How to Get TEFL Certification in Five Steps

I withdrew from my college’s study abroad program before I even left the country. I wanted to see the world and did not want to do it while in a traditional school setting.

Although I had heard of TEFL as a way to live abroad, I didn’t really know how to get started. Eventually, I decided to take a TEFL certification course in Phuket, Thailand in late 2018 and now I’ve been living abroad ever since.  

How’d that happen? Here’s a step-by-step guide of everything I did before getting on a plane. I hope it helps you better understand how to get TEFL certification and eventually start teaching English abroad.   

Step 1: Be Introspective and Ask Yourself These Questions

Why do you want to take a TEFL course? Maybe you just need a break from your daily 9-5 job or you’re transitioning from one career to another. Perhaps you are in a similar position that I was: freshly graduated and in search of a sustainable life abroad because you’ve never left your comfort zone. There isn’t a right or wrong reason for taking a TEFL course, but you should know why you want to take one.

questions what do you mean

Do you have any interest in teaching? Interest is defined as the state of wanting to know or learn about something or someone. A more specific question would be, “Do you want to know or learn more about teaching?” In my case, yes, I did (and still do). I have a background in mostly math and science education as well as the scientific study of languages; I figured a TEFL course could help bridge those two things together. 

Step 2: Consider the Qualifications for TEFL Certification

The good news is you don’t need many qualifications for TEFL certification — after all, it’s considered an entry-level training course. When I took the course, I had just graduated from college and had about three years of teaching experience. Based on all the people in my own course, my qualifications and level of experience definitely aren’t the norm. I met people who didn’t have a degree and/or hadn’t been in school in over a decade. Specific requirements vary, but all you really need is a good attitude, willingness to learn, and an open mind.

Step 3: Choose a TEFL Course

map places tour

A quick Google search of “TEFL course” will bring up over 8 million results, so I understand how choosing a course can be overwhelming. I had five requirements when choosing a course: 

  1. Website Do they have their own website? In the age of the internet, it’s rare that a company or business doesn’t have a website, which is what makes having a website an entry-level requirement for me. Other questions I also consider are: Are prices and product laid out clearly? Is contact information easily accessible? Do they link their social media? Does it look well maintained?
  2. Reviews When I shop on Amazon, reviews are what ultimately get me to buy a product. Picking a TEFL course is no different. Unfortunately, there isn’t an Amazon for TEFL courses. There are actually several places to find reviews. The first place is on the TEFL course’s website itself. A good TEFL course will also showcase reviews from external websites, such as GoOverseas and TEFL Course Review. The more reviews you can find, the more accurate representation of the course you’ll get.
  3. Social Media A course not participating in social media was a deal breaker for me. If a course had an active social media presence, it showed me that there’s a human being managing their social media, which instantly makes them more real and personable. You can also now review businesses on Facebook. I went a step further with my social media requirement and messaged a graduate of TEFL Campus on Facebook. 
  4. Accreditation/Validation Be sure the course you choose is accredited or validated by an outside source. There are several TEFL/TESOL accrediting bodies; be sure to do your research on which bodies are legitimate and internationally recognized. Believe it or not, many courses accredit themselves or have simply paid for the accreditation without the company doing any real due diligence.
  5. Job Support This is actually a requirement I added on after having looked at a few TEFL courses. Let’s face it: nothing in life is guaranteed, so “guaranteed job placement” seemed way too good to be true. What drew me to TEFL Campus was that they explicitly state, “We don’t guarantee placements.”

TEFLCampus

Step 4: Choose a Country for the Course and for Work

If you follow my guidelines above for choosing a course, it doesn’t really matter where you go for the course. Choosing where you want to work though is a bit more complicated. Besides personal requirements such as: beaches or mountains, city or small village, yearly weather, etc., some countries have strict professional requirements. For example, in order to teach in South Korea, you must have a bachelor’s degree and be a citizen of certain countries. But to teach in some countries like Cambodia and Russia, you don’t need a degree.  Countries like Thailand and Vietnam list it as an official requirement, but employers commonly turn a blind eye to this. Do some research before hopping on a plane. 

TEFL Certification in Five Steps

Step 5: Prepare to Leave Home for a TEFL Certificate

Have a savings and be financially responsible. Be sure you have enough for the course and to get you through one month after the course ends while you look for a job. The cost of living in some Asian countries are significantly lower. For instance, TEFL Campus suggests coming over with no less than $3,000 after having paid for your TEFL course and accommodation for it.

Check your passport’s expiration date. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months following your course. Getting a new passport can take a few weeks. 

Check if you need additional travel documents to get into a country. Depending on your passport, you may need additional travel documents, such as a visa, to get into a country. 

luggage packing trip abroad TEFL CertificationGet a criminal background check. Most schools will ask for a background check and it is significantly easier to get one while you’re home than while you’re abroad. Depending on what type of background check you get, it can take a few weeks to get results. 

Find your original degree (if applicable). Most schools will ask to see your original degree and some countries may even ask for it to be certified. 

Before Loading the Plane for You TEFL Certification

Buy your plane ticket ASAP. The earlier you buy a plane ticket, the cheaper it will be. It’s not like domestic travel where there’s a magic number of days for the cheapest price. 

Notify your bank of travel plans. Trust me, you don’t want your card getting declined when you’re 13,000 km from home. Banks need advanced notice that you’re planning to make transactions from abroad — be sure they’re aware. 

Start packing. Dig up or buy some suitcases and start sorting your things into,  ‘take,’ ‘trash/donate,’ and ‘keep, but can’t take’ piles. Then go back and make that ‘take’ pile smaller and smaller. You’re looking to live abroad, not take your life abroad. 

Spend time with friends and family. This is the most regretful step for me. I was so caught up with finishing school and preparing to move abroad, I didn’t spend as much time with my friends and family as I wanted. If you have the time, use it. 

Packing your life up to do something you’ve probably never done before in a foreign country is scary when getting your TEFL certification. That is a perfectly normal thought and you aren’t alone in it. Hopefully, these steps have brought you some guidance, reassurance, and courage to follow through with it. Good luck!

 

Pre-Departure Teaching English in Seoul, South Korea

by Zoe Ezechiels

Paige MillerPaige Miller recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University in August of 2018. While at the university, Paige was an active part of the Hallyu Wave Club (the Korean pop culture club) and the Korean American Student Association. She participated in learning and performing k-pop dances, some of which include “Bboom Bboom” by Momoland and “Mic Drop (remix)” by BTS and Steve Aoki.

Because of her interests in both Korean culture and teaching, Paige decided on teaching English in Korea after graduation. In February 2019, she began to teach in Seoul, South Korea at Seoul Dongho Elementary School. Keep reading to find out her initial process and how to apply to the same EPIK program Paige did.

How long have you known that you wanted to teach in Korea?

“I have been interested in Korean culture since I was in high school. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of college when I found out about the job opportunity from a family friend who had previously studied abroad. After further research and a burst of courage, I started to pursue teaching in Korea in my senior year of college.”

What is EPIK? (Are they a recruiter for foreign English teachers in Korea?)

Teaching in Korea“Firstly, EPIK is an acronym that stands for the English Program in Korea. Essentially, they are a government program that seeks to improve the English-speaking abilities of students while also facilitating cultural exchange between the students and English teachers. So while EPIK is not exactly a recruiter, I did use a recruiter called Korean Horizons to help facilitate my application to the program.”

Where were you placed and what type of school will you be teaching in?

“As of now, I only know that I have been placed in Seoul. EPIK will not alert me of my exact school location until the last day of our new student orientation on February 27.”

How was the passport process when you were updating or applying for one?

“I received my passport in January of 2018. I had to apply in-person and receive a new one. This was because I hadn’t updated it since I was a toddler. The overall process was pretty easy. I showed up with an old passport, a money order, and a passport-sized photo in hand. I completed a passport form at the approved location. From there, they sent it off to the U.S Department of State and I received my new passport less than a month later.”

How was the visa process to begin teaching English in Korea? Did EPIK help you apply for a visa?

EPIK teaching English in Korea

“For the visa process, as throughout the entire overall process in applying and receiving the teaching job, my recruiter with Korean Horizons helped facilitate it. Once the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education approved my position under EPIK, they sent my contract and my notice of agreement certificate to my recruiter. He then mailed these to me, alongside a visa application form. Upon arrival, I signed my contract, filled out the application with an attached a passport picture, my passport, a return envelope, and a $45 money order before mailing it to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. I received my passport back with the visa less than a week later.”

Did you need to get an apostille for your diploma? If so, how was that process?

flying to korea“I was required to get an apostille for my diploma. I filled out another application form as well as a criminal background check before sending my diploma to the Secretary of State to have it both notarized and receive an apostille.”

How far in advance did you book your plane ticket?

“After I received my visa, I booked my ticket two weeks before I left. It didn’t fully hit me that I was leaving for Korea until a few days before I left. That’s when I started to pack and get everything ready to begin the adventure of teaching English in Korea.”

What are you most looking forward to when you arrive and begin teaching?

“I am most looking forward to finally knowing what school I will be teaching in. I can’t wait to begin building a good relationship with my students. I’m excited to go to concerts of artists I’ve been following since I was back in America. Plus, I can’t wait to go on trips around Korea and other parts of Asia!”

food on flight to korea

 

 

Ups and Downs of Living Abroad: Who’s Bebe?

Bebe Bakhtiar HeadshotSo, you want to know a little about me? Well, let’s get straight to it:

  • If you like mushrooms, I judge you and don’t want anything to do with you.
  • Dancing isn’t “who I am,” it’s actually everything I am. I love to dance, and 90% of the time it’s during inappropriate moments.
  • Somehow, I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s in education and am fully licensed and qualified to teach students. My whole life is one big episode of Kids Say The Darndest Things.
  • I speak three languages and moved to Madrid two years ago to share my passion for language with the rest of the world.
  • Even though I was born and raised in the states, no one believes me. I always need to clarify that my family is from Iran to “explain why I look the way I do.”

What exactly will I be babbling about?

Coffee con Leche is a personal series I write to explain the ups and downs of living abroad and having to deal with the, well, struggles of speaking more than one language. Trust me, sometimes living abroad can be a whirlwind of bliss and positive emotions… and other times? Well, let’s just say that I’ve thrown my things in my suitcase, yanked out my USA passport, and looked for flights back home on multiple occasions. Despite my amazing life on Instagram (@secretlifeofbeebs – shameless plug), it ain’t easy being an expat.

So, how exactly did I end up living the expat life?

During my University of Georgia days (Go Dawgs!), I studied abroad twice in Spain. I can still remember the beautiful beaches of Valencia and the smell of Sevilla — which is actually awful because there are stinky horses everywhere. Anyway, I sincerely remember every moment of living in these cities. I remember feeling fulfilled. Every day was an adventure, every conversation was (and still is) a challenge, and every second was nothing short of happiness.

Can you guess what I did after I graduated college?

Exactly. I moved to Chicago.

If you know anything about big cities in the states, you know they’re incredibly political. Everything, even down to the classroom, is about politics. I survived three years, did a Master’s program, and then realized that teaching at an inner-city school just wasn’t emotionally sustainable. So, I applied to teach in Madrid, and here I am.

What I’m trying to say is…

I want to share my adventures abroad with you (hopefully, “you” is more than an empty forum where no one reads my articles). I want people to know my story, to understand my story. It’s a long ride, so if you don’t believe in metaphorical seat belts, you’re about to be screwed.

by Bebe Bakhtiar