Category Archives: Work and study abroad

Getting qualified to teach abroad- is it worth it?

Teaching English Abroad- Getting qualified

In the few months I’ve been working on the Careers Service Welcome Desk I’ve come across many students asking about teaching English abroad. It’s lead me to reflect on my experience – 3 years teaching English in Cambodia, which I would describe as one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences of my life.

‘So, what are you going to do now?’

When I graduated in Sociology I was faced with the dreaded question ‘So what are you going to do now?’ I had entertained the idea of doing a PGCE, but didn’t feel ready to commit to a career in teaching. After travelling in Southeast Asia and meeting a lot of English teachers I decided that teaching English seemed the most realistic job option for me if I wanted to work abroad. Whilst travelling I met people from a broad range of educational backgrounds; some had PGCEs, others had done online TEFL courses, and some had no qualifications at all. None of them seemed to have difficulty finding teaching work, however, a recurring theme in my conversations was that the more qualified teachers worked in better schools, had greater job security, and higher pay.

 Reality Check

I returned to England with one goal – to get back to the sun, smiles, and cheap beer of South-East Asia as soon as possible! I planned to do a 100-hour online teaching course for around £250, alongside working full-time as a waitress. As I was living with my parents at the time (thanks Mum and Dad!) I worked out I could be on a plane to Bangkok to start my new life within 6 months! However, when I relayed my plan (with much zest) to my dad, he advised that I invest the time and money and gain a qualification that would be recognized by accredited teaching organisations both abroad and the UK. Gaining a recognised qualification could be beneficial in developing a teaching career in the future. My Dad was an ESL lecturer at University of Bristol so I realised that his comments were informed, and subsequently took his advice by investing in a more in-depth training course which resulted in a recognised qualification – the Trinity Cert TESOL.

Back to school

The Trinity Cert TESOL is a 5-week intensive teacher training course comprising modules in Teaching Skills, Language Awareness, Learning an Unknown Language and Reflecting on the Experience, and a Material Assessment. I observed English lessons taught by both experienced TESOL teachers and my peers, and had weekly teaching observations in which I planned and taught English lessons to International students wanting supplementary lunchtime sessions alongside English courses. These sessions were assessed, and I was given feedback and ways to improve after each session. For me this was the most valuable part of the course as it gave me an idea of how much work needed to be put into planning a lesson, and the importance of building rapport with the students. I would have not have gained this insight from doing the 100-hour online course!

The Trinity Cert TESOL

Doing the 5-week Trinity Cert TESOL course was incredibly challenging. I got up at 5.30am to finish lesson plans, studied after school to meet assessment deadlines, and dreamt about grammar and phonology at night! But the hard work paid off, and after 5 weeks I was a qualified TESOL teacher and, as a result, when I went to Cambodia a couple of months later I was able apply for jobs in the well-established international schools that paid better than the local public ones. I got a job at the Australian Centre for Education who trained me to deliver lessons preparing students for IELTS. This is The International English Language Testing System which measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. Having this experience enhanced my CV and helped me secure future jobs. Working at The Australian Centre for Education was a very valuable experience. I built a portfolio of teaching resources, got feedback and advice from experienced   colleagues, and taught students of different ages and abilities.

Was it worth it?

Having a TESOL qualification enabled me to get a better teaching job,but doing the qualification gave me the skills I needed to each, and in both senses, it was definitely worth it. Also, although I have decided not to pursue a career in teaching at this stage in my life the transferable skills I developed in doing the qualification.

Working as a teacher, and living abroad have all greatly enhanced my employability and my self-development so it was worth it in that sense too. I would therefore recommend that anyone considering teaching English abroad to do the Trinity cert TESOL or its CELTA equivalent. Information the CELTA course can be found on the University of Bristol CELFS website.

 

 

 

Year abroad – a modern language student’s perspective

When studying a languages degree, it is obligatory to spend your third year abroad.  Despite the fact that many people thought this meant I had a year-long holiday whilst everyone back home was writing dissertations, it actually meant working 40+ hours a week, speaking more Spanish daily than ever before and learning more about the culture than I ever could from a textbook.

What did you do in Spain?

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In August last year, I started a five-month placement at a Spanish language school in Barcelona. In a nutshell, my responsibilities included working as a receptionist, carrying out administrative tasks, answering phone and email enquiries and translating content to go onto the English version of the website. Having never worked a fulltime job before, the first few weeks were perhaps the most exhausting and a bit daunting. Nevertheless, once I had settled and got to know my colleagues, I started to really enjoy the work I was doing. After a month, I was put in charge of the schools Spanish evening course. This was the part that I perhaps enjoyed the most because, whilst it was a lot of work on top of what I was already doing, I really enjoyed having something for which I was solely responsible.

How did you find your placement?

The hardest part was probably finding the job itself. I started looking for an internship early on in my second year, seaolivia-barcelonarching Spanish job sites and lists of placements previous students had been on. Dont be disheartened if you send lots of emails and CVs and receive few replies as this tends to be the norm. One day, whilst thinking I was never going to find anything, I came across the language schools website and found that they offered work placements. Whilst the initial application process took a while, it was definitely worth it. So, keep looking and you definitely will find something!

What were the benefits of working abroad?

Working in another country was a great opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world whom I might otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet. When working such long hours, sometimes even weekends, it was easy to feel that all I was doing was working. So one thing I would suggest to help adapt to living in a new country is throwing yourself into different activities outside of the workplace. This way you get to know more of the city and the culture.

Having now started to think about future job applications, I think the year abroad was a very valuable experience. Working abroad shows international experience, highlights language skills and shows you can adapt to different working environments.

The Careers Service can help you to research different countries using the GoinGlobal database, as well as providing resources to help with applications.

Taking a gap year – a student’s perspective

Being typically millennial, I opted for the cliché and took a Gap year before commencing with my studies at University. I worked in a local pub for most of it and finally got round to passing my driving test. But most importantly of all, that summer I decided to do Camp America.

      steph-student

 

(Me kayaking with my best friend at camp from Ireland, and my campers)

 

 

This experience has made me. It has immensely enhanced my communication and leadership skills as well as my use of initiative. It has helped me to think independently and open my eyes to another culture. It’s difficult to fit such a life-changing experience into so few words, but here is a brief outline…

What was it like?

So I was placed to work at the Girl Guide Camp Birch Trails, in Wisconsin, situated in the beautiful North East of America for three months.

At 19, I was about to find out through working with such a diverse group of people I was actually quite young for my age. Having never really worked with kids before and, having never been away from my family for more than a week, I was completely daunted. The first two weeks were tough. I felt severely homesick and, whilst camp training was fun, I struggled to fight it.

But once the kids came, everything changed! You’re thrown in at the deep end, suddenly you’re alone with 10 little girls, aged 6-9, who rely on you for everything. Quickly you learn techniques on how to keep them engaged. You sing songs with them, master the art of them having sun cream on, bug spray and towels ready for the afternoon swim, and you even know how to stop their homesickness. (You secretly write them letters from the ‘camp chipmunk’ and soon they forget the whole thing).

At camp I was trained to teach canoeing and kayaking, horse riding and archery. I learned the girl-guide ethos and made life-long friends from around the globe.

What did you learn?

From working abroad I had to draw on a range of skills I didn’t even know I had! I learned how to cope with the culture change (you’d think America would not be that different-wrong; sarcasm doesn’t always go down well!). I know the value of teamwork and how to work effectively with others. With such a different mix of people, I had to be tolerant even when exhausted, which has helped me greatly in other work experiences, such as last year when I volunteered in the Czech Republic for three months. I knew exactly what I was in for! I now know how to communicate effectively, to be compassionate and lead!

I could not recommend enough work experience in another culture. It it’s challenging, rewarding and a little scary at first, but it will develop you as an individual so much so that you’ll look back one day like I do now, and be proud that you did it!

How your experience of travelling can impress employers

When it comes to applying for jobs after a stint of backpacking, some students worry that employers will view their time away negatively. However the reality is- experience of travelling can provide you with a host of skills and knowledge which can actually help you to stand out on job applications. Read on to find out how you can recognise these skills so that you can market your gap year effectively to employers.

Travelling teaches you important skills

There are a number of core skills that all companies appreciate in their staff, and the good news is you can develop several of these by travelling. Examples include communication, organisation, adaptability, self-reliance and responsibility.

Think about times when you had to ask for directions to the nearest train station from locals who only spoke limited English. Overcoming language barriers such as this would have strengthened your communication ability. In addition, taking time to map out your journey, plan routes and coordinate transport with available hostel rooms takes a great deal of organisation. In fact, simply showing that you were brave enough to leave the comfort of your home soil will show that you are a responsible person who is adaptable to change.

If you took part in any voluntary work while you were away, you may have also gained invaluable experience which you can sell to future employers. For example if you worked with a group of people to construct a well, you will be able to showcase your experience of working as a team.

Employers value cultural awareness

In the era of globalisation where international links between companies are increasing, your awareness of different cultures could help you stand out further. Through your travels you may have picked up cultural sensitivities and the ability to relate to lots of different people which could come in handy in the position you’re applying for. Furthermore, you will be able to prove to employers that you are comfortable with travelling, which may be necessary if you want to work for a multinational company.

Remember:

Be positive: Even if you struggled with the challenges of being away from home, these challenges would have taught you a lot.
Organisations want to hire interesting people: Graduate recruiters receive numerous applications. Evidence of travelling on your CV or in a cover letter could help you stand out from a big crowd.
Keep a record: If you are about to set off on your travels, consider taking a journal with you so you can jot down specific things that you did and what these experiences taught you. That way if you struggle to remember examples to write on your CV or speak about at an interview, you can refer back to this.
Consider writing a blog: Similarly, if you’re interested in a career where writing skills are important, writing an online blog while you’re abroad could help you showcase your talents later down the line.

Planning your year abroad

Spain

When asked about the reasons for choosing their course, most modern language students would mention the opportunity to spend a year outside the cold and dreary UK. After a few minutes of hearing how lucky they are to have the chance to spend 6 months in sunny Barcelona or chic Paris (insert regional stereotypes here) the modern languages student will inevitably be asked the dreaded question: ‘So, what are you planning to do in your time abroad?’ Panic!

As much as the average linguist romanticises and boasts about their year abroad, many of us do not have any concrete plans for our time abroad until about a third of the way through second-year. By that point we are only a few weeks away from filling in forms whereby we commit ourselves to work or study in Europe or further afield. Compulsory attendance at the Year Abroad Meeting in mid-June is not (just) to stop us enjoying our summer (or rather the UK’s woeful attempt at summer); the main reason for it is to get us thinking about what we want to do on our year abroad.

Where to go – Financial implications

The first important step is to decide where you want to live. If you choose to work in Europe, either through a British Council Teaching Assistantship or an individually sourced placement; or to study at a partner institution in Europe, you will be eligible for an Erasmus grant and will receive a fee waiver.

For those venturing outside Europe or to a non-partner institution within Europe, you will not receive any of these benefits. Whilst partial funding may still be available, for example through the Abbey-Santander Scholarship for Latin America, this reduced financial support is an important factor to consider when making your decision. The year abroad is an invaluable experience and, for many, one that will not be repeated. However, it will not be your only chance to go abroad.

Some places are far more expensive to live in than others, so you need to decide if you are willing to take on this financial burden. As much as you might want to spend the year in Paris or Rio, this might not be the most financially suitable option at this time. Yes, you have your normal student finance entitlements, but not everyone is willing to take out a loan for a fourth year. Furthermore, depending on where and how you choose to spend your year, you could end up with a decent amount of savings by the time you return for your final year.

What to do – Study or work?

The next important decision to make is whether you want to work or study. I cannot stress enough how vital this decision is in determining how your year plays out.

The main advantages of studying are the support you get from the host institution in settling in and finding accommodation etc., the opportunity to live and study with other young people, and the fact that the exams you take (normally) don’t count towards your degree. When choosing where to study, you should bear in mind the differences in the higher education system as the levels of support provided to students can vary. Similarly, course choice is important. You should choose a course that interests you, but you should also think of which course would be most beneficial to your language learning. Depending on your learning style, you might benefit more from smaller class sizes (more interaction with other students) or classes which require regular essays or written work submission. On the other hand, being a student often requires more effort on your part to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your destination as it is easy to fall into the trap of just socialising with other Anglophones or non-native speakers.

This leads me to the main advantage of working. You will most likely spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, working and speaking in Russian, Portuguese, Italian etc. This is the best way to ensure that your language skills improve, which is, after all, the main purpose of the year abroad. At the same time, working abroad requires a lot of independent research and you are solely responsible for finding and securing your placements. If you are able to do this successfully, this evidence of maturity and self-sufficiency is very attractive for future employers.

Don’t panic!

Whilst making these decisions might seem a daunting task, they have to be made, so try to keep a cool head when doing so. Think ahead. Talk to careers advisers, personal tutors and students who have already been on their year abroad. The better prepared you are, the more you will get out of this fantastic year which, for many of you, will be the best year of your life.

Rosemary Amadi, BA French & Portuguese

Image: © Tim Riley 2014

Finding work abroad

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Do you wish to travel the world in search of work you really enjoy in a new and different environment? Finding it difficult to know where to start and which country to choose? Don’t worry, the Careers Service can help!

The world is a big place and the excitement of working abroad may be great, yet when faced with the reality of starting your search, it can seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The Careers Service has created a ‘How to’ guide for finding work abroad to get you started. Use this and follow the steps below and you will be jetting off around the globe in no time!

1. Use the Careers Service resources
Our International work and study pages provide lots of links and information related to international work abroad. For a more detailed selection, you can search by region and country.

Some useful resources include:

Going Global:
Going Global provides detailed country guides with a large range of information about working in individual countries – from industry and employment trends to interview advice and CV guidelines. It also includes advertisements for jobs or placements and a directory of employers (which allows you to identify potential companies of interest in exact regions/sectors).

Prospects country profiles:
Prospects country profiles provide lots of useful advice about applying for jobs and working in individual countries, including where to find those opportunities and some key job vacancy sites you can use.

Finding work abroad event:
Presentation slides available to download from a recent event on finding work abroad run by one of our Careers Advisers and Information Specialists.

2. Search for employers
To help target your research, it is helpful if you have some ideas about the type of work you are interested in pursuing. Once you have a particular sector in mind, you can start searching for employers within that sector. You can then see whether they have offices abroad. Have a look at our ‘How to research employers’ page for some ideas to get you started.

3. Network
The University has over 130 different nationalities represented in the student body. Interaction with fellow peers from around the world can provide you with valuable cultural insights and increase your cultural awareness. Make the most of your time at university by socializing with different people from all walks of life. You can join a variety of cultural societies and attend meetings and talks throughout the year which will help you to start to build a picture of which country you may like to work in; as well as increasing your worldwide network.

Another approach to finding work abroad is to identify people working in certain parts of the world who you can contact for advice. If you are a current Bristol student then a good starting point is to search our Careers Network to find Bristol graduates who are currently working abroad, or who have worked abroad before, and have volunteered to be contactable.

You could also use the professional networking site LinkedIn to identify contacts. Bristol students can join the University of Bristol Alumni LinkedIn Group to browse members by location, occupation and employer. You can also identify relevant groups for the sector you want to work in or your country of interest.

And finally…

4. Use the help available
Come and speak to one of our Information Specialists on the Resources Help Desk for further information about the range of resources on offer to students and how to use them effectively. For advice and guidance on approaching firms, drafting international CVs and submitting applications, come in and book an appointment with one of our Careers Advisers.

If you are successful in finding work experience abroad, come and let us know! You can enter the Overseas Internship Competition where you could win some funding towards your experience once you return.

Bon voyage!

Lydia Murphy, Information Assistant

[Image sourced from morguefile.com]