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Teaching Abroad

You won’t have to knuckle down to some serious study or do a work placement with a company if you want to take an Erasmus year. Aside from work and study placements, Erasmus offers you the unique change to experience life from the other side of the teacher’s desk.

Sharpen that red pencil, practice your whiteboard writing skills and harness your inner teacher, as Erasmus gives you the perfect chance to help teach English to students in other European countries.

You can now join the British Council Language Assistants programme as part of the Erasmus programme. That means that you can teach English in Europe and receive the same perks as other Erasmus students, i.e. the Erasmus grant and fee waiver.

Why should I teach abroad?

Language assistantships are a great way of developing your language skills and immersing yourself in another culture.

You’ll be a modern day Miss Honey or Mr Chips, touching bright young minds with the beautiful and precious gift of education. Or, in other words, you’ll be teaching kids English: it’ll be stressful, difficult and frustrating, but ultimately it’ll be very, very rewarding.

If you want to become a teacher or simply want to improve your employability skills, you should certainly think about teaching abroad. You never know, it might awaken a hitherto unknown Mr Miyagi-esque talent for teaching in you. Wax on, wax off.

Am I eligible?

The British Council has some clear criteria about who can and cannot work as an English Language Assistant. For starters, you must be a native-level English speaker. Secondly, you will need to have completed all of your secondary education and two years of higher education by the time you start the assistantship. You’ll need to have a certain proficiency in the host country’s language, i.e. usually up to AS or A-level standard.

Be warned though, your ability to take part in the BCLA might be restricted if you are still at university. For example, the teaching abroad option might only be open for students studying a language or a flexible combined honours degree. Consequently, you’ll need to find out from your university if you’ll be able to teach abroad during your course, or whether you’ll only be able to do it once you’ve graduated.

There will also be a second set of criteria to meet if you want Erasmus funding. You’ll need to get in touch with the Erasmus contact at your university to find out more.

Where can I work?

Although the BCLA extends to other countries outside of Europe, if you want to do it through Erasmus, you’ll only be able to teach in countries that are part of the scheme in Europe. You could be swapping your mortarboard for a beret in France, yodelling the English alphabet in Switzerland, crying “mamma mia” at irregular verbs in Italy, having a fiesta (or siesta) in Spain, hiking the mountains of Austria or…um…having a waffle in Belgium.

There are a set number of posts in each country and you’ll have to fight off competition from other students to win the most popular ones. It’s good to apply to a range of different posts in your chosen country, and be aware that you might not get your first choice.

How to apply…

Once you’ve checked your eligibility, you will need to apply through the British Council’s online application system. If you’ve applied to teach in Switzerland, you will be invited to an assessment day. There won’t, however, be an interview process for positions in other European countries; you’ll be assessed solely on the strength of your application form.

Will I be paid to teach abroad?

Here’s the refreshing part: you will get paid. Kiss goodbye to exploitative unpaid work experience, as you’ll receive a wage from the education authority or the institution where you’ll be working. Admittedly though, the pay probably won’t be great and they won’t cover the cost of things like travel or medical insurance.

You will also have to sort out your own accommodation, which is why applying for an Erasmus grant is a really good idea. Trust us, the extra income will be a huge help!

Teaching abroad provides a truly unique insight into another culture (and doesn’t look half-bad on your CV), so you’d have to be a klutz not to consider it. If you think teaching won’t really be your thing, then check out our working abroad and studying abroad articles for other ways to experience life in another country. 

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