Fund Your Dream Life: Teach English Overseas

Libby Rush is finishing up a year teaching English at a small foreign language school in Campeche, Mexico. It’s been “a wonderful experience,” she says—and she’s already considering where she may teach next. Ecuador, Honduras and Nicaragua are on her short list—as are some other cities in Mexico.

That’s the beauty of teaching English abroad: It’s a very portable career. And that’s exactly what Libby likes about it.

“I needed to reinvent myself,” says Libby, after the real-estate underwriter she worked for closed shop in 2009. She wanted a career that was “fun, where I could be of service,” and that let her travel abroad in search of the perfect retirement spot. Teaching English fits that bill.

Libby began her research online and eventually settled on the ITTO (International Teacher Training Organization) school in Guadalajara, Mexico. She liked ITTO’s mix of classroom instruction and hands-on experience teaching students. Plus ITTO is well known in Latin America, the region that most interests her.

“Asia is too far away for me,” she says ruefully. “I want to be close to family…to be able to get back to the U.S. easily” and to her two grown children.

Of course, that means forfeiting those high Asian salaries. According to Libby, Europe and Asia pay English teachers higher salaries than they can get in Latin America. “In all of Latin America, except maybe Chile, the pay is low.”

To compensate, though, “in a lot of places they provide accommodation as part of your contract,” she adds. That’s the case with her Campeche job, for instance, which provides her with accommodation and half-pension (breakfast and lunch) in addition to a salary.

Libby did consider a well-paying teaching job in Vietnam. But the school didn’t accept her certification. There are “lots of different certificates” available for teaching English, she notes. Her advice: If you know you want to teach in a specific region, make sure you earn a certificate that’s accepted there.

Libby hasn’t lost any sleep over that job in Vietnam, though. Her qualifications are widely accepted in Latin America, where she wants to retire. Campeche is her first overseas assignment, and it’s taught her a lot about what she’s looking for in a retirement spot.

For one thing, she’s realized she wants to live near a beach. She’s started making lists of beach towns to research in her target countries.

For another, she wants to be able to take her dog, Gigi. Libby left Gigi behind when she came to Campeche—but she doesn’t want to do that again. Alongside that list of beach towns, she’s started jotting down cities near international airports she can fly to with Gigi.

It may be a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” You really need to be “free of encumbrances” to teach English abroad, Libby notes…even as she makes plans to bring her own little canine encumbrance on her next teaching adventure.

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