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Teaching English Abroad

The Mark

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What is the general view of top IR schools on applicants who teach English abroad? It's something I've looked at doing for a while, but I never pursued it because I felt like it was too easy to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the work itself is easy; I'm sure it's difficult and very rewarding. I'm just saying that it seems like there's virtually no difficulty getting in. If you have a bachelor's degree and you're a native English speaker, you're basically guaranteed to find a placement. Thus it seems like top schools wouldn't find this type of international experience particularly impressive. 


Despite all that, I'm still considering applying for a teaching position in S. Korea if things don't work out the way I want this cycle. I'm really interested to hear people's opinions on this subject. It seems like it would be a better option for someone who wants to get into something like development, but my long-term goal is to transition into political risk consulting, so the journey from teaching English in S. Korea to political risk consulting seems like a stretch. 

Edited by The Mark
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Keep in mind that teaching internationally is usually a two year commitment, and it may not be as easy to get in to certain places from year to year. Positions Teaching in Asia seems to be more readily found than Europe, so you may get lucky if you want s. Korea. Also, teaching in an American international school is different than teaching ESL in an international native school. Teaching in the American int'l school is highly competitive and they look for candidates with masters degrees in teaching or education.

As far as the the IR part, I can't speak to that. I have been an educator for several years now, and looked seriously into teaching abroad a few years ago. However, I do believe that an experience like this can broaden your horizons, which may be appreciated by any future school in politics.

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Kcald716: I don't think the OP is talking about teaching a subject in an American school, but rather going the TESOL route. I'm not sure how adcomms view this sort of work, but I think that the perception of competitiveness that The Mark speaks to is, well, right on the mark. (Sorry, I had to). I personally know four people who taught in South Korea right after college, and it essentially seems more like signing up than applying. I think only one of them stayed for longer than a year.


But that doesn't mean that the adcomms won't look favorably at your time spent abroad, and the experience itself seems like it could be eye-opening and highly valuable. And besides, it's probably no less competitive than the various unpaid internships at random non-profits abroad (sometimes procured by for-profit third party companies and almost exclusively subsidized by mommy and daddy) that fill up the resumes of many IR applicants. OP, I imagine it would really depend on your previous experiences, and whether or not you could make a year spent in South Korea tie into your future goals. Are you at least interested in Asian issues as pertaining to political risk? Would it benefit you to learn Korean? Do you lack experience abroad, or formal work experience in general? If you do end up getting dinged across the board, perhaps you could ask for some feedback on how to strengthen future applications, and see if a year spent in South Korea might fit in nicely.

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ridofme: Yeah, you're right. I was talking about TESOL. From what I understand, they do 12-month contracts. I appreciate the feedback. 


It's tough for me because I'm an unusual applicant, so I have no idea what to reasonably expect with this admissions cycle. I have essentially a self-taught business background, having managed and performed in two different music groups for the better part of ten years, and then two directly IR-relevant internships during college (went to college at 28). I think that the music business/entrepreneurial background coupled with my IR bachelor's and internships gave me an interesting story to tell in my apps. 


So the short answer to your question is, no, I don't have any desire to focus on Asia specifically. The overarching goal of graduate school for me is to drastically improve my skills in quantitative analysis. I'd like to work on the comparative analytics side of political risk consulting, not necessarily specialize on a certain region.


Really, other than to get the default "international experience" many top schools are looking for, I see no legitimate reason to do the teach abroad thing. Though if that's what it takes, I suppose I will. As you mentioned before, there's no mommy and daddy to subsidize my experiences. Luckily, I'm not married and I don't have any kids either, but interning overseas for free just isn't in the cards. At least TESOL pays, and a good friend of mine actually came back with some nice savings. 

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