It was October of 2010 when I sold my car, quit my job, and bought my plane ticket. It came to a point in my life where I just had to simply “do it”. On November 16th I flew into Frankfurt, Germany, and headed east to Kassel where my girlfriend lived. I had little money ( I refused to touch the money I got for my car in case something happened) and no idea what I was going to do for a living when I arrived in Germany.
The first week was wonderful. It was the first time I’ve been out of the United States. After the first week was over and my girlfriend and I realized that we needed to start getting the ball rolling with my visa, we took a trip to the Auslaenderbehoerde (immigration office). It was a total disaster. We both left almost in tears and with absolutely no hope of being able to stay together in Germany. Basically, the man said that I needed to obtain a full-time job for a specific amount of money plus certain insurance coverage. He literally stated that staying here in Germany was not a possibility with the amount of education I have (I am still working on my degree). Another option was to get a freelance artist visa or to teach English.
We had never really thought about teaching English. It had never crossed my mind since I didn’t have any experience or TESOL certification. I heard from another expat from the United States that they paid good money for private tutoring and Business English lessons, so I began to search online for different language schools in the area. I applied to school after school and received little feedback. Shortly after, my girlfriend got a job in another city called Bochum. So we had to move there, which was good seeing that nothing had come up for me in Kassel.
Starting as a Volunteer Teacher
The entire month before we moved, I applied to over 35 language schools, high schools, and elementary schools. Anyone that offered English received a cover letter from me. In my cover letter, I basically stressed my individual skills. I focused on the type of person I am and what I have done for my community rather than what I have studied. Every few days I would receive a message that would turn me down or explain that they could have me help out in class but they couldn’t pay me. I visited several schools and hoped that my efforts to help their students for free would be rewarded in the long run.
I met a lot of new people and learned how the schools are set up. I assisted in class and prepared presentations on life in America and what I liked to do. The kids really enjoyed it. Still, I had no job and no visa. My time was quickly running out. It was past the new year and I had almost a month until my tourist visa expired.
I was not able to get a regular teaching position without a TESOL certificate. The positive side of my experience was that I obtained real teaching experience through volunteer positions and prospective employers place a high value on this. Volunteering is also a very good way to find out if teaching is right for you before you invest a lot of time and money in a TESOL certification course.
Private Tutoring in Germany without TESOL Certification
I also started to offer private lessons. My first student was a difficult experience. He was a private student who wanted to learn English in two weeks, so he booked ten days’ worth of eight-hour lessons in hopes that he could become an excellent speaker, just like that.
This being my first time teaching one-to-one, I was nervous. I had no idea what to do. I did research and stayed up all night trying to figure out lesson plans and how to go about doing my job. I still had no clue about how to teach English. I was a 20-year-old kid and he was a 56-year-old business executive with years of leadership under his belt. I started to let him tell me what he needed and that sort of went to him directing the class. I knew what he needed yet I was too nervous to go against what he wanted. After the two weeks were over he complained and said that I lacked the experience necessary to teach him.
Getting My TESOL Certification with OnTESOL
I enrolled in OnTESOL’s 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate course and things started getting better right away. I gained the confidence I needed to plan and deliver ESL lessons. I discovered different ways of getting what I wanted from students, and the lesson plan assignments in the TESOL course taught me how to use different frameworks for different levels of students. OnTESOL’s course is great for anyone who has little experience as an ESL teacher. The course made me feel as if I was on a fast track to becoming a professional teacher. It takes dedication and communication on your part, but you can make it with the help of your tutor! I am now living a perfect life, teaching, traveling, and just enjoying my experience in Germany. The TESOL certification I received from OnTESOL helped me get the teaching jobs I needed to secure my work visa and start my new career as an English teacher.
My First Freelance Teaching Job in Germany
As the weeks slowly went by and I was starting to get more nervous about my visa, I finally received an answer from one of the schools. The name of the school was Sprachkunst in Luisenhof. It was located right in the middle of my city in a beautiful little square right next to an outdoor Greek restaurant. Sprachkunst literally means “Language Art”. The owner believes that one learns art with the same section of their brain as they do a language. At the interview, the owner explained that I would be responsible for going outside the ordinary language school teaching style. Being that I take pictures and play music we decided that this would be a perfect position for me. I signed a contract and became a freelance English teacher in Bochum, Germany.
Unfortunately, one freelance job is not enough to get your work visa in Germany. I was told that I would be responsible for obtaining one more line of work, so I looked for business English jobs in Bochum because these are the best-paid teaching jobs in the city. Luckily, I received an interview quickly. The administration was pleased with me and decided to write me the necessary letter I needed to provide the Immigration office.
Insurance for English Teachers in Germany
Next came the insurance part, which is difficult to obtain when you are on a freelance basis. The best way to do it is to decide what is important to you and then go with a broker, who will not charge you because they are getting their money from the insurance companies. I went with Pacific Prime. They hooked me up with plenty of options. I could decide what was too much and what was just right.
Right now I pay about 175 a month in Euro which is not too bad. Never think that health insurance isn’t necessary when you move to another country. I arrived here in November and to this day I’m still recovering from a bacterial infection. My insurance covers all my monthly doctor check ups and the medication I need.
Applying for the Work Visa to Teach English in Germany
After I figured out my insurance I was ready to turn my paperwork in, thinking I would be walking out with the visa right then and there. Apparently, the Immigration office has to turn in your stuff to another organization and get it approved. A couple of weeks later I received a request to write a letter and send it in. The letter had to say why I was beneficial to the city. I had to say why I was an absolute necessity to the Bochum area in order for them to progress industrially or economically. I sent in my letter and I waited three days before I received my visa. It was a wonderful day. After three long and stressful months, I had somehow made it work.
I was lucky enough that my girlfriend had moved to Germany and not another European country. Germany is one of the few European countries that provide work permits to North Americans who want to teach English. Most other European countries require EU citizenship.
Recommended for English teaching jobs in Germany: Save $199 on the 20-hour Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) or the 20-hour Teaching Business English (TBEC) specialist course when you register in the 120-hour Advanced TESOL course.