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Five Places for Americans to Teach English in Europe (Legally)
Teach English by day, go salsa dancing at night, roam vineyards on the weekend, sip hot mulled wine at a Christmas market – this is the life many people hope for when they complete their CELTA, aiming to secure a job in vibrant, enchanted Europe. However, snagging that dream job is more difficult than just buying a plane ticket. Well-qualified native speaking English teachers from Ireland and the UK are cheaper, more attractive hires for many schools, and sometimes it can feel like American teachers are completely shut out from teaching English in Europe.
But there are still ways to fulfill your dreams of living in Europe; taking weekend trips to hidden countryside castles and brushing up on your foreign language skills. On a government program or through a sponsoring company, here are a few countries where it’s possible to score one of those coveted long-term visas – and a few bonus tips to help you when you apply!
Teach English in the Czech Republic
One of the best ways to spend your afternoon is sipping a craft beer in the square of a fairy-tale medieval town – and if you teach English in the Czech Republic, that could be your day off! As one of the newer countries to enter the European Union, the Czech Republic still has some flexibility when it comes to issuing work visas for American English teachers. And as for central location, the Czech Republic is hard to beat! Most flights to other destinations in Europe will be under three hours, and the Eurorail makes land travel simple and enjoyable.
Teach English in France
Bike rides through lavender fields, picnics of wine and cheese, weekends on the Rivera – ok, life as a teacher in France isn’t a real-life Audrey Hepburn movie, but it still carries a lasting charm. One of the best options for American teachers to teach English legally in France is through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). The program is highly competitive – you must be under 35 and have intermediate French skills and teaching experience or a certificate is a bonus — but if you have the necessary skills, you could be spending a year working in a French school.
Teach English in Spain
For anyone who likes sunshine and siestas, the Spanish government offers the North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program (or Auxiliar de Conversación). The program runs in schools and adult language centers around the country. Teaching English in Spain means that you get to enjoy late night tapas, Spanish wines, and the chance to develop your high school Spanish skills even further. Since the requirements for Auxiliar de Conversación) are a bit looser than those for the TAPIF program, there tends to be significantly more applications. If you have your heart set on a certain region of Spain, make sure you have all your documents in order so you can apply as soon as the application period opens and be first in line for consideration.
Teach English in Ukraine
While parts of the country are still experiencing unrest, the political situation has cooled down enough to make Ukraine an attractive destination for American teachers. At the moment, the dollar is particularly strong against the Ukrainian hryvnia, so if you come over with any amount of savings (or do any private lessons on the side) you can live a fairly comfortable life. Ukraine is a perfect place for teachers looking for a comfortable mix of the familiar and novel – while it has that well-known European flair, the Cyrillic alphabet and lack of tourists makes Ukraine feel unique from the rest of the continent. And yes, the winters may be cold, but with a fashionable pair of boots, a spiced mug of glühwein, and the warm hospitality of Ukrainians, you won’t even notice.
Teach English in Turkey
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, a vibrant mix of culture, color, and a little bit of chaos. Teaching in Istanbul means that you’ll be living in one of the oldest cities in Europe, standing at the crossroads of civilizations. But it’s not all history in Istanbul! They may have impressive ancient buildings, but the people in Istanbul are just as modern and cosmopolitan as any other European city. And living in Turkey means that you are in a great spot to see more of the world – not just Europe but the wonders of the Anatolian side of Turkey and the gems of the Middle East and Central Asia.
No matter where you plan on applying, it’s always a good idea to start looking for that job months before you anticipate working. Schools may be willing to invest the time and money in you, but they need ample time to go through all the necessary steps – and it always takes longer than you think. If you are looking for a fall position, start making contacts and sending out your resume in the spring.
Make sure you are fully aware of your responsibilities in the visa process. With some government programs you are responsible for obtaining your visa, and even with language schools there’s always something to do on your end. Making sure you are involved in and understand every step in the process will also make it easier for you if you ever have a snag or question with your visa.
The highly competitive Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program offers placements in most European countries (as well as all over the world). Some countries have language requirements and you are only allowed to submit an application for one country, but being part of the Fulbright program is a fantastic way to experience another culture.
And who knows? If the United Kingdom votes to exit the European Union in June, that supply of native speaking teachers could suddenly disappear. If you’ve got your heart set on teaching English in Europe, it’s something to keep your eye on!
Amy snagged a CELTA from Teaching House New York in 2013 and since then has taught on three continents (and counting). Having a CELTA has made her dream of moving abroad possible, and currently she is slow-traveling through Europe. She loves getting to know students, wandering around cities, and trying to find the world’s best donut. You can check out her travel adventures and mishaps at The Wayfarer’s Book.