How Getting TEFL Certified Helped Me Tackle My Bucket List

Authored by:
Kelly C.

Kelly C.


If that chilling, exciting, over-Pinterested Mary Oliver quote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” plagues you on a daily basis, this story is for you. If you’re like me, you probably struggle constantly with choosing a life path… not so much because you don’t know what you want to do, but because there are too many things you want to do.  Earlier this year, when I was re-assessing my life (aka going through my quarter life crisis), I started looking back over the bucket lists I’d written over the years. I noticed that a lot of my dreams fell into three categories: travelling, working with children or teens, and positively impacting others.

And this is why I got TEFL certified.

After a lot of research, I realized that getting TEFL certified would be my golden ticket to achieving not one, but several, of my life goals. By getting TEFL certified, I would be able to…

  • Legally work abroad, which would allow me to start checking off my travel bucket list destinations, as well as actually live abroad, rather than just backpack.
  • Get teaching experience without committing to going back to school for a teaching degree/certification. I knew I wanted a life change and that teaching was a long-term passion of mine, but I wasn’t ready mentally or financially to lock myself into getting a new degree.
  • Work with a wide age range. From Pre-K to adults, the need for English as a Foreign Language is in high demand for all age levels throughout the world.
  • Work with a wide range of populations. A TEFL certification is a globally recognized qualification. Therefore, if you want to go somewhere where you would really make a life-altering impact on people, you can. If you want to go somewhere where your students/audience view English as more of a fun, extra, thing, you can do that too!


All of these things and more happened to me once I got TEFL certified through CIEE. I moved to Thailand to teach English, had an incredible semester, and am continuing my teaching/traveling journey in Spain next semester. In Thailand, I worked with kids ages 9-18, but also experienced tutoring adults. Some of my students took English extremely seriously, while others viewed it as a fun elective. Thailand is one of the few countries that does not require a TEFL certification, but I honestly felt miles ahead – in terms of background knowledge and confidence level – of my peers who had not gotten that experience beforehand.

In addition to setting me up for success in Thailand, there have been many positive results of getting TEFL certified that I did not expect…

  • A priceless resume booster. Since having such a wonderful experience teaching in Thailand, I have been on the lookout for teaching jobs abroad and back in the U.S. I was shocked at how many job descriptions call for a TEFL certification, so I now proudly highlight this on my resume and I know from discussions with job recruiters that it has helped make my resume stand out.
  • However, it has not barred me from other certification or teaching options. Since I do not have a Master’s or teaching degree, I have been looking into working at charter schools, or alternative certification paths. A lot of these positions do not want you to have a teaching degree or Masters. So the TEFL is the perfect happy medium – it’s helped me get experience, and shows I am qualified and capable of teaching, but does not bar me from these programs targeted at career-changers or recent college graduates.
  • Access to a totally new, international network of people. I met an entirely new group of people from all over the country – and all over the world – before even stepping into the classroom! I literally never would have met these people had I not signed up for this course, and interacting with them on a weekly basis was so eye-opening to me. We came from all walks of life, and had intriguingly different and similar opinions on education. It was a whole new world. Once I completed the TEFL course as well, I joined a CIEE TEFL alumni Facebook group, which has been an extremely supportive and eye-opening network for me.


I chose to pursue a TEFL certification because I realized it was my golden ticket to achieving a huge chunk of my life goals. I never expected that the certification process would open more options for career mobility than I thought possible. Looking back over the year, it was the best choice I made for myself in 2018.

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