Friday, March 20, 2009

Need a Job - Go Abroad

Young, college-educated, and unemployed? Get out of this country. And take with you a most precious and desired commodity you acquired for free - the English language. The opportunity to travel, live, and work abroad has always been a great option for the newly-graduated and unencumbered, and in the current economy, it is becoming an attractive option for those young people facing a tough job market. This issue was featured on Right-on-the-Left-Coast, and it reminded me of my own experience, graduating with an English teaching degree in the recession, and tough job market, of 1992. I haven't written about this before, but I have often meant to, as I regularly speak about it to my students. With few high school English teaching positions available - and actually little interest in or motivation to start teaching high school at the age of twenty-one - I up and moved to Taiwan with my future wife to teach English. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Because one of my wife's roommates in college was Taiwanese, she had been there before, and she was well aware of all the opportunities to teach English in Taiwan. At the EPO (Educational Placement Office) of the University of Illinois, we ran across a flier for an organization known as Hess Language School. It was based in New York, and it was the largest cram school, or bushiban, on the island of Taiwan. After filling out an application and undergoing a brief phone interview, we moved six-thousand miles from home, and began teaching Taiwanese children the finer points of ABC and "How are you?" The school was founded by an American woman and her Taiwanese husband, and they had basically cornered the market for cram schools, where parents send their children after school for a few hours a week to give them a jump start on the rigors of English instruction in junior high school. Hess provided us with a work visa and a yearlong contract teaching roughly twenty hours a week for about twenty dollars an hour. It was great gig.

We went to Taiwan at the same time my wife's roommate moved there to live at home. She lasted nine months; we stayed five years. During that time, we lived the dream and traveled the world, not to mention saved a lot of money. We knew numerous Americans there who paid off their student loans and credit card debt in a year or two. There are so many options for work abroad, and there is no better time for a little adventure.

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