ConU grads teach English overseas

When Danielle P., 26, graduated from Concordia in 2002, she was working as a waitress and soon after found a job at an electronics company located in Pointe-Claire.

It wasn’t long before she fell victim to 21st century business practices, and was forced into a lateral move to keep working. In other words, her position was abolished and she was demoted to the data entry department.

Like many eager graduates have discovered, working in the real world is not quite what was envisioned. Disillusioned by the humdrum of nine to five, or four to 12, and not happy with the prospect of working graveyard shifts, many of this year’s graduates will be taking to the skies to teach English overseas and gain work experience.

Teaching English as a second language (TESL) has seen a tremendous growth in the last ten years, especially in the Asian countries.

“It was do something worth my while or go back to waitressing until I found another office job, or stay where I was,” says Danielle P., who teaches English at the Y.E.S Language School in Ilsan, South Korea.

“I just could not imagine myself in 20 years as waitress or sitting in cubicle. I simply felt that this was for me and I had to do this.”

The disillusionment with traditional North American work practices, the lack of work opportunity, and the nauseating feeling of finding another $10,000 in tuition over three more years has many students considering TESL.

Like Gregory Noubarian who will be graduating from human relations this summer. “I never had any ambitions about pursuing a career in teaching,” he says. But when Noubarian heard about some people who went overseas to teach he began to investigate the possibilities.

“I am interested in both the traveling experience and the work experience,” says the 24-year-old.

Noubarian works full time during the week and part time on the weekends and also studies full time. “I know there are entry level jobs here in Montreal but I am not ready for that yet. I want to earn some decent money and travel.” He would like to teach in Turkey and somewhere in Europe. “The Far East would be too much of a culture shock for me,” he admits. “I’ve visited Europe and I’ve always wanted to go back.”

Then there is Cecilia Hunter, 32, who spent five years as a customer service representative grinding out nine to five at the Royal Bank.

“I really needed some change,” she says. “I use to look out the window at the same thing everyday. I had ants-in-my-pants syndrome,” she jokes. “One day I just woke up and quit my job and enrolled in a quick TESL certification course.”

That was three years ago and Hunter has just returned form teaching in Costa Rica. “Costa Rica was my first choice. I always wanted to go to Costa Rica. I went with the intention of staying for one year and I stayed for three.”


Concordia’s TESL centre offers a 30-credit, one-year certificate in TESL to students with an undergraduate degree and a proficiency in the English language.

But for many, like Danielle P. and Hunter, another year in university was not part of their plans. Hunter took a course offered by Global TESOL, an Edmonton based company now in its tenth year, with offices based in major Canadian cities.

“We have many graduates who come to us for our certification course,” says Antonella Moscato, an instructor and manager for Global TESOL in Montreal. “Most sign up for our basic 120 hour course that we offer.”

According to Moscato graduates are motivated by the idea of living and working in a different world. “Our students leave behind the routine and experience a whole new world,” she says.

Oxford Seminars offers 60-hour course and it is a weekend course done over six Saturdays or three Saturdays and Sundays.

“Once students complete the course they can specialize their training,” says Carey Lynn Asselstine, director of teacher placement at Oxford.

Other courses available from Oxford include ‘Teaching Children,’ ‘Teaching Grammar,’ ‘Teaching Business English’ and ‘Teaching Preparation.’

Teaching markets

Asia is home to approximately 40 per cent of the English teaching jobs found all over the world, especially in Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. According to the Global TESL web site, at any given point in time, there are approximately 10,000 foreigners teaching English in Korea, and 9,000 in Japan. China has increased their demand dramatically due to the announcement of the Olympics coming up in 2008 and the five-year projection, which indicates a need for over 25,000 teachers in this country alone.

“There is a huge demand for teachers in China right now,” says Asselstine. “We are contacted by schools in China seeking teachers several times per week. The average pay is 5000 RMB per month (currently $803.26 Canadian). In addition to this airfare to China is usually covered and accommodation is usually provided free of charge.”

Hunter is trying to build up the courage to go to China but feels the culture shock may be too much for her too handle.

For now, Danielle P. says South Korea is the best deal you can get out there. But there is a negative side that isn’t found on the web sites and has plenty to do with culture shock.

“There are some very sketchy directors, mostly males, running the schools. Most male Koreans still think of women as subordinates and as a woman you must act that way at times,” she says.

In Asia, the salaries as well as the living expenses vary from city to city, and from position to position. Asia is one of the most popular teaching destinations, and the demand is continually growing. It is a great place for those looking to pay off debts or to save a significant amount of money.

Asia may not be for everyone and there are many things that will challenge you.

“Missing home is huge and personal space is lacking and the culture is very confusing,” explains Danielle P.

Medical problems are also something many do not think about.

“I had a bladder infection and other complications because of the medication I was using,” says Danielle P. “It was very uncomfortable telling my male director who I had just met that this was my problem.”

After seven months working in South Korea, Danielle P.  feels that life has become relatively routine.

“Coming here is difficult at first. I had problems being understood. It is not like going to France or the States and not knowing anyone, because at least you can talk to people in those countries. Here you can’t even get directions to the bathroom because you don’t understand what the people are saying, and they do not understand you.”

How you will feel about returning home once your contract is honoured is also something first timers do not consider.

“Leaving home and thinking you will not relate to anyone when you get back is huge,” says Danielle P.

“There are many Canadians teaching over here and you tend to stick together. That can have some drawbacks but for the most part it is comforting.”

There are some that return home and hang out their shingle.

That’s what Jacob Rhines did after teaching in South Korea for the five years. He also teaches at two adult education schools. “I mostly do private one on one lessons with business men,” he says.

“I wouldn’t rule out returning to South Korea,” he adds.

“That experience changed my life and made me appreciate that I was a Canadian.”

For additional information on courses you can contact Antonella Moscato at 777-9309, or attend Global TESOL next information session on April 21, at the Days Inn on Guy St. near R


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