My Teaching Abroad Story

SIAS Library View from Gardens

At the very last second, during my Senior year of college, I finally decided I was interested in teaching abroad. I knew that I wanted to use my passion and education to teach international students but I didn’t feel like I was prepared to manage a classroom yet.

So, in order to get some more experience, I began my Masters degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I completed my 2 year program while working full time and decided to look for a teaching job abroad while preparing for graduation.

Choosing a Program

At the time, I was working in an international student office, so I knew of several potential schools. After speaking with my coworkers, they had encouraged looking in Asia as English teachers are most highly desired and compensated in the East. 

I had interviews with recruiters from three schools I was most interested in and prepared a LOT of my own questions to make sure that the school would be a good match for me, not just me a good teacher for them. This tactic helped me make sure that my decision was based on the things that were most important to my financial and emotional well-being.

My Main Decision Factors:

  1. Pay scale
  2. Number of teaching hours per week
  3.  Housing and Dining 
  4.  Community with other teachers

With these factors in mind, my best option for teaching abroad was at SIAS International University in central China.

SIAS Fall View of the Castle

SIAS International University

Xinzheng, Henan, China

SIAS is a unique university founded on principals of East meets West in their educational standards and campus design. Each of their students is required to minor in English language skills. 

This equals two years and 4 semesters of study, frequently taught by a foreign teacher that is a native English speaker. SIAS employs about 100 foreign teachers every year that all live together in the same six-story apartment building. We also received help with our Chinese visas prior to arrival.

Employment Benefits

My pay scale with a Masters degree was $750 / month. It doesn’t sound like much but it was far more than what I needed to live well in China and be able to pay on my student loans.

I was also offered 3 meals a day in the cafeteria in my apartment building that had both Western and Chinese options. My housing was a fully furnished one room apartment with on-call maintenance. This also included two free culture trips around the Henan province and six weeks of paid vacation during Lunar New Year. 

Megan's students in China

Teaching Schedule

At SIAS, teachers with Bachelors degrees are in charge of Oral English (conversational English) courses that all students are required to take. Those with Masters degrees are able to teach the specialized courses for English majors. 

I chose English composition, but there are other openings for Business, Film, and History courses. All taught in English in order to give students a well-rounded English education. 

I taught 6 1-hour classes that met two times each week, Monday – Thursday. Prior to the beginning of the semester, I gave the school my teaching time slots and about 90% of the instructors got what they asked for. 

I also had the option to work overtime and substitute teach when another teacher was out on vacation or sick. After a few times, it gave me a little bit of extra vacation money.

Field Trips

In addition to my apartment, meals, and essential set-up items, I also got to go on two weekend field trips to cities in our province for free! The school paid for our transportation, hotel rooms and meals for the entire weekend. My teaching year, the culture trips were to Kaifeng and Yun Tai Mountain. 

Megan and friends at the Yellow River
Yuntai Shan Waterfall 1

Final Review of Teaching Abroad

I learned so much about myself, being a teacher, and navigating an entirely new culture, country, and language. SIAS was a great fit for me during my year abroad, I made lifelong friends but it was not without it’s stresses and moments of tears. 

I’d like to think that most long-term journeys are like that though. A lot of joy and lesson learning with some homesickness and stress in the mix. 

Overall, I had a wonderful year and did a lot of soul searching towards the end through my journal to decide whether or not to continue my contract for another year. After some reflection, I reached a point of understanding that I didn’t want SIAS to be my career forever, and that was okay. I spent my year there, made the most of it, and moved back to California and started a new job, still with international students.

Recommendations

If you’re considering teaching abroad, make a list of what you’re looking for in a school and a new culture. Are you interested in a specific country? Do some research for your options. Plan ahead to know how much salary you’ll need to pay any bills you have at home. 

Last but not least, commit to flexibility. It will not be all rainbows and butterflies no matter where you end up, but if you’re prepared for that, it won’t throw you off as roughly.

Teaching abroad is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons and travel while getting paid. I am forever grateful for mine and welcome any and all questions you may have about your own journey! 

Find me on social media or leave a comment below to connect with me!

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