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Teaching English abroad, Part 2: Q&A with a future teacher

Check out Part 1 of this series featuring a former teacher who taught English in France.

Jeff Ferguson, a McMaster alumnus with an Honours BA in philosophy and English, will be leaving for Korea in October 2009 to teach English as a second language. I asked him to tell me about his experience deciding on and planning for the transition.

Q. Why do you want to teach English abroad?A. For me, I had no idea what I wanted to do long-term after graduating. I might attend grad school, but I knew that if I did, it wouldn’t be for at least two years after I graduated. I knew that I had to do something in the meantime, and a friend who was going to Korea to teach English suggested that I apply for it too. I looked into it, and it seemed like a really good idea. Travelling and working abroad has always interested me, and this was a very easy way to do it.

Q. How did you decide on Korea?

A. I know that some people do Japan, some Taiwan, etc., but I think I just chose Korea because I knew a couple of friends who were also going there. I then found out I actually have a lot of friends who are doing this too, and luckily enough, at least four in the same city as me. It’ll be really nice to know people who are undergoing the same thing.

ferg 300x225 Teaching English abroad, Part 2: Q&A with a future teacher

“How many people can say that they spent a year working abroad?”

Q. Why did you decide to teach abroad at this time in your life: do you see a benefit in doing this after having graduated, or had you not thought about it seriously before?

A. I hadn’t seriously thought about this until February when it was suggested by a friend. But yeah, I can see a lot of benefits — teaching experience is always good. It will be very good work experience, too. How many people can say that they spent a year working abroad? It’s a full-time paying job, too, so I guess it’s pretty cool that I have that guaranteed for 12 months after graduating.

Q. What certification do you need to do this? How did you obtain it?

A. Really, anyone with a post-secondary degree can do it. I have a degree in English which puts me one step above the competition — most people who have a degree in something else have to take a TESL (Teach English as a second language) course if they want to receive the same pay that someone with a degree in English will.

Q. What are some potential challenges you can foresee?

A. Where to start? Culture shock, homesickness, not knowing the Korean language… and that doesn’t even begin to cover the actual job. Teaching a group of children is always a challenge; add on the fact that I’m not fluent in their language and they’re not in mine… yeah, it’ll be tough.

Written by

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. She completed her MA in Canadian Studies at Carleton University, and also has two bachelor's degrees from McMaster University. Her academic work focuses on Indigenous-settler relations, representation, curriculum studies, critical race studies, cultural studies, youth culture and how zoos can function as educational institutions. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.


  1. Jax
    June 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

    you’ll generally need tefl or cetla not tesl. Second Language is for teaching in countries where English is the first language. It’s more a total immersion.

  2. Elizabeth
    June 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    This article provides a different perspective than the actual organizations that arrange the exchanges.

    I have thought about doing work like this before, but didn’t realize that my major in English might mean that I wouldn’t have to get extra qualifications.


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