You’ve been scouring the internet for months, idly scrolling through blogs of current and past ESL teachers, daydreaming your life as one of them. Suddenly, a new concept fills your computer screen: “A TEFL internship?… a PAID TEFL internship? What’s that?”

No need to rub your eyes or put your glasses back on. Your peepers are working, and you read that correctly. A paid TEFL internship can be a great option for you to consider as you lay out your game plan for teaching abroad in the next year.

So, what is the difference between a TEFL job and a TEFL internship? And, consequently, which opportunity is a better fit for you?

We’re glad you asked. Here’s everything you need to know about what makes a TEFL internship different than a TEFL job (and why we love ‘em!).

TEFL Internship = Basically Painting by Numbers for TEFL

When you seek a TEFL job, you oftentimes use a placement service to connect you directly with a job vacancy in your international destination of choice. While these services can be great if you’re an experienced expat (AKA you have lived and traveled and worked abroad extensively in the past) or you are looking to roll your sleeves up for a more independent work abroad experience, TEFL jobs do little in the way of offering ongoing, direct support once you have started your teaching English job abroad.

On the flipside, TEFL internships provide a fully organized experience — even down to your meals. Not only will you be escorted from the airport to a kick ass orientation to your job placement and new home for the next few months, you will have the brain capacity to put towards other priorities for your life abroad. This allows you to focus more on having FUN and less on the nitty gritty logistics of coordinating life in a completely foreign place.

With all that lesson planning and classroom preparation, being able to relax in your free time (rather than negotiate YET AGAIN with a crazy landlord…) is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

A man studying the Irish and British map
Studying a map

More friends!

Who doesn’t LOVE connecting with an instant community whenever they step out on a limb to try something new (especially for something as intense as a grand international relocation?).

With TEFL internships, your common start date means you will gain instant BFFs, and be able to hit the ground running without worrying about the stress of making a group of friends as soon as possible.

It is amazing what kind of support these individuals can provide, especially considering they are great soundboards for understanding the range of emotions you will be feeling on any given day — from excitement, to fear, to homesickness, to utter elation, to confusion, to frustration.

A group of students taking a selfie in a park

Yup, life abroad brings you face to face with extremes, and who better to navigate those new waters with you than the guy or gal who also uprooted their life to teach abroad in your country of choice?

If you opt for a TEFL job, we are sure you’ll still be able to make some friends. Unfortunately, this will likely take some time, and you may end up sitting at home cruising Netflix for your next addiction more than striking up conversations with strangers.

Feels like solo travel (but with a big safety net underneath)

While we TOTALLY meant what we said in point number two, it is also worth pointing out that you won’t be required to spend all of your time with any of these individuals. All of you are on your own journeys, and some of the best mini lessons from life abroad are served on independent experiences.

One of the perks of the TEFL internship is that you have the choice of whether or not you want to lean on some of the support systems (like that instant friend group) or keep on rockin’ with your bad self — solo.

This need might evolve over time and change from day to day, which is why having it as a safety net is the perfect backdrop to your experience abroad. You can take advantage of it at some points and leave it be at others. You define your experience.

A TEFL job doesn’t necessarily provide the same level of support as a TEFL internship. Oftentimes, your contacts will be miles away in other countries, rather than miles away in neighboring towns.

There’s not much that can happen quickly between the time differences of calling your contact in Chicago while you’re teaching in Vietnam. So while you probably won’t be completely on your own, the level of support will feel less reliable.

A beautifully decorated market in Asia
Marketplace in Asia

Shorter time commitments, baby!

Let’s face it. The thought of committing to a year or more abroad in a country you’ve never been, with a language you don’t really speak — that takes guts. And while we think you have what it takes, sometimes it is nicer to make a shorter commitment.

In this way, you can test the waters for life abroad as an ESL teacher, and decide if you want to extend in country, try a new destination, or give up the life of pronouns and adverbs altogether.

TEFL internships allow a time commitment flexibility that is harder to find with a TEFL job, which tend to fill vacancies for entire school years. So if you are more attracted to short term teaching jobs abroad, an internship (rather than a job) might be a better fit for your goals.

More lax requirements for teaching abroad

When you seek jobs abroad, you also tend to find qualifications lists a mile long. Having a cousin who went to an Ivy League school in the early 2000s? Owning a short haired cat whose name rhymes with Spot? Gosh, it is hard to check off all of those teach abroad requirements.

O-K, while those are mostly just for fun, it can be difficult for a lot of people to fulfill every last qualification for teaching jobs. Maybe you don’t have a college degree, maybe you’re not from a “Native English Speaking” country (even though you’re fluent!), maybe you’re not between ages 18-24.

In these instances, TEFL internships can be your saving grace, as their requirements are often less stringent than those for TEFL jobs abroad. For instance, with a TEFL internship in China, there’s no need to have a degree when usually it is a firm requirement. This flexibility and openness can be a huge win if you don’t fit the TEFL job bill.

Made for first time TEFL teachers

If this is your first foray into the world of teaching English abroad, a TEFL internship is your match. It provides a soft landing to life abroad, giving you instant community, an organized experience with a safety net that’s there if you want it, and allows for a wider variety of individuals to “try on” the expat life.

TEFL internships are just as productive, financially viable, and career-benefitting as TEFL jobs, but with shorter time commitments.

A man teaching preschoolers how to read
Teaching kids how to read

So, we say — take baby steps. Rather than leap into the full-on unknown, consider an internship. When issues arise (and they will whenever you travel, #spoiler), you’ll have immediate assistance to fall back on.

You will still earn money and develop those super-sweet and transferable professional skills, but without the inevitable headaches of coordinating life abroad on your own.

Ready to sign up for TEFL internships?

Now that you know the difference between a TEFL job vs. TEFL internship, it’s time to start your adventure! Contact one of our awesome team members to learn all of your incredible options today!

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Free Job Hunter’s Guide anyone?

To help you start your own adventure, we’ve put together the Job Hunter’s Guide – 36 pages of insider tips and advice for securing your perfect TEFL contract.
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