Steps to Teaching Abroad

By: Emily

Editor’s note: Emily is a C&IS Peer Educator alumna. You can read her previous post, Adventures in Teaching Abroad, to get all the background info about why she and her partner decided to spend a year in South Korea teaching. Here is the rest of her advice about getting started with the teaching abroad process.

How do I teach abroad?

The entire process of becoming a qualified candidate, interviewing with a recruiter, lining up a job, and completing all the paperwork took about 6 months.

Steps to teaching abroad

Step #1: Find a reputable recruiting agency

  • Fees can be a red flag. Keep in mind that we didn’t pay a cent to submit an application, to interview, to apply for work, or to sign a contract. There are recruiters, like Don (ESL Joblink), that are paid by schools to find quality candidates to teach abroad. Our largest expense was mailing paperwork and the processing fees for required documents such as FBI background checks.
  • Ask others. Begin talking about your desire to teach abroad in casual conversations. Oftentimes people will bring up a relative or friend or reveal that they had an experience teaching overseas. This is a great opportunity to be assertive. In several instances, Danny contacted strangers on Facebook after having a conversation with a mutual acquaintance. For us this resulted in Skype sessions and informational interviews at coffee shops. Each time we asked if they went through a recruiter or organization. We found this to be the most helpful way of finding a reputable agency.



Step #2: Complete paperwork

  • This includes getting an FBI background check, a passport, and work visas. Our recruiter Don guided us through this process. He kept track of deadlines and was available to answer questions. For questions he couldn’t answer, I was often able to find an answer online.

Step #3: Sign a Contract

  • Danny and I were very anxious to sign our contract because we had read horror stories of teachers stuck in terrible contracts. We asked for a few days to make a final decision and read our contract carefully, we had our families and friends read it and we sent several messages with questions to our prospective employers to clarify. My biggest piece of advice: take your time making this decision. Don’t become too excited or desperate, or you might become stuck in a difficult situation that could become increasing complex negotiating with language and cultural barriers.


Floating market, Bangkok, Thailand

Step #4: Prepare to leave

  • You will need to order currency and start packing. Packing for a year away from home can be daunting. I started in phases and relied on packing lists I found on countless travel blogs. Keep in mind that you need less than you think you do. Almost everything you can buy in America you can buy in Korea. If you have even a little doubt, don’t pack it. You will accumulate things in Korea and it will become expensive to move your things back home. If you are planning on teaching in Korea, focus on a professional wardrobe. Koreans are dressed to impress, all day, every day.

Step #5: Go!

  • After making time to visit and say goodbye to your friends and family, it’s time to go! The big leap is exhausting and terrifying at first, but it will be one of the best years of your life.

Photo on 2015-12-08 at 15.48

Emily with a few of her students.

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1st Photo Source: Unsplash | Ambir Tolang
Other photo sources: Emily

Adventures in Teaching Abroad

By: Emily

Hello! I’m Emily, a previous Peer Educator at UMD Career & Internship Services. I’m writing as a guest blogger today to share information about teaching abroad. Currently I live in Ulsan, South Korea with my boyfriend and fellow UMD alum, Danny. We teach at a hogwon, which is a private school that operates during after school hours. So, how did we get here?

Our Story

After graduating UMD with art degrees (BFA Photography and BA Theatre) Danny and I have both jumped from job to job trying to find something we loved. I landed for a brief period of time at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, where I met a co-worker who had taught English in South Korea and Brazil. Both of her experiences seemed extraordinary and I asked for the name of her recruiter. After some follow up research, Danny and I submitted an application to a recruiting agency based out of Minneapolis called ESL Joblink. The more we sought out past and present ESL teachers in our own workplace and communities we found more people who had gone through ESL Joblink. All of them had or were currently having a rewarding experience teaching abroad at reputable schools. Danny and I soon met and interviewed with our recruiter, Don, began an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class and started our visa paperwork. Our recruiter was able to connect us with the director of a private school in Ulsan, South Korea and after a phone interview we were hired, as a couple, to teach abroad.


Danny and I in Kyoto, Japan

Why should I teach abroad?

Since coming to South Korea we have been able to explore parts of Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia. By the end of our year, we will have traveled to Vietnam, Taiwan, Morocco, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Depending on how you plan your trips, traveling can be extremely affordable in Southeastern Asia. In Cambodia, for example, a large dinner can cost anywhere between 2-5 dollars and your accommodations can be just as cheap. If you want to see the world, teaching abroad makes traveling easier and affordable.


Bangkok, Thailand

Traveling is my favorite part of teaching abroad, but I cannot stress enough that you have to enjoy working with kids and have an interest in teaching. I teach long and difficult hours everyday and I find it equal parts rewarding and exhausting. Nothing in my life has been as challenging as being an ESL teacher. Many of my students are overworked and tired (some go to school from 8 am to 10 pm, even on Saturday and Sunday) and they deserve the best teachers to energize and engage them in learning. Unfortunately, foreign teachers in South Korea have a bad reputation for not actually caring about their jobs, but for being backpackers. I can’t imagine enjoying this experience at all if I were only going through the motions, waiting for my travel breaks. This job is ninety percent teaching kids, so if you don’t have experience in teaching, or working with kids or saying, “Sit down, stop that, listen carefully, no hitting, indoor voice, hands to yourself” like a broken record, try it in the United States first before you hop over the pond.


In Japan

Why South Korea?

Minimal research done online will show you that South Korea is one of the best locations to teach abroad. After signing our contract, our airfare was paid for, our housing provided, and a few household items/ utilities were given to us for free. Since our accommodations are located close to work, we spend little on transportation, which means at the end of the week our biggest expense (besides our student loans) is groceries. In Korea, you will be paid well and, without airfare and rent payments, you can save up a sizeable amount that you can then use for traveling or for other things. Even with student loans, it is completely possible to save up to $1,000 dollars a month.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I talk more in-depth about how you secure a teaching abroad position.

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All photos are by Emily.

Making the Most of Your Short Time Abroad

By: Katie

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two of UMD’s short term study abroad programs during my time here: one for a month in Salamanca, Spain, and the other for 2 weeks in various cities in Italy. Both of these experiences were the most incredible of my life, but there was one major downside to both: I didn’t have nearly enough time.

Short term programs are great for many reasons, but they don’t leave you with much time to participate in all the things that add richness to the experience. However, there are ways to fully immerse yourself in the culture and get the most you possibly can out of your study abroad experience, even in such a short period of time.


Use Local Transportation

Walk. Walk everywhere. Many cities outside of the U.S. (in Europe, at least) are made to be much more walkable than they are here, and people certainly take advantage of that. Walking around allows you to experience the city the way locals do, and you get to see things you wouldn’t see if you traveled by car or other means of transportation.
While I do think walking is the best way to get around, checking out the public transportation system the city offers can also be fun. Just make sure to watch out for pickpockets…and don’t put anything valuable in your back pockets or a bag that rests behind you!

Explore & Get Lost

There really is no substitute for experiencing foreign cities as they light up after the sun sets. You can walk around and see where people are hanging out or find something to eat. While you’re wandering during the day, check out the different shops around the city. And I don’t mean just the tacky tourist-y shops – go into the stores the people who live there visit, and see what interesting things you can find. For example, the way they weigh and buy fruit is different in Spain than it is here. Even something as small as that adds to your experience.


Talk to Locals

While this may seem intimidating, particularly when in a country with a different native language, it’s totally worth it. I have so many great memories of conversations (and pictures taken) with the people I met in Italy and Spain. Talk to them about their culture, and tell them about yours. Ask them for recommendations on where to eat, what to do, and what the must-do experiences to have before you leave are. Ask for directions, and do your best to follow them…but always carry a map with you, for when you inevitably get lost. And on that note, make sure you know how to read a map before you leave the States!

Try all the things!

Or at least do as many as you can in two, three, or four weeks. Find out what foods that area of the world/country is known for (Salamanca loves its cured meats, and Italy loves, well, pasta and pizza), and try as many of them as possible. If there are any events or celebrations going on while you’re there, check them out. On our first day in Salamanca, we witnessed the annual Procesión del Corpus Christi. Later, we listened to musicians performing in the plazas. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of similar extra opportunities, definitely do so!

La Plaza de Espana


Journal, take pictures, and make all the memories you can.

One thing I didn’t do much of my first go around but chose to do my second was to journal. I already took a ridiculous amount of pictures, but pictures can’t give you as much detail as a verbal description of what you did and how you felt. I look back on my journal from Italy and it instantly brings back all the memories the pictures are unable to. While it might feel like a bit of a chore at the time, you’ll appreciate it later as the memories begin to fade.

Most importantly…

The main piece of advice I can give you is if you’re thinking of studying abroad, do it, and if you’re not thinking of studying abroad, think about it. No one ever regrets studying abroad, but they do regret not doing it. It’s scary to venture outside of your comfort zone, but if you do, studying abroad will certainly be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

Of Possible Interest: 

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All photos taken by Katie on her travels.

Having Abroad Experience Work for You

Studying, volunteering, working, and traveling abroad can be great experiences to add to your resume and talk about in interviews. Today’s round up of resources focus on just that topic! International experience can help you build skills that employers value. Skills such as problem solving, cross-cultural competency, and interpersonal skills, just to name a few.

Sydney Harbor

If you’ve studied abroad, we highly recommend stopping by our office to talk about how you can incorporate your abroad experiences into your job search materials. Here are a few resources just to get you started.

General Resources

Photo Source

Study Abroad: Common Misconceptions

By: Zach

When it comes to even the thought of studying abroad, there seem to be some students who get deterred from the idea because of a variety of different factors. Getting the opportunity to go global is not only highly beneficial to your career and personal self, but there is only a limited window in your life where you will have the opportunity to spend a long period of time in a different country. For this short post, I want to break away a bit from our normal career focused material, and share more about the believed barriers to studying abroad. My goal is that the information I pass along about study abroad comes full circle. This is an opportunity that platforms you for success after graduation and creates a invaluable connection to personal career aspirations. So let’s get to it then. The real question is, “why are more students not taking advantage of study abroad during their time at UMD?” It is the University of Minnesota’s goal to have at least 50% of students take a global experience before they graduate and only 3% of UMD student do! So why is that? I want to address and explore the three main concerns I have heard from students about why they decide not to study abroad.

Abroad Misconceptions

I can’t afford to study abroad…

Indeed, the cost of one study abroad program may vary from another, yet you may surprisingly find that there are some programs that are less of a cost than a semester at UMD! No matter where you choose to go, the biggest financial factor to take into account is cost of living. Places in Europe may prove to be a bit more expensive when buying your loaf of bread at the store verses places in South America. The main thing to remember when planning your study abroad experience is that if you currently have financial aid, it is possible to have this aid rollover to the program tuition fee. Not only that, but UMD alone awards around $90,000 each year in scholarships to students studying abroad! There are many penny saving plans that will help you reach your study abroad destination, but the key to success is to do your research and develop a budget.

Classes I need won’t transfer…

While students with history, political science, language, and arts majors may find it easier to transfer classes taken overseas, that does not mean you won’t find classes for your criminology, health education, or even anthropology major. When it comes to planning your study abroad experience, it is important for you to do a bit of digging and research on what universities or programs will have classes you could take to stay on course for graduation. Remember that universities overseas also have majors and fields of study, and they also have classes to focus their studies around. After you have narrowed down a few locations, take a look at which universities offer classes you may need. At the end of the day, remember that the point of studying abroad is to think outside of the box and explore other interests that you may have never thought of before. Fill those upper division liberal education classes you still need in the history or arts. I took an Architecture of London course and took field trips to buildings across the city throughout the semester in England. I can say with certainty that this is not offered at UMD. Take a look at what UMD students have already taken while studying abroad and have gotten credit for. Just like before, it will take a bit of searching to find the best programs to fit your major, but ultimately, I promise there is a program that fits for you.

It’s too late for me to study abroad

Anytime between sophomore and junior year is the time to take advantage of a global program, however, don’t write yourself off even as a senior. There are plenty of opportunities as an upper division student not only to study abroad, but even international internships, volunteer work, and UROPs as well. When it comes to the application deadline, normally you will apply mid-way through the semester in advance of the one you want to be away. And if you procrastinate every once and awhile, like me, this still gives you a good amount of time to get all your ducks in a row before you leave. If a full semester over seas is just not for you, or you truly can’t find any options that allow for a clean transfer of classes, look into the UMD short-term programs that can take you around the world over a winter break or summer break, as there are plenty to choose from. Now there should be no excuse for you too say its too late. It’s as easy as landing your finger on the globe and packing!

All-in-all, I hope my short blurbs on studying abroad continue to interest you and provide great insights, as I truly want every student to have the same experience I had. The goal is to travel, learn, and grow. Push yourself out of your comfort zone every once and awhile, and I guarantee you will be happy you did so. Taking advantage of an opportunity like such is not only beneficial to skill development and career advancement, but it is an experience of a lifetime that provides priceless personal growth. During your time at UMD, take advantage of a resource you may never be able to use after graduation and study abroad!

Of Possible Interest:

Until next time,  Zach

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Study Abroad: Telling Stories & Sharing Skills

By: Zach

For most of us, our venture off into the “real world” is approaching sooner than we think, and it is time to update the resume, polish up on interviewing skills, and above all, market our amazing skills to prospective employers! Standing out on paper always seems easier said than done, but what can we do now to set ourselves up for success in the future? In this brief post, I am going to share with you ways in which study abroad experiences can help you separate yourself from the pack when it comes to job and internship hunting. I hope this proves to not only be a good read for students that have already studied abroad, but also for those of you who are even slightly interested in taking that international leap to learn!

When I had returned from my semester in London, many people were curious about my travels. I definitely enjoy sharing these stories with all those that are interested, but all these questions soon started to get me thinking. “So… how have I changed?” and “What did I learn from my time overseas?” It’s always easy to talk about the different places I have been and the adventures I went on, but how do I share the skills I developed when it matters most? More and more employers are not only seeking out students in the right field, with the right grades, and the right school, but they are looking for students with passions, ambitions, involvement, and experience.

When it comes to the skills you learned abroad, remember all of the times you had to think on your own and face some unique challenges alone. For me, it was being tossed into a big city with an overwhelming metro system, learning new etiquette and customs in a fast pace culture, or even sleeping on a bare mattress, no pillow or sheets my first night because after that long trip over, sleep was the thing that was needed most. Ok, so they do not always sound like much, and you’re probably just thinking “Zach, give it a rest already! We get it… you studied abroad and now you’re some world explorer like Bear Grylls…” But whether you realize it or not, each “story” brings its own new skill that you are able to share with employers on your resume, cover letter, and interview. Below are a couple of the best ways I believe someone’s travels abroad can be highlighted to employers:


Standard and simple! Slap the study abroad experience on your resume. It’s best to keep this one short and concise under the Education section of a resume. Sometimes it feels like it would be nice to give this type of experience a whole page to itself, but unfortunately that’s not quite how resumes work, and I bet the employer at the other end will have more important things to be doing. Under the education section of a resume, it is as easy as listing the program or school you attended while abroad, location, and maybe GPA info if you care to put it. Our Career Handbook in our office has some good examples on how to add study abroad to your resume, so head on down and take a look when you can!

Cover Letter

When it comes to a cover letter, just like any other shared experience, we are able to elaborate more than on a resume. This is where you are able to share those life changing experiences and skills you gained while abroad. For me, it is still important to tie in my academic work and group projects from the school I went to in a cover letter. In doing this, I am able to explain the projects and assignments I worked on, and also talk about things such as different team or report types. If done correctly, your cover letter will highlight your new independence skills and also show your ability to be adaptable, flexible, and truly how to perform well in other environments and settings.


Last but definitely not least, interviews are going to be your best opportunity to share with an employer the skills you gained while studying abroad. From my experiences this past semester, I have brought up my semester in London when asked questions about greatest achievements and even biggest obstacles and failures. And crazy enough, that is really what the whole experience is about! It’s about overcoming challenges, finding paths for yourself, and creating goals and dreams. Just have a couple stories ready to tell before you head in for an interview, and I even bet most of the nerves will melt away when you are asked a question about your travels. This is because they are fun to talk about! Try not to go on too long, and make sure you are answering their question and coming to a point. Overall, my experience in interviews has showed me that the natural excitement I get when I talk about studying abroad seems to go a long way in the eyes of the employer!

Ok, ok… I promise I am off my study abroad “soap box” now, but if I can say one last thing, it would be that if you have the opportunity to study abroad during your years at UMD, do not hesitate to take it. There is something exciting and almost indescribable about taking an adventure of your own, stepping out of your bubble, and discovering what else is out in our big world.

If you have any other questions about studying abroad, make sure to stop by the International Education Office where they can answer your study abroad questions! Or if you would like to just come chat about any travel opportunities and how to incorporate them into your job search, come steal me for five minutes at Career and Internship Services. Talk soon, all!


– Zach

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Choosing a Study Abroad Program that is Right for You

By: Zach

So you are thinking of studying abroad? Well, you are in the right place! Is this true, or did I just catch you off guard? Well it’s too late now, and you have successfully been sucked into reading my blog post for today! (Attention-getters work just amazingly, don’t they?) Anyway, today I am going to talk a bit about studying abroad and finding the right place and program to best fit you.

First and foremost, it is always important to mention what a significant impact studying abroad has on a resume! It shows your passion for learning and development, illustrates that you are personable and welcoming of new people and cultures, and above all, demonstrates your independence and personal confidence. After being selected as the hiring candidate for a marketing internship this past summer, I can tell you first hand that the experience I had overseas put me above and beyond the competition.

Choosing Study Abroad

If studying abroad is on your agenda during your time at UMD, what things do you need to think about in order to find the program that best fits you? Let’s take a look…

Meeting Your Needs

It seems pretty simple, but you would be surprised how often this can get overlooked. When I talk about “meeting your needs” I mean making sure that you are taking courses or doing internships that keep you on track to graduate on time or help to develop professional skills. If you are thinking about going for the semester or even year, it will be important to map out the classes you need to complete before graduation. Take note, however, studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to fulfill liberal education classes that you would otherwise not be able to at UMD! Perhaps you want to take Marine Biology in Australia, Art History in Italy, or Architecture in London. Ultimately, there is no better way to learn, than to do! Most importantly, remember that UMD’s International Education Office has a Course Equivalencies list of all classes that have ever been taken abroad by UMD students. It’s best to cross reference this list when looking for classes abroad.


Location, Location, Location

I know what you are thinking… “duh, Zach! The whole point of studying abroad is to travel.” Location is key when planning your study abroad adventure! It’s crazy to think, but I could guarantee that you could put your finger on the globe give it a couple spins and find a study abroad program where you are pointing. I have heard from some UMD students that they decided not to study abroad because UMD does not offer programs they are interested in. Well I am happy to tell you that you do not have to only select from the programs UMD offers! You can select from programs across the nation from the UMTC campus, third party sponsors, other universities, or you could even open enroll in the school or program you are interested in abroad. If you are interested in studying abroad, my suggestion would be to think about the location first. If you have your heart set on a specific location, but UMD does not offer a program there, you may just have to do bit of research and digging to find one that fits you.

That “Just Right” Feeling

I know it’s not right to give open-ended and redundant advice, but this statement is so true! When you have found a program that meets your academic or internship requirements, and you have decided on the location of your dreams, the rest just seems to fall in place. Of course there is some paperwork with applying to programs, but don’t let that deter you! For me personally, I was always excited to fill out paperwork for my study abroad program because it meant I was getting that much closer to going! Overall, once you make that connection between the program and location, there is not much else to determine. Hop on that plane, and get a move on!

When planning you study abroad endeavors, remember to stop by our office at Solon Campus Center 22, as we can help show you ways in which to develop professional skills during your travels. UMD’s International Education Office can help you find programs and classes that will work within your major, as well help you with the application process.

Related articles of interest:

If you ever have any questions about study abroad, feel free to stop by and chat! I look forward to seeing you soon!


– Zach

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Photo by: eGuide Travel