Great Job Market in the Mediterranean

Sittin' on a dock of the Bosphorus.
An account of my TEFL experience: from Greece to Turkey
(by Harrison Brazier)

My father spent a month in Greece in his early thirties, and, as anybody who has ever traveled abroad knows, a month is more than enough time to change your life. As a result, I grew up hearing romantic tales of unmatched hospitality, sun-bleached white houses, deep blue seas, lemon trees, and octopi drying on clotheslines outside of traditional Greek tavernas. The stories were enough to convince me to visit Greece myself, and upon visiting for the first time in spring of 2009, I knew I had to return.

About a year and a half later, I found myself taking an onsite TEFL certification course in Greece. The course was hard work, and the blistering Greek sun (it was August) was brutal. That said, it was still an amazing experience and one I would happily relive again and again if I could. My course director in Greece suggested I keep an open mind about where I look for a teaching job. I was traveling with my girlfriend and another mutual friend of ours, and the more research I did, the less likely it seemed like Greece would be a realistic option for the three of us finding work in the same vicinity. I’ve since learned that there are some job opportunities for American ESL teachers in Greece, but the market is not nearly as booming as in many other places.

My course director put me in touch with a former graduate who was living and teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. With his encouragement, the three of us found ourselves in Istanbul two days after the completion of our TEFL course. Two days after that, we all had secured jobs at the same branch of a very popular private language school. I cannot stress this enough: the ease with which we found work in Istanbul was remarkable.

As for the city itself: I have never experienced a place so foreign and yet so welcoming and “homey” as Istanbul. Turkish people are very proud of their country and treat visitors with the utmost hospitality and friendliness. Istanbul is a city on two continents – Europe and Asia – as it is split into two by the impressive Bosphorus Strait. To the north rests the gorgeous beaches of the Black Sea, and to the south is the Sea of Marmara (which feeds into the Aegean, to its west). My dream of being surrounded by water was appeased, and then some. My two bedroom apartment, in fact, was a two minute walk from a fantastic seaside park, and it cost the equivalent of $900 USD a month (something three English language teachers can easily afford)!

For those who have some reservation about the safety of Istanbul, I can say I’ve honestly never felt safer walking the streets of a city, American or otherwise, in my life. Imagine a place where the produce vendors leave their fruits and vegetables on the streets at night and simply cover them over with a tarp… and nobody steals anything.

Turkey is an Islamic country, but much in the same way that America is a “Christian” country. Many of its inhabitants are really quite secular and "Western" in mentality, so while some people may be hurrying off to mosque in the evening, others are sitting in cafes drinking beer and liquor, smoking water pipe, and listening to European pop music. Istanbul is truly a cross section of all parts of the world and all types of people. It is a very modern city, yet, at the very same time, is home to some of the most ancient standing structures in the entire world.

If you are a lover of history, the sea, and fantastic food, I can’t recommend teaching in Istanbul enough. With Greece’s economic future still somewhat uncertain, the job market that Turkey offers, and the many other charms that Westerners like to typify as “Greek,” Istanbul, Turkey provides a fantastic alternative. I would strongly encourage anybody interested in living in Greece to give serious consideration to living and teaching in Istanbul. I had an amazing time, I made lifelong friendships, and I had the incredibly rewarding experience of enriching people’s lives with English language education.

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Harrison is the lead program consultant with TEFL Experiences. He is a native Marylander with an English degree from the University of Maryland in College Park. After receiving his TEFL certification in Greece, he went on to teach English for a year in Istanbul, Turkey. Having moved abroad and experienced the life of an ESL teacher himself, Harrison is able to offer his insight and guidance in assisting you in your transition to living and teaching English overseas. When he isn’t on the phone or answering emails — helping you realize your dream of getting paid to live abroad — Harrison is generally writing music, strumming his guitar, playing backgammon and drinking tea, or looking for something new and unusual to eat for lunch that day.
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