We’ve done the hard work of planning the perfect TEFL gap year abroad across three continents, but perhaps you’re still having a tough time wrapping your head around the idea of spending your gap year teaching abroad.
Do I even want to work on my gap year? Are gap year teaching programs trustworthy? Do I like kids enough? Will I waste my gap year teaching English?
These are all legitimate questions and concerns you might have as you embark on this one-of-a-kind journey to cap off your high school or university life (or take a quick *pause* with a career break). But just because the road ahead doesn’t look particularly easy doesn’t mean it’s worth turning around now.
We’re here to answer the most common questions as best as we can—because we know teaching English abroad on your gap year is just the ticket to staving off debt, having a fulfilling cultural experience, and gaining some new professional skills along the way.
Read on to uncover our top 10 tips to spend a gap year teaching abroad!
10 tips to Spend Your Gap Year Teaching Abroad
1. First: Identify your gap year goals
What are you hoping to accomplish on this whirlwind trip abroad? Do you have specific destinations—countries, regions, cities, etc.—in mind? Do you want to travel frequently or live in a place for extended periods of time? Do you want to earn money or mostly spend it?
Without understanding your underlying motivators for your gap year, you will have a hard time selecting experiences and opportunities that fit into the bigger picture. This can lead to frustration along the way, and we would love for your gap year to be a mostly positive, productive, and happy experience—not a giant bummer because you didn’t do the upfront soul-searching.
2. You can find gap year TEFL jobs just about anywhere
Depending on whether or not you have a degree already, you will have many destinations to choose from for teaching English abroad on your gap year. Popular destinations include Thailand, Vietnam, and Argentina, which are especially warm and welcoming to foreigners teaching English.
3. You need a TEFL certificate
In order to find the most legitimate jobs abroad—and to help you feel confident as a candidate—we highly recommend that gappers get a TEFL certificate in advance of (or in conjunction with) a teaching program abroad.
TEFL courses are incredibly helpful in providing real-world training and resources to help you succeed in front of the classroom. After all, speaking English and teaching English are two very different things. We’d like you to excel in both!
Find an online course or a blended in-person/online option (like this one in Spain) to match your budget, goals, and interests.
4. TEFL jobs are not all made equal
Do you want to teach English at a summer camp and live in cabins with kiddos all day, singing silly songs and swimming in the lake?
Do you want to have a full classroom of 20+ students where you and your co-teacher are the only ones in command?
Do you want to work one-on-one with students as a private tutor in their homes or in a structured language academy with ample afterschool and weekend opportunities?
As you can see, TEFL gap year jobs can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Think hard about the type of commitment you’d like to make before jumping headfirst into the first job that hires you!
5. Paid TEFL internships are a great starting point
If you are moving abroad for the first time or are a little nervous about starting over in a brand new country (who wouldn’t be?!), consider starting your gap year teaching English with a paid TEFL internship. We love TEFL internships for first-time gap year travelers because they offer essential upfront support and community, not to mention connections with legitimate job opportunities and housing situations.
This can be a nice transition to your full-on life abroad as it will give you a few weeks (or months) to set up and get a lay of the land before confidently moving forward with your new knowledge of schools, neighborhoods, job ops, and more
Bonus: They often include a TEFL certificate!
6. Different gap year programs offer different levels of support
When you start to survey gap year teaching programs, start to take notice of what’s included (and what isn’t), how accessible support staff is, and program length.
You might be interested in a full-year commitment from the get-go. Great! If you want to “build your gap year” as you go, then a shorter-term commitment, such as 3-5 months in Myanmar, might be a better opportunity.
Is housing provided? Are there included cultural activities or language courses, weekend excursions, a 24/7 helpline?
When choosing between gap year teaching programs, consider the cost and the value of what you’re getting for that cost.
7. Try to live near your school to minimize commute time
There probably will be a time in your life where you need to commute 30-90 minutes one way to get to your job. We don’t recommend your gap year teaching abroad to be that chapter. If possible, secure housing within walking distance or a short bus/train ride from your school!
8. You should consider living with a roommate
We know that roommates can feel very, ahem “freshmen year,” but consider this: You’re abroad. Thousands of miles from home, AKA all of your friends, community, favorite pubs and coffee shops.
Homesickness can strike easily, especially if you’re feeling isolated and lonely.
The cure? Find a roommate. Whether it be another TEFL gap year teacher or a local that can help introduce you to the “inside scoop” of your new home away from home, a roommate or two can be a great connector.
9. Find side hustles if you’re worried about finances
The beauty of teaching English abroad on your gap year is basically getting paid to travel. It’s everyone’s dream, right!? If you’re still worried about covering your expenses or want to build up the ol’ savings account, consider finding TEFL-related side hustles on your gap year.
You can pick up a few private tutoring opportunities (check local classifieds or ask around) OR even teach English online during your gap year (for the latter, we recommend getting specialized training).
10. You might not want to come home after a year…!
Let’s face it. Gap years rock. So does teaching English abroad. Every day might not be a walk in the park, but it will be exciting, deeply meaningful, and a wonderful experience. One year might just start to scratch your adventure itch!
A gap year teaching abroad is a GREAT idea
We support your decision to take a gap year and can’t wait to see what you learn throughout this transformative experience. Allocating some (or all) of your gap year to teaching English abroad is a brilliant overlap for meeting your monetary, professional, cultural immersion, and travel goals. Best of luck, gapper!