Have you ever wondered if you should fly there and look for a job teaching abroad or if you should find one online from home?

It's possible to do both. Both ways can work.

I have taught in China, Korea and Taiwan and each time I chose to fly there to find work. I didn't have any job lined up and each time I had success and I had that success because I was committed to it.

Even in Korea I did that and Korea is popular as it offers a lot of benefits and one of those is free airfare. They'll (many schools) will pay for your airfare upfront to fly there and teach. They'll even throw in free housing and some other benefits.

Sounds good, but what about other countries?

It depends on the country and in some cases the school. But usually other places won't pay for you to fly there upfront. Some schools can offer you a job though before you get there.

"Where I previously taught, Taiwan, you had the choice of being hired overseas by a small handful of chain schools, or coming in on a landing visa and looking for work on your own. I went with the former option and regretted it - was stuck in a kind of crappy job for my first year, whereas teachers I met in Taiwan found better jobs on their own." - fattyB


The benefits of flying there to look

This post focuses on the benefits of flying there to look for a job.

1. You get to check it out before you commit

If you have a job lined up then you will show up and start teaching immediately. Everything is fixed. However, if you fly there to look for a job then you'll have more flexibility. You can gradually enter the culture and country as a tourist and get to explore it a bit before committing to a school or specific location.

2. You get to interview in-person

If you are there you'll actually get to go to the school for the interview. You'll be able to check out the school's facilities, meet your boss, other teachers, see some students, etc. It's real and you'll know exactly what you are getting into.

If the school offers housing you'll get to see that too.

3. You can negotiate better

Since you are there in-person you are in a better position to negotiate your work situation.

4. It's better for the school

It's better for the school as they get to see you in-person. A school would rather hire a teacher that is standing in front of them as a opposed to one online. So since you are there you are basically improving your chances of getting hired.

5. There are more jobs there 

Not all jobs are listed on the sites that you have been looking at. If you are there you'll be able to meet people who may know of other jobs that are available or ones that will be soon.

  • You can go to places where other foreign teachers hang out (like a bar) and ask around for jobs.
  • You can go door to door to language academies with your resume and see if they need a teacher. I found many jobs by doing this in Taiwan.

6. You choose the location

Really the power of going there to look is your options to choose. And one of those things that you can choose is your location. You may decide that Seoul is where you want to be and where you want to work. But you may start looking for a job there and not have much luck. Recruiters may tell you that it's hard to find a job there.

But if you went there as mentioned above you will find more options there. And finally Seoul or wherever you are planning on going may not be what you thought. And you may decide to go elsewhere or find a better city or location in that country.

Those are some good reasons why you should consider going there to look.

7. It's more fun

If you like adventure then this can be an exciting experience. You'll have the flexibility to explore and check things out. If you don't like adventure then take the "secure" route.

If you have a job lined up then everything is set in stone.

8. There's less shock

Once you dig your heels in and commit to a school then your situation is fixed. You may find out when you get there that you don't like it as much as you thought. You could find out the housing is ugly, or you may have other problems.

But if you go there and look first you can pretty much avoid the shock that can come when you choose blindly.

Sounds good, but what are the disadvantages?

There's always another side to the coin. 

1. It can cost more money

I could have found a job in Korea from home had I wanted. I had offers, but I guess I really wanted to be in Busan. And I think I like the excitement. So that's where I went, but I also checked out some other places too like the small city called Jeonju where I was offered a job.

So what are the expenses?

  • Airfare. Aside from Korea in most countries you'll have to pay for airfare anyways. Some countries or schools may offer a reimbursement (often in China) that comes at the end (usually one way). Many countries don't offer anything like this. You'll have to pay to get there.
  • Visa runs. In most countries if you show up on a tourist visa after you find a job you'll have to go to a nearby country to change your tourist visa to the proper work visa. You can read more about what I had to pay for visa runs here. I recently read that in Japan it's now possible to change a visa in-country.
  • Hostels/hotels. I always stayed in hostels while looking for work. They're pretty cheap and you can meet people there too. You can also check sites like Globalfreeloaders.com for free accommodation.
  • Food. If you want to do it cheap you can usually find cheap street food or buy food in markets.

$2000 pretty much worked for me in all three of those places. Time is a factor. The longer you go without work the more you will spend. You can often find substitute teacher work to help you get buy until you find something long term.

2. It "can" be more stressful if you don't do your research

If you don't do your research you're gonna have to face some hurdles. If you don't know what the visa situation is you may have to take more trips than planned or spend more money than planned.

The point is to do your research before you go. It doesn't matter if you have job lined up, if you don't know what you are getting into you're going to have stress. 

A lot of folks are looking for a program or course that's going to walk them through the whole thing. It doesn't exist. 

You're going to a foreign country things are going to be different.

What steps can you take to prepare yourself to do this?

  1. Choose a country and city for starters
  2. Sort your visa out
  3. Visa runs?
  4. Find a place to stay
  5. How much money is it going to cost you?

1. Choose a country and city

Take some time to select a place. Research the country, the culture, the lifestyle, the food and a city. Choose a city as a starting point and go there.

2. Sort your visa out

You are going to need a visa and each country is different and treats people from different countries differently. For example, as a U.S citizen you can get a tourist visa for 3 months in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and in many European countries. You just show up and you can get a stamp in your passport that allows you to stay there for 3 months before you have to leave.

In China you have to go to the Chinese embassy in your country and pay for a tourist visa. You can't just show up without one.

I think this is true in some other countries as well. You'll have to check with the embassy in your country. I would buy a roundtrip ticket regardless if you are planning on returning to your home country.

Immigration may give you a hard time if you enter the country with a one way ticket.

3. Visa run

You're probably going to have to take a visa run at some point after you have found a job so that you can change your tourist visa to a work visa. As I mentioned earlier you don't have to necessarily in Japan, but you will have to in many other countries.

Now you don't have to know all the details about this as the school will help you, but you're going to have to leave the country again at some point before your tourist visa expires.

Schools in some countries will pay for this and others won't. Just know that you are going to have to do this before your visa is up and make sure you have enough money which I'll soon tell you about.

If you still didn't find a job after the visa expires you can often leave the country and come back and get another 3 months. But again it depends on the country and visa. Check it out.

4. Find a place to stay

You'll need to find a place to stay. You should be able to find a hostel easy enough online. They can be pretty cheap and they're a good way to meet people. There are also sites like Couch Surfing and Global Freeloaders.

5. How much money will you need

The amount of money that you need to get started is going to vary a bit from country to country. As mentioned you'll need money for a ticket there, a hostel, food, and maybe for a visa and/or visa run. 

Final thoughts

Now if you have all that sorted out then you're pretty much good to go. Going there to look for a job has many benefits. You can check the country and city out before you commit, interview in person, have more options, etc. I'd recommend it most of the time. 

But if you are a chicken, lol...

It's not for everyone and the same can be said of teaching abroad in general. If that sounds too daunting then you can try lining up a job before hand, but...

Either way can be scary. Ultimately you will have to face your fears. You need courage to do that. Knowledge and research are helpful tools.

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