First of all, coming from a potential first-time ESLer, I wanted to express my appreciation for what a treasured resource this forum is. Demystifying some the basic hurdles / reality of moving to a foreign country is immensely helpful to any newbie. We cannot thank you enough for taking the time to help us out.
I have recently made the decision that I would like to spend a couple of years teaching ESL in Taiwan, with an eye to seeing whether it's the kind of thing I'd like to do for a career. I am a native English speaker with two BAs and an unrelated humanities PhD, plus several years of experience tutoring university students (in an unrelated field). I hope to have completed the basic TEFL course I am studying by May, with the intention of jetting over to Taiwan around July/August (from what I've read here, this seems to be the peak hiring season).
I'm wondering if anyone might be able to give advice for the following:
1. For someone who is savings poor and new to ESL teaching, would it be best to try to secure a job (sight unseen) with one of the chain schools (eg. Shane, HESS etc.) before I arrive? Intuitively perhaps, this would seem like the far "safer" option - although I know it's something of a lottery once you land and get a chance to look over the contract! On the other hand, I am from Aus, which like the US has a 90 day visa exemption status. So considering that I will have to bring enough to live on for the first month regardless, I wonder if it might be more advantageous to hunt for jobs on the ground, compare offers, etc. before making a decision. I should add this will be my first time experiencing a non-English country, so I fully expect to be dealing with a lot of culture shock.
2. Is it difficult, for a first-time ESLer, to find employment that will sponsor an ARC / work permit that involves teaching adults instead of children? Is there much work teaching anything like "academic English" in Taiwan which doesn't require a teaching cert from back home or an MA TESOL? I only ask because I have prior experience in universities. I am, however, open to new experiences and wouldn't mind teaching children if the conditions are better.
3. Where are most newbie-friendly cities / locations outside of Taipei? I must admit, Taipei doesn't really appeal to me. Tianan looks very interesting in light of its history. Some of the more rural areas seem fascinating also but without speaking Mandarin, I wouldn't want to move there for my first job.
4. What kind of temporary accommodation arrangements are least expensive / most congenial for FOBs - and which have you used in the past? I understand that renting apartments requires a two-month deposit, so I wonder what kind of temporary living quarters most foreigners use when they first arrive. Judging from booking.com, 3-star hotels seem cheap relative to home (about half the price per month compared to renting a STUDIO in Sydney or Melbourne). But perhaps it would be better to find a foreigner-friendly hostel? Is that a safe / realistic option?
5. How affordable / realistic is doing an MA TESOL in Taiwan down the line? Could one save for it over several years?
6. Is the air pollution making day to day life difficult? Judging from the AQI at the moment (http://aqicn.org/map/#@g/28.5109/123.0159/6z), most of Taiwan except maybe the east coast is getting close to par with many parts of China. I don't really care if it's only for a year or two... but as I may want to put down roots eventually, it's something to consider.
Any expert advice / experiences you could relate would be appreciated!