Kathryn Smith: From The Peace Corps To Teaching English Online

Teaching English online

The Peace Corps To Teaching English Online

| advert | Teach online and take your job global. Earn up to $26 as you go

Once upon a time we offered the readers of the Jobs Abroad Bulletin the opportunity to make a roving living teaching English online to children in China through VIPKID. Part of the reason we did so was thanks to Kathryn Smith, our guest writer today. Though she has found a number of interesting roles to finance her travels, from teaching in Korea to working on a private yacht, she describes working for VIPKID as “hitting the jackpot.”


I’m not here to give you hard and fast rules about working and traveling. I’m not going to feed you lines and tell you anybody can do it because I actually don’t believe this lifestyle is right for everyone. I’ve found my life in traveling. I get the warm and fuzzy feeling when touching down in a new country.

I have a love/hate relationship with the confusion from trying to buy things at a market when I don’t know a word of the language. I find joy in discovering the similarities between countries separated by an ocean but in also seeing everywhere is so distinct in one way or another. I’m just here to tell you a story. My story as a travel junkie always looking to fund the next move. Maybe I’ll motivate a few, I’ll probably give anxiety to a lot more.

Teaching English with the Peace Corps in Ecuador

Peace Corps

I’ve moved around a lot the last decade. I caught the travel bug during my first solo trip to Guatemala when I was 18. After three months and depleting my savings, I went home knowing this was only the beginning off my newfound passion. After graduating university, I joined the Peace Corps and set off to a hot, dusty banana town in Ecuador teaching English. The two and a half years just went by too fast. I somehow managed to save enough money on my volunteer salary to allow me to explore more, but not much.


That’s when I found Workaway. Workaway connects volunteers with work opportunities all over the world. A friend and I set off on a three-day journey through the network of rivers in the Amazon jungle to exchange work for free accommodation and food for two months. What more did I need? At this point, electricity and wifi weren’t high on my list of necessities. I did Workaway again, this time on a private island in Panama for a month.

By this time though, my money was really running low. Thanks to talking to the right people and having nothing but time and a passport in my hands, I started tour guiding on the incredible San Blas Islands. Eight months later, my body was exhausted but I had saved enough for another plane ticket.

Get TEFL qualified & teach online anywhere in the world  

Working on a yacht

So what does any rational person do? Go to France and work on a private yacht. This one was more of a gamble than I was used to taking. I invested most of my money getting trained and certified and spent a lot of time walking the docks handing out my “Yachting CV.” Getting a job is tough but I managed to get lucky.

Spending your summer in the South of France and Monaco is dreamy but working in this environment isn’t for the weak. Long hours on your feet, serving billionaires who expect only the finest. It wasn’t for me but what did it give me? Money. Keeping the dream alive! I spent the next few months with my boyfriend wandering around Western Europe and Turkey until- you guessed it- I needed money.

Work on a private yacht in the south of France and Monaco

Teaching in South Korea

This was a vicious cycle I was living in. Go somewhere new, work, save money, go somewhere new, spend said money…. I needed to stay put and save some serious cash. So, I called it quits and moved back home. Just kidding! We moved to South Korea. I signed a year contract with benefits (wow!) teaching at a Hagwon, a Korean private school. I found the job on Dave’s ESL Cafe, an incredibly outdated but useful site. While doing the 10-6 life, they really like to sleep in there, I found a website, VIPKID. I usually ignore ads but for some reason this one sucked me in.

VIPKID is a teaching platform working with children in China. To be qualified as a teacher you must be from North America, have a Bachelor’s degree in any subject and some sort of experience with kids. It pays between $8-12 per 25-minute class and your schedule is completely flexible, keeping in mind Beijing time. I had hit the jackpot. I just needed a stable internet connection and my computer and I could make my own schedule and work from geographically anywhere.

Applying to VIPKID

I immediately started the application process: one basic interview and two mock classes. They give you all the materials with plenty of time to prepare but it is a bit strange teaching a 45-year old from Arizona the letter “P.” It was a tough process but I got through it with some laughs and was in! A teacher, not making lesson plans or grading homework, just following pre-made slides and making kids giggle with a homemade puppet.

Work from your computer teaching English online

My year in Korea ended and my now fiancé and I were itching to get back on the road. We spent the past month working our way through Vietnam and now are doing the same in Thailand. The only difference is now I’m not thinking, “Where will I be when the money runs out?” VIPKID has kept me on my feet and has paid for all my travels thus far, keeping my savings saved.

Teaching online

I have a few classroom supplies: a sarong for a backdrop, a roll of tape, a headset with mic, a small fold-up lamp, hand-made ABC flashcards, a stuffed animal and a small dry erase board. They all fit neatly between my clothes and knickknacks in my backpack. In each country, I buy a data card and use hot spot to ensure a solid internet connection from my computer and have a classroom ready to go from wherever.

We almost always stay in AirBnBs to give both of us a quiet environment to work from. The flexibility allows me to change my schedule on a day-to-day basis giving me plenty of time to still be a tourist and explore our new environment. Knowing I have VIPKID makes me feel way more prepared for years of travel to come, I just wish I would have found it sooner.

Pin it if you like it


Pay for your travels by teaching English online


Teaching English Resources

Are you ready to begin teaching English abroad? PremierTEFL guides new teachers through the process of finding that first teaching position with their paid internships. Check out our boards for their latest vacancies in Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina, and other exciting places worldwide. They also provide a range of TEFL courses.

Even better is moving from one beautiful location to another and taking your job with you. Magic Ears can help with this. They pay up to $26 per hour to their online teachers.

Both before and once you have earned your first paycheck you may want to start moving your money around. We've saved hundreds of dollars by using Wise - all the more so when combined with a local bank account to save on high ATM fees. Use this link and Wise will give you a free money transfer of up to £500.

We will be using SafetyWing when we start travelling again. Their policies are aimed at nomads like you and us and both their travel and health insurance include cover for Covid19 so we can spend as much time abroad as we please.



Get Our Newsletter. It's Where The Jobs Abroad Are


blog // magazine // working abroad > teaching english
This piece was first published in an older version of our blog