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Travel and Get Paid For It - EFL in Europe


Backpacking in Europe can be pricey. OK, so you shun car hire and hotel rooms in favour of public transport and 40-bed dorms, but when you stay on the road for months at a time the bank balance soon starts to dwindle. Luckily, if you're a native English speaker it's not too tough to find a way to replenish your funds. High schools, businesses, kindergartens and private language academies across the continent are constantly searching for teachers as students desperately seek to improve their English (or at least to appease their pushy parents and bosses!) Here's a 10-point guide to securing your perfect teaching position; and to coping once you start the job.

1. Enroll in a Course
Probably the most important part of the planning stage is to sign up for a teaching course. You can find jobs without a certificate, but they're usually lower paying and often with less reputable employers. In many European countries a TEFL certificate is essential and often the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity TESOL are the only accepted qualifications. The intensive course lasts a month and costs around $1000-1500, but it's definitely worth every minute and every dollar. Courses are available throughout Europe if you want to turn it into a part of your trip. Be very wary of online courses. Sure you'll save a lot, but you'll basically waste the $300 you spend since they're generally not recognised by employers. For your certificate to be valid in Europe it should be at least 120 hours long with six or more hours of teaching practice.

2. Choose Your Destination
It seems like an obvious point, but there are so many jobs on offer that you have to make some quick decisions to marrow down the search. Pay is generally better in western European countries like France, Germany and the UK, but costs are also high here. Jobs in southern and Eastern Europe might have a lower hourly rate, but can often allow for a really good standard of living.

3. Shop Around for a Job
There are loads of jobs out there, so don't settle for the first one that comes along. Hold on for your perfect city, perfect country or perfect pay packet (well, the latter could be tough as EFL is not a particularly well-paid job in Europe). One of the best places to look is on www.tefl.com, which features hundreds of reputable jobs. It's also feasible to find a job when you arrive, presuming you have a valid visa. The academic year starts in September, so mid-August is a great time to job seek, though EFL vacancies are advertised year-round.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Moving to a new country to start a job is a big step, so make sure you know what you're getting into. How, when and how much will you be paid? How many classes will you teach per week? Will your students be adults or kids? Is accommodation included and if not will they help you find somewhere to live? Will the employer help you obtain a visa? Before you accept a job, make a detailed list of questions and make sure you're happy with the answers.

5. Consider a Summer Camp
If you've never lived abroad or it's your first time teaching, a year-long contract is a major commitment. One way to ease yourself in is to find a summer camp job, with contracts ranging from two weeks to two months. Camps are plentiful in Spain or Italy, but undoubtedly the best place to look for summer work is the UK. Students flock from across the world to study in the morning, play sports in the afternoon and visit London on weekends. There are literally hundreds of jobs across the country, usually offering good pay, accommodation and all meals. Jobs are advertised from December onwards, though March is the best time to start searching for summer work.

6. Get Your Paperwork Sorted
It goes without saying, but make sure that if you need a visa, you have it in hand before you start your new job. Some schools offer help to obtain visas, but many don't since they can often find workers who don't come with the red tape baggage. Be ready to sort it out for yourself. There are always schools that will pay under the table, but just be aware that if you work illegally you don't have any rights and some unscrupulous employers might take advantage of this.

7. Bring Some Teaching Aids From Home
Naturally your school will provide books and other resources (another question worth asking before you sign a contract), but if you're heading straight from home it's nice to bring a few special items with you. Kids and adults alike are always keen to learn about their teacher's culture, so if you can pack something typical from your country (a jar of maple syrup, a sample of vegemite, a few dollars or just some family photos) it will always be well received and also makes a cool opening lesson.

8. Prepare Well and All in One Go
Any EFL teacher will tell you that their worst classes came from lack of preparation. If you try to wing it, chances are that you'll end up clock watching and struggling to fill the hour. The students certainly suffer, but the teacher generally suffers more. Try to plan your entire week in one session; maybe set aside a couple of hours on Sunday night. If it's out of the way before Monday comes, lesson plans won't be hanging over you each evening when you should be out exploring your new home.

9. Keep Your Classes Varied
Course books can be hit and miss, but they're a vital teaching aid, especially for first-time teachers. Still, using the book alone can be tedious for all concerned. Instead, try to vary your classes, using games, songs, movies, drama and crafts to back up the topics and grammar points covered in the book.

10. Look Into Topping Up Your Income
Sooner or later the opportunity to teach private classes will arise. It could be a student from one of your classes seeking some extra help, your local shopkeeper wanting a tutor for his kids or a student who gets referred from a fellow teacher who's moving on. Make sure that you're not poaching clients from your employer and that taking classes on the side is not forbidden by your contract. If it's all go, find out what the going rate is and stick a few signs around advertising your services. Private teaching is also a good way to make a few bucks if you don't manage to get a work permit sorted.

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