Teaching abroad: Staying safe overseas

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Many young Americans are choosing to take a year or two after college to teach English in a foreign country. In doing so, they get to experience more of the world and see new and different cultures. According to the University of Toronto, many young people are looking for a way to fund their travel plans. Rather than coming back from a vacation empty-handed, teaching allows young people to make money on their travels and even return home with some cash in hand. Many college graduates go abroad to further develop their skill set and gain a leg up on the competition when they return to the American workforce. Having international experience or learning a new language could be the deciding factor when applying to jobs back home.

The International TEFL Academy reported that the top three most popular countries in which to teach English are, in order, China, Spain and South Korea. China alone has more than 300 million English learners, which is nearly equal to the entire population of the U.S. There are, of course, many other countries around the world in which the English teaching job markets are fairly large, meaning the demand for native English speakers is quite high.

Teaching abroad can be a fun, enlightening experience, but it still takes a lot of hard work and much preparation. Besides having the proper certification, teachers going abroad need to think about their health and safety when staying overseas for extended periods of time.

The top three countries in which to teach English are, in order, China, Spain and South Korea.The top three countries in which to teach English are, in order, China, Spain and South Korea.

Insurance coverage abroad
One of the top things millennials need to be concerned about when going abroad is whether or not their American health insurance covers illness and injury abroad. Many of the people going to teach in a foreign country are under 26 years old, which means they are still covered by their parents' insurance plan. According to CNN, many American insurance companies will cover emergencies abroad – those situations that could lead to a life-threatening situation. However, payment is still expected up front, and will be reimbursed at a later date. Not everyone will be able to afford the upfront cost, meaning that it's better to get insured by the overseas employer.

Most schools will provide some form of health insurance, reported the International TEFL Academy, though potential hires should also ask about this before signing a contract. In many Asian countries, including China, doctor's visits are often paid completely out of pocket and then reimbursed by the school at a later date. In European countries where English teachers are required to pay taxes, the chances of having more complete coverage is greater. CNN recommended researching doctors and hospitals ahead of time. Not every health institution will match the quality of care found in the U.S., and by the time an accident does occur, it's too late to be picky about which hospital will handle the case. Better to do the research before anything happens.

Accidents abroad
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is an excellent source for information about potential health hazards abroad. It has profiles of every country in the world, and gives details concerning communicable diseases, the vaccines travelers need before making the journey, and specific safety tips concerning everything from wild animals to dietary risks. For English teachers, getting vaccinated is an important way to stay healthy and avoid spreading illnesses to the student population.

"Most schools require teachers to have a TEFL certificate."

Many new English teachers have little previous teaching experience. Most schools abroad typically require some form of training and certification, such as the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. Others, however, are more lenient and it would be wise to consider taking a job with one of those organizations very carefully before doing so. Still, the lack of experience means a heightened risk of accidents. New teachers might not be used to the high energy levels of children, of the nuances of a new culture or of proper safety procedures. As such, English teachers could find themselves in potentially dangerous situations both at work and away from work.

New teachers should take every precaution to avoid getting injured while overseas. For teachers working with young children, who are prone to spills among other accidents, it's a good idea to consider wearing slip-resistant shoes. Taking a fall around rushing children could be disastrous for everyone involved. Other safety measures include familiarization with the school's procedures and emergency plans.

Teaching English in a foreign country can be an extremely rewarding experience. Having a great time and staying safe go hand-in-hand, because there's nothing fun about getting stuck in a foreign hospital due to an injury that could have been avoided.

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