comes with a glass of local wine. Can you believe it? Spanish food is also some of the best in the world, and there are many dishes you must try. And tipping culture is very different. In the U.S. you are expected to tip your server, and this is not as common in Spain. You might also notice that the service you receive is not as attentive, be prepared to ask for your server’s attention anytime you need something.

Public transportation is very common in Spain. You really don’t need a driver’s license to live well in Spain. The public transportation system connects the small towns with the cities, and within cities the best form of transportation is always public. It’s also very affordable, young people and students pay a reduced rate. In Madrid, young people pay 20 euros a month to travel without limits! Why would you drive? As an English teacher living in Spain, you will probably get to work by bus, metro or train. You might find some cultural differences while you are riding the bus as well. It’s common for people to stare, and it might be uncomfortable at first. Instead of avoiding eye contact, Spaniards might stare right into your eyes without being uncomfortable. And personal space is also limited. Spanish people are often touchy and will stand close to you when you talk. When greeting others, people give one kiss on each cheek (even with strangers). In the U.S., the norm is to shake hands, especially in professional settings. This also illustrates that Spanish people show more affection, even to strangers.

The cultures of Spain and the Unites States have many major differences, both in terms of professional and work-life. Moving to a new country can be a big challenge, and there are a lot of things to consider. To make the transition easier, RVF International has created a program that helps you step by step. This includes setting you up with a school placement in Spain, helping you with the visa process, to find housing and much more! We also host lots of webinars to help your transition, where we discuss cultural differences and what you can expect when moving to Spain to teach English. In addition, you will have someone to reach out to whenever you need support. And the best part, you do not need to have a teaching degree nor teaching experience to meet the requirements. Are you interested in applying to our program, or just get more information? Set up a free meeting with our Teach Abroad Program Specialist, Petter, and your dream of experiencing living in Spanish culture might come true!

[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/culture

12 Reasons Spain Is an Ideal Place to Teach English Abroad

For the reasons we will explore here, Spain is without a doubt an excellent destination for would-be English as a second language (ESL) teachers – even if you lack prior teaching experience.

Do you feel that you might like to teach English in Spain, but you’re not sure if it’s the right place to start a new ESL career?

Here, we’ll dive into a handful of the many reasons that Spain should be on your shortlist of ESL destinations.

Reason #1: Wide open job market

Spain, as is also true of other ESL destinations throughout the world, is a teacher’s market due to the incredibly high demand for ESL teachers contrasted with the relatively limited supply.

American teachers, in particular, are highly valued as are teachers from other native-English-speaking countries such as Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

There are thousands (by some estimates, tens of thousands) of ESL positions in Spain reserved exclusively for foreign, native English speakers.

To learn more about the wealth of ESL opportunities in Spain open to qualified American teachers (meaning you are a native speaker and have a bachelor’s-level degree or higher in any discipline), have a glance at our comprehensive blog post on the topic, Are English teachers in demand in Spain?

Reason #2: Your Spanish student visa allows access to the whole European Union

Consider Spain your beachhead into Europe – your own gateway abroad.

When you get your Spanish student visa (we’ll help you through the process if you work with us as part of our standard service) visa-free travel to the rest of the EU countries automatically opens up. That’s a whole continent of possibilities at your fingertips!

Whether you’re most interested in skipping over to Paris for a weekend or taking a longer trek to the exotic likes of Malta, you can do it all with one Spanish student visa.

As anyone who’s troubled with the hassle of getting visas will confirm, visa-free travel throughout Europe is nothing short of a godsend.

Reason #3: Learn Spanish in an immersive environment

The general consensus among linguists and education experts is that immersion is the best way to learn a new language because you are forced to interact in the native tongue in real-time out of necessity.

Learning Spanish has enormous practical benefits. A whopping estimated 450+ million people worldwide speak Spanish – the majority of them living in Latin America – making it one of the most common languages across the globe.

Whether it’s communicating more effectively with your neighbor or adding a valuable professional asset to your resume, boosting your Spanish proficiency confers numerous benefits.

Reason #4: No experience necessary

Having experience on your resume, it should go without saying, is a huge advantage for a teacher candidate to have, but the great news for ESL hopefuls looking to break into the industry in Spain is that prior experience is by no means a requisite credential. 

Most of the teachers we work with at RVF International, whom we place in rewarding ESL positions throughout Spain, in fact, do not have past teaching experience.

To learn more about getting hired at a great school in Spain without teaching experience, check out our blog post on the topic, Teaching English in Spain Without Experience.

Reason #5: High standard of living

Having lived and traveled extensively throughout impoverished parts of Asia and Latin America, the undeniable reality of these journeys is that, while undertaking them is worthwhile, the standard of living in these places is not up to par with Western standards.

Numbeo, for instance, a leading international cost-of-living comparison tool, rates Spain’s standard of living as “very high” due to its excellent safety record (low crime), modern healthcare system, low pollution, and – which we’ll explore in the upcoming section – relatively low cost of living. 

Reason #6: Lower cost of living compared to the US

While the standard of living in Spain is high, its cost of living is not – at least not compared to the United States. According to some estimates, living in Spain is 123% cheaper than in the United States.

So, if you’re considering the financial logistics involved in making the decision to move to Spain, it’s worth incorporating the lower cost of living into your analysis. You’ll pay less – as a general rule – in Spain for electricity, rent, food, etc. than you would for the same goods and services in the United States.

Reason #7: Unrivaled cultural legacy

Spain is the land of Picasso and Salvador Dali, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and El Greco. It’s also home to no fewer than 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

There is no shortage of top-tier, world-renowned museums scattered across the Iberian Peninsula showcasing the country’s rich cultural legacy – from the Guggenheim in Bilbao to Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

Spain has played an integral role in the development of European culture as a whole. For instance, after the movement was imported from Italy where it began in the 14th century, Spain became an epicenter of Renaissance artwork.

Reason #8: Beach Getaways

If you’re like most people, you enjoy a quality beach for a weekend getaway or a week-long stay of fun in the sun. Because of its geographical makeup as a peninsula, Spain is home to 5,000+ miles of pristine coastline, with innumerable beaches – highly touted and more low-key alike.

Millions of tourists from Europe and further abroad visit Spain each year specifically for beach holidays. But when you teach English in Spain, they’re accessible year-round whenever you have a break from work (and you will have plenty when you work with RVF International).

Reason #9: International professional experience

International work experience is one of the best additions a young person can make to his or her resume. According to EDHEC Business School, “abroad experience demonstrates ambition, resourcefulness, versatility, and a willingness to take risks, all of which are attractive employee traits.”

Reason #10: Spain is a culinary treasure trove

Spain is a culinary powerhouse at the intersection of European and Moorish (North African) influences. Whatever your taste, the Iberian Peninsula has something everyone can enjoy — from churros to Paella Valenciana to the curiously named bar favorite patatas bravas (“brave potatoes”).

Check out CNN’s “14 Spanish dishes you should try.”

Reason #11: Gorgeous climate

Spain’s climate (or, more accurately, climates as in plural) is renowned in Europe and abroad for its diverse and (mostly) temperate nature. The various regions of Spain each have unique climates, from the mountains of the North to the more arid, desert-like Central/South.

Much of Spain enjoys near-constant sunshine. Madrid, for example, the country’s capital, experiences, on average, 300 days of sunshine in any given year. Breaking out the calculator, this means that, for roughly 5/6 of the year, the sun is always out!

Reason #12: Diverse student ages

Spain has a relatively diverse ESL clientele – from toddlers to adults. Depending on your age preference, it’s possible to find rewarding positions teaching English to Spanish adults or to preschoolers. Many, perhaps most, ESL teachers have a preferred student age, and each age comes with its own sets of advantages and challenges.

Contact RVF International to learn more about ESL in Spain

At RVF International, we’ve placed thousands of teachers in high-paying, personally rewarding ESL positions throughout Spain. Most of them, before making their decisions, had questions about ESL in Spain.

We’re here to answer yours. Contact us – don’t be shy!

Also, while you’re here with us, check out our blog post, 10 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Teach Abroad Program in Spain, for more information about teaching English in Spain.

Living on a Teacher’s Salary in Spain: Tips and Tricks

Teaching English in Spain is an incredible opportunity for those looking to experience another culture and be immersed in a new language. However, living on a teacher’s salary in Spain can be tricky if you are not prepared.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about living on a teacher’s salary, including how much you should expect to make, where to find accommodation, how to budget for food and other necessities, and tips on how to save money. We’ll also look at what you can expect in terms of salary and taxes, as well as ways to make the most of your earnings.

How Much Will I Make As An English Teacher In Spain?

Teaching English in Spain is a great way to experience the culture and language of this beautiful country. The salary for an English teacher in Spain varies depending on the position, location, and qualifications of the teacher. Generally speaking, teachers can expect to earn between $700 and $1,000 USD per month.

The most popular locations for teaching English in Spain are Madrid, Granada, Zaragoza, Seville, Barcelona, Malaga, and Majorca. However, don’t discount other areas, as there are plenty of opportunities available throughout the country. Licensed teachers can teach in Spanish private international schools, but they will generally need to have 2-3 years of licensed teaching experience to land a job. However, with RVF International, you don’t need to have any teaching experience or a license to teach in Spain. You only need a college degree. Learn more about our program requirements here.

Budgeting Tips To Make The Most Of Your Spain Experience

When traveling to Spain, it’s important to make the most of your experience while also being mindful of your budget. Creating a budget is a crucial step in ensuring that you can enjoy all that Spain has to offer without breaking the bank. Below are some budgeting tips to help you maximize your Spain experience.

Create a budget

The first and most obvious step to effective budgeting is to create a budget. You need to have a clear understanding of how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend on different aspects of your trip. Start by listing out all your travel expenses, including flights, accommodations, transportation, food, and activities. Once you have a budget in place, it becomes much easier to make informed choices about your spending.

Save Up Before You Go

Before you leave for your trip, be sure to save up enough money to cover all your expenses. Having a buffer of extra cash can help you stay within budget and make the most of your time in Spain. We recommend saving up at least three months of your salary before you go.

Shop for groceries

When it comes to food, eating out every meal can quickly add up. Instead, consider shopping for groceries and cooking your own meals. Not only is this option more budget-friendly, but it also allows you to experience the local cuisine in a more authentic way. Head to the local grocery store to stock up on fresh produce, meats, and bread and enjoy a picnic lunch in one of Spain’s beautiful parks.

Dine out smartly

Of course, you’ll still want to dine out while in Spain for the experience. To save money while dining out, consider opting for a set menu or “menu del dia.” Many restaurants in Spain offer a fixed-price menu that includes a starter, main course, dessert, and sometimes even a drink. This is usually cheaper than ordering individual dishes from the menu.

Explore free entertainment options

Spain is full of cultural and historical sights worth seeing, and many of them can be seen for free or at a low cost. Take a walking tour of the city, visit a free museum, or attend a local festival. Do some research online and ask locals for recommendations to find out about events and experiences that won’t break your budget.

Use public transportation

Instead of relying on taxis or rental cars, use the public transportation available in Spain. Most Spanish cities are well-connected via buses, metros, and trains, making it easy to get around. Consider purchasing a multi-day transportation pass that will save you money over time.

Take Advantage Of Public Services

Spain boasts a wide range of public services that can help make your stay more enjoyable and affordable. Take advantage of free Wi-Fi networks available in many cities, or look into discounts for students and seniors at certain attractions and restaurants. Additionally, a lot of healthcare in Spain is free or heavily subsidized, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the public healthcare system before your stay. By using the public services available to you, you can make your stay in Spain both enjoyable and affordable.

Housing Options In Spain

One of the most popular housing options for teachers in Spain is renting an apartment. Apartments can be found in a wide range of sizes and shapes, from cozy studios to spacious multi-bedroom apartments. While the rental market can be competitive in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, teachers can find affordable options in smaller cities and towns.

Renting an apartment in Spain typically requires a deposit of one to two months’ rent, and most landlords also require proof of income and a Spanish bank account.

Another popular housing option for teachers in Spain is sharing a flat or house with other people. Sharing accommodations can be a great way to save money on rent and living expenses while also making friends and enjoying a social life in a new country. Websites like Idealista and Fotocasa offer listings of shared accommodations throughout Spain.

When searching for affordable housing in Spain, there are several tips that teachers should keep in mind.

  • First, it’s essential to do your research and get to know the different neighborhoods in your desired city or town. Some neighborhoods may have higher rental prices than others, and safety can also vary depending on the area.
  • It’s also important to be aware of common rental scams in Spain, such as landlords asking for money upfront without providing proper documentation. To avoid these scams, it’s essential to only work with reputable landlords and agencies and to always ask for a contract and receipts for any payments made.
  • In addition to researching neighborhoods and avoiding scams, it’s also important to consider your budget and living expenses before signing a lease.

To wrap it up, there are many housing options available for teachers in Spain, from renting apartments to sharing accommodations to purchasing properties. By doing your research, working with reputable landlords and agencies, and considering your budget and living expenses, you can find affordable and comfortable housing in Spain and enjoy all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Extra Ways To Make Income In Spain

Spain is a popular destination for teachers, whether you are teaching English as a foreign language or working in a local school. However, many teachers find that they’d like to make a little extra money while in Spain. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to make extra income in Spain.


One of the most popular ways to make extra income as a teacher in Spain is through tutoring. Many families in Spain are willing to pay for private English lessons for their children or themselves. You can advertise your tutoring services by posting flyers in local cafes, schools, or online through social media platforms. It’s also possible to teach additional subjects that complement your skills, such as music or art, and extend the scope of your tutoring abilities.

Online Teaching Opportunities

Another option for additional income is to teach English online. Many companies exist nowadays which connect students with tutors based in different countries around the world. You will have the flexibility to work from home and can schedule your classes according to your availability.

Freelance Opportunities

Additionally, teachers can also take advantage of freelance opportunities online. Freelance writing allows teachers to explore their passion for writing while earning some extra money. Freelance marketplaces such as FiverrUpwork, and Freelancer offer different types of writing jobs or editing opportunities.

If you have teaching experience, you could also consider offering workshops or seminars for other teachers in your community. Teachers are always looking to improve their pedagogy, and your experience and knowledge can be a valuable tool for others. You can market your services through teacher organizations, local schools, or online.

Wrapping It Up

When it comes to living in Spain on a teacher’s salary, there are many ways to do it. By utilizing the resources available, teachers can make extra income and stretch their salaries further. With careful budgeting and a little bit of extra work, you can enjoy the best of Spain without overspending.

If you’re looking for more resources or want to learn how to become an English teacher in Spain, visit RVF international’s website, where we provide valuable information and resources for teachers of all levels.

7 Unexpected Experiences While Teaching Abroad

When it’s done right – and often even when it’s done wrong – teaching abroad has the potential to be a transcendental experience.

Here, we’ll get into the unexpected experiences and benefits of teaching abroad.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching Abroad #1: Cultural Relativism

People have the natural tendency to assume that their own native culture is “normal” – life is meant to be lived the way one is conditioned to believe it should be lived.

Cultural relativism has a way of shattering our pre-conceived notions of what is “normal,” as explained via Carnegie Council:

“Cultural relativists uphold that cultures differ fundamentally from one another, and so do the moral frameworks that structure relations within different societies. In international relations, cultural relativists determine whether an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by evaluating it according to the ethical standards of the society within which the action occurs.”

As you venture abroad, you will inevitably encounter less extreme but equally novel cultural norms that will expand your worldview and open up new ways of thinking about daily activities you previously took for granted.

Everyone might not agree on whether cultural relativism is a moral right or wrong, but traveling abroad confers a cultural relativism borne out of necessity. As a practical matter, one is forced to adapt to the local customs and mores in order to survive and thrive.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #2: You Might Meet Your Lifetime Partner

The expat is a unique breed, psychologically speaking. You are bound to meet kindred spirits stricken with wanderlust on the global ESL teaching circuit – whether platonic or romantic.

I met my wife, who is Ukrainian, in Vietnam. We were both teaching at a private language school in Lao Cai, Vietnam right along the border with China, and our relationship was enriched as a result of our shared experiences as expats.

Aside from my wife, I maintain friendships with numerous coworkers I met in various countries throughout the years. The bonds we share through our shared experience of teaching English in a foreign country inform and strengthen our relationships.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #3: The Small Things You Once Took For Granted You No Longer Do

This one dovetails with the cultural relativism explained in a previous section.

As the American pop-punk band Blink-182 wrote in its chart-topping song back in the day, it’s “all the small things.”

Whether it’s the local style of toilet or the traffic customs or the social importance (or lack thereof) attached to timeliness, things you once took for granted back home you no longer do.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #4: Limited Teaching Resources

This one isn’t so much of a factor in Spain – the locale in which we place teachers – or other First World destinations in Western Europe, but it is a big one if you’re going to be teaching in the developing world.

The resources available are often outdated and, in some cases, what we might consider archaic.

I wrote a whole thing a few years back about my personal trial by fire, dropped as an ESL rookie into the “field,” so to speak, sweating profusely on the fourth floor of an air-conditioner-free Thai school in a remote farming village while struggling to make the best of the limited teaching materials at my disposal.

It was certainly an eye-opener in terms of the material comforts that most of us in the West are accustomed to. No amount of TEFL training can truly prepare you to thrive in such circumstances. Only personal experience can do that.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #5: Realigned Priorities

Because, as we’ve discussed, teaching abroad exposes you to new ideas and new ways of living, the experience has a way of transforming what you think is truly important in life.

It’s easy, back home – a common problem you can probably relate to – to get stuck in the malaise of routine. There might be nothing in your comfortable environment that stimulates any kind of personal development.

Getting out of that routine however you can – which, for many, means going abroad – confers a newfound perspective on what really matters and what you really want out of life.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #6: Assuming the Role of the Observer

In many ways, life abroad as an expat is akin to the experience of the fly on the wall: you are somehow immutably separate from the society you are temporarily a part of.

The sociocultural bridge that separates foreigner from native can never be fully crossed. No matter how much time you spend in your host country, you will likely never think of yourself as fully “native” and the natives likewise will never consider you one of them – although that doesn’t mean they won’t be kind and hospitable. In fact, they often go out of their way to play the role of gracious host.

Although at times the expat lifestyle can be lonely – especially if you don’t have the benefit of a strong support structure like the one offered by RVF International – being a foreigner can also be richly rewarding.

As a stranger in a new land, you are free in a way that a local can never be; there is no expectation that you conform to all of the social roles prescribed to a native. Any social faux pas that you might make – and you will make them — are readily forgiven, provided that you show a willingness to learn the local ways. You enjoy a leniency and liberty that is exhilarating.

Unexpected Experience While Teaching #7: Newfound Strength and Confidence

One inevitable outcome of living abroad is that you will strengthen as an individual as a result of your journey.

Living abroad is not without serious challenges. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being fully honest. Times can get hard, but when you face those challenges head on and overcome them, you’ll learn to trust in yourself. 

It’s a cliché, for sure, but on the other side of struggle comes lasting personal growth.

Contact RVF International to Learn More About the Benefits of Teaching English Abroad

If you’re keen to learn more about the many personal and career benefits of teaching abroad, we are always free to share our passion with newcomers to the English as a second language industry.

Don’t be a stranger — contact us.

Drop us a line about your ambitions and interests and we’ll discuss the work we do to place teachers in rewarding ESL positions in Spain.

Ben Bartee is a Bangkok-based American journalist, grant writer, political essayist, researcher, travel blogger, and amateur philosopher. Contact him on Linkedin and check out his portfolio.

Steps to get English Language Teaching Jobs

Breaking into the ESL industry might seem like a daunting task if you have no prior experience, but it’s actually not very complicated.

The ESL industry is a seller’s market, meaning that there are many more available ESL positions waiting to be filled than there are teachers available to fill them. So you have the upper hand as the teacher – schools need you!

Let’s survey a step-by-step strategy you can use to get hired at a reputable school or institution and really kick your career into high gear.

Step 1: Get your CV in order

First things first: get your CV in order. Your resume is the first – and, if it’s subpar, likely the last – impression of yourself that you’ll present to employers. It’s essential that you make yourself as attractive as possible on paper so that you can move on to the interviewing stage of the recruitment process.

Here’s how to soup up your resume.

Step 1a: Finish Your Undergraduate Program

The most basic baseline credential that most employers require in a foreign ESL teacher is a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. An estimated 70% of ESL teachers worldwide hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Obviously, this is easier said than done, as college programs cost time and money, so I don’t mean to be flippant here. Completing your bachelor’s program is going to take a lot of work and financial investment, but it’ll be worth its while in the end if you want to up your value in the global ESL market.

An important caveat: as the above-cited statistic indicates, 30% of ESL teachers don’t have a bachelor’s degree, so it’s not a dealbreaker if you find the right school. If you really want to teach English as a foreign language but can’t or won’t get a bachelor’s degree first, you’re not totally out of luck.

Step 1b: Get TEFL certified

TEFL is an industry acronym that means “teaching English as a foreign language.” These days, TEFL certification is almost an essential credential.

Like a college degree, not having a TEFL certification won’t necessarily bar you from accessing decent ESL jobs, but it will be an impediment.

For more information about why TEFL certification matters and how to identify a legitimate TEFL course, check out our blog post on that topic.

Step 1c: Get a pro headshot (or just a good amateur one)

It might seem unusual for a US employer to ask for a headshot with a job application, but it’s common practice in the global ESL industry. Many employers explicitly request one to accompany your resume.

Luckily, you don’t need to spend time and money visiting a studio to get one. If you have a halfway-decent camera phone (which most people do these days) it’s possible to produce a passable DIY headshot.

Step 2: Locate Jobs

Now that you’ve got your CV touched up, you’re ready to impress your future boss, get hired, and start teaching in your ideal foreign destination. How does one best get their name and face out there to the right recruiters?

Step 2a: Identify a Recruiter/Placement Service

One way to go is to work with a reputable recruiting agency or exchange program like RVF International.

The operable word here is “reputable.” The web is full of both legitimate and scammer recruiting agencies alike. Sometimes, telling them apart is difficult.

If you decide to go the recruiter route, do your due diligence and investigate any agency before you make anything official. Try to seek out honest reviews from impartial third-party sources. Previous teachers are great resources to get the inside scoop.

Here are the major benefits of using a recruiter/placement service:

  • Agencies have pre-existing, established relationships with the schools where they place teachers
  • Most agencies will assist in the visa process
  • You will enjoy a built-in social support network – an invaluable commodity in a new country 

Agencies or placement services are most attractive for first-time teachers who have limited overseas experience.

Step 2b: Hit the Online Job Boards

If you would rather go solo and find your own ESL job, which many experienced teachers do, the best way to locate jobs is to hit the online job boards.

Here are a few of the best online job boards:

  • ESLcafe.com – the OG of international ESL job boards. You’ll find postings from literally every country imaginable, with an emphasis on Korea and China.
  • TEFL.com
  • ESLbase.com
  • TEFL.net
  • Craiglist. Surprisingly, Craiglist is an excellent resource for ID’ing ESL jobs. I found a legitimate position in Vietnam once through Craigslist.
  • LinkedIn. This is more of a niche market for ESL jobs, catering to the higher end of the industry like universities and international schools – probably not ideal for a first-time teacher.

Once you get your standard email pitch down in response to job listings, applying becomes a cinch. Just plug in the particular school or recruiter’s name, add your template, attach your resume, headshot, TEFL certification and/or other credentials, and hit send.

When things are flowing, it takes all of two minutes to identify and apply to a single job, so you can really scale up your job search after you get the routine down.

Step 2c: Pavement pounding

Believe it or not, once upon a time, people found work primarily by physically visiting potential future employers, introducing themselves, dropping off a copy of their resume, and going from there.

Obviously, this method is more time-consuming than finding jobs online, and it requires that you are physically proximate to the schools where you hope to teach, so it’s not logistically feasible in many circumstances, especially in the context of international ESL.

But it’s a huge advantage if you can pull it off, because it demonstrates both that you are already in the geographical area and that you are sincere enough in your quest to land employment that you’re willing to make the trip in person to the school.

Step 3: Nail your interview and/or demo lesson

After getting your resume out there, assuming that you have the baseline credentials, it’s virtually guaranteed that your applications will garner some interest.

The next step is generally an interview and/or a demo lesson.

For the interview portion of the process, make sure you’ve got answers to the basic formulaic questions you can expect, such as “why are you interested in teaching English to foreign learners?” and “what relevant past experience do you have?”

For the demo lesson – a brief “demonstration lesson” that schools use to evaluate candidates’ potential — take a look at this helpful instructional video to prepare.

Step 4: Sign your contract and make your travel arrangements

You’ve put your resume out there, you got some love, you aced your demo/interview, and now it’s time to ink your signature on the dotted line and take off!

Contact RVF International for more valuable info

All that we do is help emerging leaders in the ESL industry establish themselves and get started on their exciting new careers. To learn more about the work we do, contact RVF International.

Ben Bartee is a Bangkok-based American journalist, grant writer, political essayist, researcher, travel blogger, and amateur philosopher. Contact him on Linkedin and check out his Portfolio.