Top Tips for British Council English Assistants (Or anyone!) Abroad
Hello there, my name is Clio, I’m one of the Global Office Interns for 2021/22, and I worked abroad in Marseille as an English Assistant for the British Council from October 2020 to May 2021. In this article, I will share some of my top working tips aimed at those of you who will be working abroad for your With Integrated Year Abroad (WIYA) placement, but also some day-to-day life advice about living abroad in general which I hope will be useful to anyone.
Before you go
- It goes without saying that getting all your paperwork done in advance should be your number one priority. For example, start looking into getting your visa (if you need one), completing your Learning Agreement and getting your GHIC health insurance card. Please don’t leave it all to the last minute! After that, you can relax and start planning for the more fun side of living and working abroad.
- Sign up to uk for travel updates about your country so that you’re up to date about the latest rules and restrictions.
- Use social media to your advantage. Find Facebook groups for Language Assistants of the country and region you’re going to, find local ESN social media pages to follow for different events or trips to meet other people, follow other local University or Student Pages and even your local town’s page and Tourist Office as well. This can not only help you make friends and meet people (both other students and locals) but also lets you know about any events going on in your region or recommended places to visit as well as things to do. It’s better to have too many options than too few!
- Start preparing some lesson ideas to save you time when you’re actually abroad. It’s always a great idea to have an introductory PowerPoint presentation about yourself. Introduce yourself and your country, give them some interesting facts about yourself and some interesting cultural facts about your country. Make sure to include lots of pictures! This presentation can then easily be adapted for the different English levels of your students.
- Have some handy teaching resources that you can access whenever you start a different topic with your students or just in general if you need some lesson inspiration! The British Council Teaching English website and podcast is a good way to start, as are various ESL conversations/discussion question websites, com and tefl.net.
- Similarly, have some games ready in your head that you can implement at a moment’s notice – for example, if you need a way to fill a surprising extra ten minutes at the end of a lesson, or a way to break the ice with a new group of students. I always recommend Hangman, Pictionary, Who am I? and Taboo. Tongue twisters and riddles are usually a hit as well.
When you arrive
- When you first arrive at your school and get your timetables, make sure to get the contact information of all the teachers you will be working with. Make the first step – contact the teachers, introduce yourself and ask what plans they have for the year. This will be invaluable in the future when you’re trying to organise your schedule or if you have any questions about the lesson plans.
- Check out any local travel cards for your region and sign up for anything that you know you will use, especially if you plan on travelling much and exploring the region.
- Try out lots of different activities – most sports clubs for example will let you try things for free your first time but subsequently ask you to pay in blocks of time. So if you sign up halfway through the year you probably won’t get your money’s worth. Use the different social media pages to find out about the different options available around you!
- Similarly, go to Erasmus Student Network (ESN) or other local student-run events – It’s the start of the school year, everyone is looking to meet people. Don’t be shy to ask people for their contact information and follow up with them if you want to meet up again.
- A lot of towns also do Language Exchange evenings – look up BlaBla Language Exchange and Polyglot Club to find out if there are any groups close to you. This will give you a specific environment to practice your language skills and it’s another way to meet people.
I hope that you find some of these tips useful. My last piece of advice to anyone going abroad would be: Make the most of it. Your semester or year abroad experience really is what you make it.
If you have any questions about working abroad as an English Language Assistant, in particular in France, then please feel free to reach out to the Global Office Intern email at firstname.lastname@example.org who will be able to put you in contact with me!