Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine January/February 2005
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Teaching English in Taiwan

Jobs are Plentiful, Living Is Easy

By Danielle Stanton

Taiwan is one of the easiest countries in which to find work as an ESL teacher. The pay is $15-$22 an hour.

I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan on a lay-over after a trip to India. I decided to stay and found work by combing the newspaper classified sections and calling contracts using a phone at the train station while sleeping in a hostel. The classifieds were jammed with want ads for English teachers. Try the Taipei Times, Taiwan News, China Post, or China Times.

After four days of calling at the train station, I ended up at a private kindergarten but soon learned this was not for me. I called another advertisement in Chung-hua for a private "bushiban," or "cram school." It's more like an after-school program for kids to get an extra push on their English studies. I liked the free private room at the owner's home and free access to a bicycle, a must for getting around town. I eventually moved into my own studio apartment for an equivalent of $140 a month. You can find a 2-bedroom apartment for about $200 to $350 a month.

If you have a return or onward ticket, you can obtain a 14-day stay. Or you can apply for 2-month visitor visa. Once you find work in the host country, you need to leave and return to obtain a work visa. This is very common practice. I ended up in Hong Kong for a day, which was a great way to see another spectacular city. I also signed a 6-month contract and underwent a medical exam.

The bushiban school used a set curriculum and method for teaching, but you need to devise your own lesson plans. You don't need any prior experience or any coursework, just a B.A. or B.S. degree. On a typical day, I'd teach from 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with several breaks. The classes are generally short, about 30 to 40 minutes, with anywhere from five to 30 kids. Most of the kids have a grasp of English so you don't need to know any Chinese.

A few things you will quickly discover: First, where the expatriates hang out after work for a few coldies; Second, how to supplement your income with private tutoring.

The main focus for the Chinese is learning conversational English, rather than reading or writing. The challenge is to get very shy students to actually speak. But after a lot of patience and prodding, you'll find they will eventually gain confidence and you'll be surprised at how much they already know. Many people will be eager to practice their English with you. And you might even find yourself with a few penpals, as I did.

I wouldn't change a thing if I had to do it over again. But, I do think it is wise to learn as much as you can about the country and working conditions before you go. It's a wonderful, rewarding experience in which you will have the opportunity to make life-long friends.