Explore More

Teach Abroad Timeline: Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

The pandemic has made planning moot and challenged people everywhere to make the best of constantly changing circumstances. If you were preparing to teach English abroad for the first time or perhaps were already overseas considering another round of teaching, it’s quite likely that your plans were disrupted.

But international schools and language institutes are now hiring teachers again, and there may be more flexibility than you think as international travel continues to open up once more. Here are some of the steps that you can take to prepare yourself to teach English abroad.

Read more in this recent BridgeUniverse article: Will English Language Teachers Be Traveling Again in 2022?

Get TEFL/TESOL-certified

Hawra Saleh, Bridge grad, with her TEFL/TESOL certificate
Bridge grad Hawra with her TEFL/TESOL certificate

Start with what may be the most important step: getting certified to teach English. A lot of people find themselves with extra time on their hands at the moment, and many are still not venturing outside the home in order to maintain social distance. Therefore, it can be the perfect time to focus your energy on completing a comprehensive online TEFL certification course.

There are many e-learning courses that provide the TEFL/TESOL qualifications you need to get hired as an English language teacher and to prepare yourself for the rigors of the classroom. Most online courses take 4-8 weeks to complete, but given how much time you may have while you stay safe at home, you might be able to complete one sooner.

TEFL certification never expires, so even if your teach-abroad timeline for coronavirus ends up being longer than you hope it is, you’ll be certified as soon as you pass the course.

An ideal option is to take a course like the 240-hour Master Certificate + Teaching English Online Bundle because it prepares you to teach online and worldwide. You can use it immediately while working virtually from home yet be ready to teach abroad when the time comes. Apart from preparing you for the current situation, this course bundle also sets you up for the future of the EFL industry, which is likely to include hybrid teaching (a combination of online and physical classes).

How does online TEFL certification work? Find out!

Create a TEFL/TESOL resume

Right now, a lot of English teaching institutes are desperate for new teachers! Due to the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, many institutes around the world lost staff who felt it was too risky to stay there. This means that you can put time and effort into your resume and other tools that can improve your chances of being hired.

TEFL/TESOL resume 

Some simple things you can do to enhance your TEFL resume are:

  • Add a short professional summary (of no more than three lines).
  • Put the education section at the top, just after the professional summary. This is where you’ll highlight your TEFL/TESOL certifications.
  • Consider including a professional-looking photo or a link to a video introduction.
  • Check that you’ve avoided unclear abbreviations, industry jargon, and overly flowery language.

See a sample TEFL/TESOL resume and get more tips for creating yours. 

LinkedIn/digital badges 

Now is also a good time to update your LinkedIn profile too, including adding your Bridge digital badges. Consider marking yourself as “looking for jobs” in the ESL/EFL area; this will help recruiters get in touch with you through multiple sites.

Ready to apply to your dream job? Find out how to prepare for a TEFL/TESOL interview.

Gain some experience

Krzl teaching online in Chile
Krzl teaching online in Chile

Due to the restrictions of social distancing still in place around the world and the shortage of English language teachers in many countries, it’s a perfect time to get a job teaching English online or to volunteer to teach English. Here are some of the options you have:

Cheryl Evans, a teacher from Jamaica, says, “Right after getting my TEFL certificate, I decided to volunteer, and I joined Paper Airplanes in August of 2020. That experience was like no other. Paper Airplanes is a nonprofit that facilitates volunteering and teaching English to adults [online] – young adults and older adults up to the age of maybe 35. More than 75% of them are Syrian refugees.”

Some of the reasons to teach online now before going abroad or to volunteer teach include:

  • You’ll be using the time to build your confidence as a teacher and to practice the skills that your TEFL/TESOL certification provided you.
  • You’ll be able to prove that you have teaching experience, enhancing your resume.
  • Some work visas allow you to continue teaching online part-time after you move abroad, making extra income possible.
  • You can gain insight into other cultures, which will help you decide where you want to eventually teach abroad.

If you plan to teach abroad in the classroom, start the application process

Many countries are reopening after travel restrictions, and schools all over the world are starting to hire English teachers again. Places like Oman, South Korea, Taiwan, and Colombia have a high demand for teachers and are a good option for those looking to go abroad in 2022.

Keep in mind that if you’re interested in teaching somewhere with a long application process (South Korea, for example), you may want to start the process early.

Teacher Shella, from the Philippines, had been teaching English in China when the coronavirus prevented her from continuing to work in the country. Instead, she went to Taiwan to teach. She described the long application process as follows:

“Processing papers back home in Manila, even before COVID-19, is somewhat of an experience for anybody who wants to work abroad because the process is grueling. We had to take care of things on the home side, gather all the documents, authenticate everything, and wait. Then, we had to go to the embassy or an office and authenticate them again. It was a very, very long process.”

Shella Chua, Filipino Teacher in China with students in costumes
Shella taught in China before the crisis and is now working in Taiwan.

Gather documents

Each country is different, but in general, the documents you’ll likely need include:

  • A copy of your university degree
  • Your TEFL/TESOL certificate (hard copy)
  • A federal background check (FBI channeler or through the FBI itself)
  • Authentication of all of these documents (notarization or apostille)

At the best of times, the process to obtain legal permission to move abroad and start teaching can take several months. You may not be able to access all of the necessary documents at this time due to official closures, but it doesn’t hurt to begin gathering your papers now. Making small steps toward the goal of teaching abroad will make a difference.

English teacher in Oman
Bridge grad Erin first taught in China and is now a university instructor in Sur, Oman.

If you plan to teach online as a digital nomad, line up your job or establish your clientele

If you want to travel by teaching English online as a digital nomad, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared. You can start by taking care of the following before going abroad:

  • Creating a monthly budget so you know how much you need to earn while traveling in each of your destinations (the cost of living will be different in each location)
  • Lining up work with one or more online ESL companies and setting a teaching schedule that will give you enough hours to meet your budget needs
  • Finding plenty of online English students if you’re planning to freelance and ensuring that your teaching curriculum, payment collection platform, and other logistics are in place

Travel planning during coronavirus

In light of the COVID-19 situation, it’s also important for digital nomads to plan ahead when it comes to their intended travel plans.

Digital nomad Mari says, “There are unforeseen circumstances in every career field but especially during a pandemic. Now that travel is beginning to become more accessible, remember these tips: Check the COVID-19 testing procedures and guidelines for every single state or country you are traveling to. They do differ, and they will be very time-consuming when not followed correctly! Also, call ahead to every hotel or hostel you plan to stay at. The pandemic has severely impacted the availability of some technical services. If you can avoid an internet emergency, do so.”

Here are more tips from TEFL digital nomads traveling during COVID-19.

Hone your teaching skills and further enhance your resume

If you’ve done all of these things and the timeline is still looking long, you have options. You should consider adding professional development courses to make your resume even stronger. Specialized TEFL/TESOL certificates or micro-credentials are one way to do this.


Bridge continually launches more micro-credential courses, which are short, targeted courses (most are 20 hours) offered 100% online. There are many courses for online English teachers, such as Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Young Learners), Health, Safety, and Mental Attitudes While Teaching English Online, and Teaching English Online to Groups.

Other micro-credential courses in the ever-growing portfolio include Error Correction in the EFL Classroom, Teaching English Using Video, Teaching IELTS Exam Prep, and Teaching English With Low Resources.

Specialized TEFL/TESOL certificates

Specialized TEFL/TESOL certificates are more in-depth professional development courses, ranging from 20-60 hours. Some of the available courses are:

After you obtain any new credentials, make sure that you update your portfolio and also add your digital badges to your resume or on LinkedIn. You’ll be putting yourself in the best position to get hired and start the full process to move abroad as borders begin to open.

Even though your dreams of teaching abroad may be on hold, there are concrete steps you can take to move up the teach abroad timeline in the age of coronavirus. Follow the steps above and you’ll be ready to make the leap into teaching abroad as the world begins to open again.

As countries begin to reopen, take a look at the 10 best places to teach English abroad this year!

Coleen Monroe is a Colorado native who has left a trail of new homes for herself around the world. She's set foot in 30 countries and lived on four continents in the last eleven years. Her nomad homes have been in Chilean Patagonia, France, Italy, Switzerland, South Korea, England, and Iceland. Her latest travel adventures took her to Yunnan, Beijing, Jiangxi, and Southern China, where she's currently teaching.