Choosing the Right TEFL Destination for You

Are you dreaming of jetting off to foreign shores to live and work abroad? If you’re planning on studying for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), or you’ve recently qualified, the question of where you’ll go to teach may seem like a tricky one to answer. With such a huge range of countries to choose from, which should you pick?

I understand just how overwhelming the decision can be, which is why I’ve gathered together a few tips on whittling down that long list of possibilities to find the destination that’s right for you.

choosing a TEFL destination

1. Make lists and do research.

When choosing your perfect TEFL location, lists are your friend — especially if you have a few destinations to pick from or you have a totally open mind and have no preference yet.

If you don’t have any destinations in mind at all, then it may be useful to first have a brainstorming session and do research to get some ideas of possible options.

To get you started, take a look at this post from Caelyn Woolward at Essential Travel, which offers plenty of useful info on teaching destinations and this post from Joe Hallwood at The Guardian which is useful, too.

Now, it’s time for your lists.

Make a list of:

  1. Your dream destinations. Whether you’ve always fantasized about teaching in China, or you’ve just made a list of possible contenders after a brainstorming session, get down all of the destinations that you’d like to find out more about.
  2. Your must-haves. Do you dream of a beach? Perhaps you want a rural location — or you’re more of a city dweller? What about salary? Write down what is important to you to make your experience as fantastic as possible. Also be sure to note what you really don’t want — this is just as important to ensure you have a great time.

Compare your lists, and do some research to see which destinations feature your must-haves. This may help narrow down a long list of possible destinations and will ensure that the location you eventually choose matches what you want.

You may need to compromise, as there might not be a country out there that ticks off every single point on your list, but the idea of this exercise is to find the country or city that’s best suited to what you’re looking for.

To get a better idea of the destinations on your list, there is a plethora of great resources online. Lonely Planet offers a comprehensive range of travel guides, with articles available online, and more in depth guides in book form.

It’s worth heading to your local library or bookstore to take a look at these guides or something similar when you’ve narrowed your list down. We also have a wide range of free country guides on our website (ICAL TEFL).

2. Talk to people who are using their TEFL abroad.

After a quick search online, you’re bound to come across a forum of TEFL teachers who have taught in the country you’re interested in — they may even be teaching there right now. In terms of resources for making your decision, these people are gold.

They’ve lived and breathed TEFL in your chosen country, so they can give you an honest description of what life and teaching is like there, and answer any questions you might have.

The vast majority of TEFL teachers are friendly sorts, so they’ll most likely be only too happy to help and share their experiences with you.

3. Look at online TEFL reviews of destinations.

In the event that you can’t find people to chat to, search for TEFL blogs. Many TEFL teachers record their experiences via a blog, both to update friends and family back home, and to store their photos and memories in one place.

By taking a look through blogs like these, you can get a real feel for what teaching in your chosen country is like, and also probably pick up some top tips that you can use in the classroom or your personal travels later on.

Once you’ve made a short list of possible destinations, it’s important to do as much research as you can into what teaching in those countries is like, what is expected of teachers, and also what kind of salary and living standards you can expect. This information can help to ensure that you are well informed when you make your final decision.

Wherever you choose to go, though, teaching abroad is sure to be an experience that will broaden your horizons and dramatically develop your teaching skills. Working abroad is a fantastic opportunity and your time as a TEFL teacher will be time well spent.

Are you a TEFL teacher? How did you decide which country to teach in first? Let me know in the comments below!

Mark is a former TEFL teacher and a huge fan of learning and teaching languages. He now works for ICAL TEFL who offers various courses and support for people who are interested in starting a career in TEFL.