college student and new esl teacher taking a gap year in south korea

Gap Year Teaching Programs | Teaching English Abroad in China, South Korea, and Japan

By Sarah McCarthy

Congratulations, you graduated! 

You put in the work and got that lucrative piece of paper. But, before you jump into a job that you might stay in for years, you decide to take a sabbatical. 

Smart move. Now you’re wondering what to do during that gap year. Suppose you want to gain work experience, go on exotic adventures, immerse yourself in a new culture, and meet new people. In that case, you should become an ESL teacher and teach English as a foreign language in Asia

We'll tell you about some of the top schools in countries like China, South Korea, and Japan that are hiring English language teachers right now! We’ll also help you narrow down your search with descriptions of some of the cities in which the schools are located.  

Let’s explore!


China is huge in every sense. Geography, population, and economy. There are distinct regions and cultures throughout this giant country. If you are ambitious, don’t mind getting lost in a crowd, and want a taste of the exotic, China might be the country for you. The average cost of living in China is also one of the most affordable. Below we highlight two of the top schools in China to help you with your search: Meten and Giraffe Inspire. We also highlight two cities where these opportunities are located: Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Meten is a large, global experiential language training institute founded in 2006. Meten has over 100 learning centers across China and now staffs a team of over 3,000 professionals. Positions include ESL teaching, marketing, tutoring services, and educational research and development. 

Would you like to be part of that team?

Here’s an example from a job posting at Meten for ESL teaching jobs in Shenzhen:

Job Benefits:

  • Base salary: 15,000-19,000RMB/month before tax ($2,120-$2,686 USD)

  • Housing allowance: 2,000-3,000RMB/month before tax ($282-$424 USD)

  • Air ticket allowance

  • 1 or 2 years contract(optional)

  • Quarantine fee reimbursement

  • Visa documents reimbursement

  • Prepaid air tickets (2020-2022 Graduates)

  • Medical and Accident Insurance provided 

Giraffe Inspire was established in Taiwan in 1986 and expanded to Shanghai in 2009. There are over 700 locations in Taiwan and over 140 locations in mainland China. You would be part of a large family of schools if you chose to teach at Giraffe Inspire. Giraffe English teaches students 3 to 12 years old, and wants learning to be fun! 

What’s it really like to teach at Giraffe Inspire? Watch this video to hear from real teachers!

 Giraffe English | Working in Shanghai

Shenzhen, China

If only one word can be used to describe Shenzhen, that word would be ambition. It is a fast-paced, very populous city (pop. 17.6 million). It grew thanks to its location on the Hong Kong border and the successful implementation of government programs in the 1980s to encourage investment. Often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of China” as it is a center for international trade and manufacturing, especially electronics. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Shenzhen has several amusement parks and extensive scenic mountains for hiking. Ready for your next move?

Shanghai, China

Shanghai is a huge (pop. 26 million), futuristic-looking city but has a different culture of people who are eager to help. You can ask most strangers on the street for directions, and they will do their best to get you there. It is a fascinating blend of traditional eastern and western cultures that can be seen in its skyline. Shanghai is known for its luxury shopping, exceptional cuisine, and thriving nightlife. If you want to live in a city dripping with glamour and excess, Shanghai might be the place for you.


Efficiency. Everything in South Korea works the way it's supposed to. The impressive transportation network, the postal service, and even the promptness of email replies. Koreans are very efficient. A culture that prides itself on tradition and respect. They relax with Jimjilbangs (gender-segregated spas or bathhouses), delicious food, and soju. If these things appeal to you, then you’ll love living and teaching in South Korea. Below we highlight two of the top schools in South Korea to help you with your search: Aclipse and Little Fox. We also highlight two of the cities that you might teach in Seoul and Busan.

Aclipse believes that teaching English overseas is a great way for university graduates and young professionals to gain an international perspective in today's globalized world. Aclipse is currently looking to fill many teaching positions in Korea for their world-respected client, Creverse. One of the perks of working with Creverse is that you don't need prior teaching experience! Upon arrival in Korea, TEFL teachers get training so they feel prepared and confident before the start of the term. Creverse also provides teachers with a clear and organized curriculum along with generous benefits to allow them to live comfortably during their time abroad. And don’t worry about not speaking Korean – the only language you will need to speak fluently is English. 

What more do you need? Here’s a sample from a teaching job posting for Aclipse with opportunities in many different Korean cities like Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Jeonju, Ulsan, Daejeon, Cheonan, Wonju, and Cheongna: 

Job Benefits:

  • Entry Level monthly salary range 2.0M-2.8M Korean Won ($1,510-$2,113 USD)

  • Paid Vacation

  • Flight reimbursement

  • Typical teaching hours are from 4 pm-10 pm

  • Training provided

  • Housing is provided depending on the contract. If housing is not provided, the employee will receive a higher salary.

  • Small class size, with an average class of 8-12 students

  • 50/50 Contribution to Medical and Pension

  • Severance Pay

  • Opportunities for advancement

  • Ongoing teacher support

Little Fox was established in 2000 as an animated English fairytale library. However, it has grown to include online and in-person education through its 65 language schools throughout South Korea.

What’s it like to teach at Little Fox? Each teacher has their own classes, with students between the ages of 6 -14. Little Fox’s curriculum uses interactive activities and animated stories from their fairytale library. All classrooms have large screens to promote this type of visual, interactive approach. Does that sound like fun to you? Here’s an example from a job posting at Little Fox for a position in Seoul:

Job Benefits:

  • 50% medical insurance & pension

  • Meals, bonuses (depends on the center)

  • Airfare (one way)

  • Free-single furnished studio or housing allowance

  • Vacation: 10 paid vacation days + 2~3 sick days + Korean national holidays.

  • Benefits: Free single furnished studio or housing allowance, airfare (one way), 50% medical insurance & pension, meals, bonuses (depends on the center)

  • Annual pay raise each year

  • Salary: 2.3~2.7 million won (negotiable, depending on teaching experience)

  • Overtime pay: 20,000 won/hour ($15 USD)

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a vast city (pop. 9.9 million). Modern skyscrapers, efficient subways, and pop culture (Squid Games or KPop, anyone?) meet Buddhist temples, ancient palaces, and bustling street markets. Seoul is strategically located on the Han River, which offers many places to exercise or picnic. If you want efficiency, love luxury shopping and skincare, but don’t speak Korean, then Seoul might be the right city for you!

Busan, South Korea

Busan is the second most populous city in South Korea (pop. 3.4 million). Located at the southern tip of the country, it is sometimes referred to as the summer capital of Korea as it attracts tourists to its six beaches. Busan has the country's largest port, the world's largest department store, mountains, spas, and delicious seafood. If you like film festivals, antique hunting, and a temperate climate, Busan might be the city for you!


Bullet trains to whisk you away for a weekend. Beautiful cherry blossoms along the riverside. A culture of polite people who will welcome you to their country. Japan is all that and so much more. Below we highlight three top schools in Japan to help you with your search: Amity, Nova, and Yaruki Switch. We also highlight three areas in which those schools operate: Okayama, Osaka, and Hokkaido.

Amity is seeking enthusiastic and motivated professionals who enjoy working with children. Could it be you?

Amity is a leading English conversation educator for children in Japan. They have been in business for a long time, more than 40 years! They provide international teaching opportunities at over 90 branch schools throughout Japan. Amity’s goal is to inspire students to master English in an engaging and supportive environment.

Here’s a sample from a job posting for Amity located in Okayama: 

Job Benefits:

  • Competitive salary: First year - 275,000 yen/month ($1,965 USD)

  • Fully furnished, subsidized company-provided apartment

  • Transportation stipend provided at the end of the final contract

  • Visa sponsorship

  • Paid training

  • Holidays and vacation periods

  • Subsidized corporate health insurance

  • Contract completion bonus

Nova is a brand of schools throughout Japan. Each instructor gets a comprehensive training program before they start teaching for NOVA. The program equips teachers with everything they need to teach high-quality lessons and provide excellent customer service. Students are of all ages from elementary to high school to working business professional. Does that sound like the kind of place where you want to teach? Here is a sample of a job listing with Nova located in Osaka:

Job Benefits:

  • Very competitive remuneration

  • Flight reimbursement package

  • Full support network

  • Company-arranged studio apartment

  • Paid transportation to and from work

  • Comprehensive training provided

  • Visa sponsorship available

  • Paid bonuses

Yaruki Switch is the second-largest private English education organization in Japan. Yaruki Switch Group has three different styles of schools that you could teach in. Kids Duo: A fun-filled daycare and after-school English center. WinBe: A goal-orientated English conversation school. Kids Duo International/iKids Star: A state-of-the-art international kindergarten teaching English, Japanese, and Physical Education. Yaruki Switch has schools all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu.  

Okayama, Japan

A small city (pop. 720,000) located on a shinkansen (bullet train line), so it's easy to explore the rest of the country. If you appreciate history, folklore, and beautiful gardens, this might be the city for you! Okayama has attractions that include a beautiful 16th-century castle called Okayama Castle. In addition, you can search the city for statues and paintings of the legendary folk hero Momotaro (Peach Boy). Or stroll through one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Korakuen Gardens.

Osaka, Japan

An influential port city big enough (pop. 2.7 Million) to have everything you need, but not Tokyo big! Spend your evenings gazing at the neon lights reflecting on a network of canals. Eat hearty street food (Osaka's nickname is The Nation's Kitchen). Delight in the charm of the people. If this sounds appealing, then Osaka might be the city for you!

Hokkaido, Japan

Hokkaido is one of the areas where Yaruki Switch operates. It is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. Known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen), and ski areas. The largest city on the island is Sapporo (you may have heard of the beer!). So if you want full Japanese immersion and love the outdoors, Hokkaido might be the right place for you.

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Now that you have a taste of what gap year programs are waiting for you in these three countries, which one will you choose? The calming nature of Japan? The efficiency of South Korea? The ambition of China? Maybe your gap year will turn into gap years, and you can explore a new country each year! 

OISE University of Toronto’s 100% Online TEFL Course Offers a Globally Recognized TEFL Certificate that Helps You Get Hired for Teaching Jobs Abroad

If this is your first time venturing out to start teaching English abroad, be sure to choose the best TEFL course for you. OISE University of Toronto’s most popular TEFL course is 120-hours and will qualify you to teach English abroad and English online.

Can I teach English in Asia without a degree?

Some teaching programs require a bachelor’s degree, but some don’t. Since you're taking a gap year, you may have a bachelor's degree (or not!)

If you do not have a bachelor’s degree, having a recognized ESL certificate (like a TEFL from OISE University of Toronto) will help boost your profile in front of recruiters.

Is there a high demand for English teachers in Asia?

Yes! Especially now with borders re-opening, there’s been a surge of demand for ESL teachers.

Learn more about full time TEFL jobs in Southeast Asia

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