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International Teachers

Ten Things to Know Before You Apply to Teach with Participate Learning

Teaching in the US with Participate Learning is more than a job opportunity—it is a transformative, life-changing experience! You will grow personally and professionally while traveling to new places and making new friends. As a cultural ambassador for your home country, you will inspire the next generation of global citizens.

We know that moving yourself and your family to another country comes with a lot of preparation and uncertainties. You probably have many questions about the process and what teaching abroad is like. Some of those questions may be answered below. We are also here for you, and our team of specialists will support you each step of the way! 

If you are thinking about teaching in the US with Participate Learning, here are ten things you need to know before you start your application.* 

1. You must have a university degree in teaching or education.

In order to obtain a US teaching license, you must have a university teaching degree. Unfortunately, even if you have been teaching for many years, you cannot teach in the US without a teaching degree. See our FAQ to find out whether or not your degree is accepted.

2. You must have two years of teaching experience after graduation and must currently teach in primary or secondary schools.

Hiring US schools are looking for educators with experience in kindergarten through grade 12. You should be teaching in a primary or secondary school at the time of your application, rather than in a university or language institute.

3. You must be fluent in English.

Your English doesn’t need to be perfect, but you will be communicating with your principal, colleagues, and parents primarily in English, so it is very important that you are able to speak and write effectively.

4. The application process takes a while—don’t get discouraged!

From the time you start your application with Participate Learning to the time you travel to the US can be several months to about a year. Interviews with Participate Learning, plus getting the required paperwork and visas, among other preparations, mean the whole process takes some time. Read the story of how one Ambassador Teacher used her time of waiting during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep growing and to connect with other educators.

5. Be prepared for culture shock.

Living abroad and participating in cultural exchange will be exhilarating and full of new experiences. You will also most likely experience culture shock at some point in your journey. You may feel overwhelmed or frustrated—this is totally normal! Participate Learning will support you as you adapt to your new environment. Learn about one Ambassador Teacher’s experience with culture shock and what it taught her about resilience.

6. Be prepared to live in the US with your family for two to five years.

Participate Learning’s cultural exchange program is a multi-year commitment. Teachers can stay in the US on a J-1 visa for up to five years, and we ask teachers to commit to two years minimum. This is because teachers and school administrators report the highest satisfaction starting in the teacher’s second year, after an adjustment period during the first year. It takes time to build trust and relationships with students and colleagues, so a multi-year commitment is more beneficial for everyone.

7. You must have a driver’s license and one year of driving experience.

Access to public transportation is not widespread in the US, so you will need to buy a car upon your arrival. For your safety, and for the safety of others, we require you to have a driver’s license and one year of driving experience by the time of travel to the US. This is so that you will feel comfortable driving to and from work, and in your US community.

8. You must have proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Participate Learning requires all teachers and their adult dependents to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also requires travelers over the age of 18, traveling by air, to be vaccinated. You can read our frequently asked questions about the vaccine for more information.

9. You must be a non-US citizen or permanent resident.

Participate Learning is authorized by the US Department of State to sponsor cultural exchange teachers under the J-1 visa. J-1 visas are only available to non-US citizens or those who are not permanent residents of the US and who have no option of securing permanent status via a family member. Learn more about the J-1 visa here.

10. There is no age limit to apply, and you can return for multiple teaching tours.

Whatever stage of life you are in, we welcome you to apply to our program if you meet all of the requirements! There is no age limit to apply. 

If you have taught with Participate Learning (formerly VIF) in the past, you may also be eligible to return for another teaching tour after fulfilling a two-year residency requirement, in most cases. Read about two Ambassador Teachers who have taught in the US for multiple tours.

Are you ready to take the first step in your cultural exchange journey? If so, learn more about the requirements and start your application today

*Information is current for the 2022–2023 academic year. Certain requirements are subject to change, and updates will be provided, as appropriate.