Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yes, we have no bananas...

It should come as no surprise to anyone who scrolls down the blog roll but we're inactive here. Go Global! itself is an ongoing concern, with opportunities of all sorts broadcast via Twitter and ongoing discussions in our LinkedIn group. But the blog? The blog is done. Certainly for the time being. There's still some good stuff here, so we're leaving it up; but if you want to engage with us -- and we hope you will -- join us on LinkedIn and Twitter!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Teaching English abroad: where to start?

One of the most frequent type of question I received when we were offering advising was about prospects for teaching English abroad. Many folks had friends teaching abroad or, even more basically, had "heard" about teaching English overseas and understood it to be an "easier" way to get abroad and to get abroad without a specific skill set (other than a native facility with the language).

Well, over the years I pulled together a fairly solid set of introductory resources that I would recommend to folks starting out exploring the field. So what follows isn't exhaustive but it will, I trust, offer folks an entryway to learn more about the ins & outs of teaching English abroad as well as possibly offering those already familiar with the basics with some additional "hidden gems".

But let's start with a couple important reminders:

You don't need to be "passionate" about teaching to be a success teaching English abroad but you do need to be at least interested in it. It's a good idea to try to get some experience locally before diving too deeply into an international search. Try tutoring with local literacy organizations or in K-12 schools. Many US colleges & universities offer English tutoring programs for international students -- sign up, get some training, and get some experience. You won't necessarily get classroom experience but it can give you at least some sense of whether working with struggling (or non-native) English speakers is something you have a taste and/or talent for.

If you tutor one hour a week and within a couple weeks you feel it's a chore or you dread it... then teaching English abroad is most definitely NOT for you and that's important to know before shipping yourself, potentially, halfway around the world...

If you enjoy the work then you might want to start looking at options.

The best searches are those that are focused. The resources below are meant to help narrow the scope of any search but it pays to have a sense of specific interests going in.

If you can, narrow your search to particular countries (and even cities) of interest. You'll also want/need to get focused on the sort of students you're interested in working with (kids, business people, high schoolers, etc) and how your background/experience/training matches with those more specific interests. Once you've educated yourself about the general field & possibilities, a series of narrow, focused searches will be far more useful than a single generic search (try Googling "teach English abroad" – oy!).

Certification is not a requirement to teach abroad. There are all sorts of reasons to get certified as well as reasons not to, but in general you can find opportunities teaching English abroad without being certified.

Teaching abroad is one way to get abroad and to get paid while being abroad. That said, it's important to realize that if you are graduating with student loans the mere fact of being out of the country does not exempt you from making the required loan payments!! Depending on your circumstances and how large the outstanding loans are there are workarounds (for instance, banking a few months worth of payments and then having loan payments automatically deducted from a parked bank account). Remitting money from overseas can be ridiculously expensive.

There are a LOT of different options. You can go with placement firms, certification organizations (some will guarantee placement, some just assist), direct contact with schools... It's a maze out there.

And with those pearls of wisdom out of the way, let's get to the resources:

Two good basic introductory sites I like pointing folks to who are exploring teaching English opportunities are:


Dave's ESL Cafe also has region & country-specific discussion boards that are well worth browsing (though they are tucked away  in the navigation). You can find them at:


Neither of the above sites is tied to any particular commercial provider or school (though you can get lots of information on providers through the stories, resources, and links on the Transitions Abroad page in particular, as well as exploring questions such as whether to get certified and the like).

If you're looking to explore connecting with English-language schools directly you can explore:


There are links to other regions/countries in the header of the first link above.

I always suggest holding off on direct contact with schools until you've educated yourself about the field a bit (and perhaps have a better sense of the sort of work you're looking for and where you'd like to go).

There are a number of government run/sponsored programs out there:

Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain

English Opens Doors Program (Chile)

Japan Exchange and Teaching Program

Teach and Learn with Georgia

Teach for China

Teaching Assistant Program in France

Sandy Arfa here at the UW-Madison coordinates the Teachers to Gyeonggi-do program. Unfortunately, the website is rather badly out of date – http://www.english.wisc.edu/esl/ttg-home.html – but those in the upper Midwest should contact Ms Arfa directly if interested in this program.

There is also GoinGlobal, a commercial resource providing country guides for living & working abroad – including information on opportunities teaching English (where appropriate):


That's the commercial front door. UW-Madison (and I am sure many other schools) career centers have purchased site licenses allowing students to access the full resource for free. Check with the  career services office at your school for information.

UW-Madison students & alumni should be able to get free access to GoinGlobal through BuckyNet:


I am also a big proponent of not trying to do everything online. There are two books I usually suggest to those of a similar bent (and who are interested in going into slightly greater depth as to the issues involved in teaching English abroad beyond just tracking down teaching jobs):

Teaching English Overseas by Jeff Mohamed

Teaching English Abroad by Susan Griffith

For those in the Madison area we have copies of both books available for browsing in our library in 301 Ingraham Hall.

And... if you develop a specific country interest contact your alumni association and see if they have a directory of alumni abroad or even overseas chapters that you can contact. For example, the Wisconsin Alumni Association maintains a list of chapters & contacts around the world:


Finally, be sure to keep an eye on http://twitter.com/Go_Global where we post announcements of the latest opportunities to work, teach, intern, and volunteer worldwide.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Working while studying abroad: what are the options?

The following list, and a marvelous one it is, was originally compiled by Lisa Brown (Center for International Affairs, Case Western Reserve University) and distributed through the SECUSS-L listserv for education abroad professionals on 21 August 2012.

Included is information on countries that allow students to work on visas appropriate for study abroad. In addition, Ms Brown noted that she had been told that it was possible (read: legal) for students to work in both Spain & Thailand but had not been able to find any verification/confirmation for either. I haven't had any luck confirming either -- only discussion threads indicating the equivalent of "oh, don't worry, everybody does it!!" Maybe, but...

Here are the details Ms Brown so usefully pulled together:

In Australia, students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight on a student visa if they apply for permission. Someone reported that there is an extra fee for this permission, but I was unable to verify this. Source.

In Denmark, students are able to work up to 15 hours per week as long as they apply for a work permit. Source.

In France, student visa holders are permitted to work 964 hours over a 12-month period. This is 60% of the 35-hour per week legal limit, which amounts to 1,607 hours per year. Source.

In Ireland, US students can work up to 20 hours a week when their academic programme is in session or up to 40 hours a week when their program is on an official school holiday. However, this only applies to programs of an academic year's duration or more. Source.

In Italy, those with visas and permesso di soggiorno can work up to 20 hours per week. However, note that processing times often make this impractical for study abroad students. Source.

In the Netherlands, students can work 10 hours per week with the appropriate permit. Source.

In New Zealand, most students can work up to 20 hours per week. Source.

In the United Kingdom, students who enter the UK on an actual student visa (not as a student visitor) can also work part-time (up to 10 hours or 20 hours depending on the program). Source.

Are there other possibilities that are missing from the above? What was your experience working -- outside of the program opportunity -- while studying abroad? Let us know!!

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

What do employers think of provider-sourced internships?

In what really amounts to an ongoing discussion -- even debate -- around the question of fee for placement internship & volunteer placements (both domestically and most acutely in the the international sector... read previous posts here & here), the one thing I haven't heard much discussion about is what employers think of these internships when it comes to shopping yourself (that is, those who have taken advantage of such program placements) around on the job market.

Despite whatever value is added by providers -- be it in the form of daily support, academic/reflective/critical framing of the program, language courses, room & board provision, and/or access to otherwise closed off opportunities -- there is, in my experience, continuing resistance to the notion of "paying for" an internship among students, parents, and faculty & staff in higher education. And, seemingly, among the general public as well.

Are business people, HR professionals in larger organizations/institutions, and other employers any different? When they see an internship on a resume is it of any concern how that internship was secured and does it make a difference if it was secured through a provider?

If you're a provider what, if anything, have you heard from non-affiliated employers? If you're a student or graduate who has taken advantage of provider-sourced internships have you discussed them in subsequent job interviews? Do employers care about the how of securing the internship or just about the substance your work and performance?

And if you're an employer: do you care?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The interest is there, but are the jobs?

I can certainly attest to the fact that there's a tremendous interest among students and recent graduates in the possibilities of working abroad. And more than a few articles in some of the larger papers have noted -- and perhaps inasmuch -- encouraged the trend.

USA Today published a piece back in November 2009 titled "More U.S. job hunters look for work in other countries" which set me to thinking.

I mean, the obvious question is: more job seekers may be looking abroad, but are they finding opportunities? And are they finding opportunities that are available to them, considering the numerous and often seemingly (if not ultimately) insurmountable hurdles that come with lining up all the necessary paperwork -- visa, work & residency permits, etc -- to finalize that placement?

That goes unanswered in this piece -- with the exception of the far too blithely asserted "more Americans are hunting for, and landing, work overseas." In fact, success (in finding work) isn't even addressed. And look closely at the language used: "Fifty-four percent of executives said they'd be likely or highly likely to accept a foreign post" and "Contact Singapore, which recruits executives in that country, says it's seeking "global talent to help foster innovation" for fields such as digital games."

Executives. Okay... So is that the demographic addressed by the article? No, not necessarily.

The article concludes with a consideration of "Charles Wang, an industrial engineering major [at Georgia Tech who] worked as a project manager for United Parcel Service in Dubai from July 2008 until last May." Wow!!

Okay... (again) but what the article fails to note is that Georgia Tech has one of the most extensive and long-standing internship and international placement programs in the form of its Division of Professional Practice.

More recently, the Chicago Tribune had a piece titled "Americans chase internships abroad as a gateway to work" (1 February 2010). This piece seems more balanced on the whole, offering both success stories and those of folks still struggling -- and finding that the much vaunted "cross cultural competence" isn't paying off with a flood of job offers.

But here too there are artful omissions, such as the fact that the majority of international internship placements that are "available" (that is, searchable by a general audience of students, recent graduates, or anyone for that matter) are connected either to an educational institution & study abroad program (such as Northeastern University's coop program) or set-up through a third-party provider (such as MASA Israel). Sometimes a combination of both.

Hardly direct placement. Hardly accessible to most (in the case of the latter more often than not simply due to cost considerations).

I feel like such a curmudgeon writing this, but it's important to me that the students who come see me get a realistic assessment not just of what's possible but what's likely and what's widely available. Desire, interest, and hopes don't readily translate into a paid placement abroad -- which is too often the sense that I get from these sorts of articles.

I am a big proponent of blue sky thinking: let's focus on what it is you want to accomplish, all things being equal and setting aside financial limitations for a moment. But that's just the first step, because it's from these dreams that we begin to get focused, set personal priorities, and start the hard work of finding what can be expected, what can be hoped for, and what might be the best fit.

Too much to ask for from a newspaper article, I know, but I do wish for a bit more nuance in these sorts of pieces. I think everyone would benefit from a bit more nuanced presentation of the very seductive dream, and realities, not just of working abroad, but of working hard at finding work abroad.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a bit more on fee for placement...

I've noticed a fair amount of discussion in the media recently on what is being presented as a growing "trend": organizations and businesses that place students and recent graduates in internships for a fee.

Best I can figure, the Wall Street Journal started the ball rolling with "Buying Your Kid an Internship? It'll Cost You" (and then followed it up online on their blog, The Juggle). Gawker waxed indignant and then the ball was batted around the blogosphere and elsewhere for awhile.

Back in August, On Point Radio out of Boston picked it up with a show on "Paying to Work for Free" -- in large part revisiting the WSJ article and the main players cited. I'd earlier blogged on this topic when another National Public Radio show did a program on this "controversy" in March.

A couple things have jumped out at me in the interim.

As far as the media outlets are concerned, University of Dreams seems to be the poster child for this trend, which means they suffer the majority of bric-bats but also receive unparalleled exposure and publicity. I have a feeling they're suffering through this quite happily.

And I don't want to rehash the pros & cons of such arrangements, which are laid out pretty well by the players interviewed and detailed in the various shows and articles (and in an August New York Times article), as much as make a few observations.

I was first introduced to the University of Dreams as a provider of international internships. And London, Hong Kong, etc placements are seemingly always mentioned (as the draw they are). And yet I have yet to read or hear any discussion in these contexts of how fee-for-placement organizations and companies dominate the field of international internships.

Even more distressing for me, as someone who works with students day to day, is the fact that fee for placement has come to dominate international volunteer placements as well.

Do a Google search, browse the latest volunteer or internship posting on Idealist -- what you'll find are almost exclusively placements offered by companies for a fee.

Recently I've tried to become a little more active in the Building Bridges Coalition (active in a passive sense, such as it is: participating in a conference call discussing future plans & direction, reading materials and information prepared by the Coalition, etc). The stated goals of the BBC, right there on its homepage (and currently under revision), are:
It is a consortium of leading international volunteer organizations, universities and colleges, corporations, and government agencies working collaboratively towards the following goals:
  • Double the number of international volunteers sent abroad annually by 2010
  • Improve the quality of international volunteer service
  • Maximize the positive impacts of international volunteer service in communities around the world
More details on those goals -- and how the BBC aims to achieve them -- can be found one click in.

But nowhere in these goals and strategies, and nowhere (that I can recall) in the circulating drafts of the revised mission statement, can be found a discussion of the cost of volunteering and the need to address questions of expense (from all perspectives). It seems rather baffling considering what a stumbling block it is to achieving... well, all of the goals.

It's this gap in the discussion -- the seeming inability for us as a community to explicitly address and ask for an accounting -- that I find most disheartening. Those of a conspiratorial mindset would look at the members of the BBC and note the preponderance of providers on the rolls (and, for that matter, study abroad [which internships programs are often bundled with for university & college students] can be revenue positive, very positive, for academic institutions).

I'm not so inclined. I think this is the model that has developed. And it's a good one for many people: providers, clients, and businesses & communities (that receive interns and volunteers). It is the model that has come to dominate because anything else is incredibly difficult (and let's call it outright: expensive, in time and treasure). But until another, sustainable (and sustained) model is offered, pay-to-play is going to predominate.

I just wish we could talk about it a little more. Or at least would think to...

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

So you want to be an aid worker?

Deserted: Refugee Camps in Chad; a slideshow @ The New Yorker websiteIn a recent issue of The New Yorker, Jonathan Harr wrote an intriguing and disturbing piece on the refugee camps in Chad, housing the displaced of Darfur and a small cadre of worn down aid workers titled, Lives of the Saints.

(Clicking on the image above, by the way, will take you to an online only slideshow accompanying the article.)

As Harr notes early, the camps he visits are about the hardest of all possible hardship postings. The sheer number of refugees, and the scope of needs is almost unparalleled. Supplies and resources are in frightfully short supply. The area is, effectively, a war zone. Political control has largely broken down.

Still, I see many students who want to "do good" and work in the "humanitarian" field -- which often, when pressed, means they are interested in doing relief work. And there are some potentially hard lessons to be learned from this piece.

For one, I would be surprised if anyone who hasn't lived in a camp such as this can ever be prepared for the sheer misery. As Harr points out repeatedly, it is grinding -- bone and soul grinding -- for both the refugees and the aid workers.

Also, aid work is about provision of often frightfully limited resources, which means not just offering support to a particular camp, community, or individual, but also often limiting or shutting off those same supplies.

Similarly, aid work is about logistics -- getting supplies from point A to point B -- and documentation: filling out all the paperwork required by the manifold layers of bureaucracy.

Most important to note in Harr's piece -- certainly striking to me -- is the fact that those who are doing the work on the ground are those with highly specialized skills and lots of experience. A lot of the workers that Harr profiles also happen to be African, a reality that I am (perhaps mistakenly) under the impression doesn't really register with many of the folks I sit down with here in Madison, Wisconsin.

Again, it's important to recognize that the refugee camps in Chad are about as hard as they come, and there is a tremendous need for skilled -- and hardened -- professionals. But the same holds in broad strokes for any and every such camp; Africa, as a friend of mine likes to note, is not lacking for inexpensive, well-intentioned but generally unskilled workers. If you want to be an aid worker you need to develop a skill set and experience that is going to allow yourself to be of use: not just to individuals on the ground (where compassion might very well soothe for a moment) but to the massive agencies that funnel resources and supplies into the camps.

That is a tall order indeed.

And so we bump up against the rather standard refrain: all these jobs require experience, but how can I get experience if I can't break into the field?!?

Look locally. Work locally. Do your research (I always tell folks you have to know your field -- and what it requires). Talk, talk, talk, talk to others. And read. Skills are transferable. Start working in poverty alleviation locally. Volunteer with the Red Cross for disaster relief. Get some medical training.

There actually is a lot you can do. Locally. And if you're young and really have both a desire and the motivation to work in the field, you can. But it's not going to be something you can just decide to do and parachute in.

Read Harr's piece -- if you have any sense, you wouldn't want to just drop in. There's simply far too much at stake. For everyone.

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