Istanbul, Turkey English Teaching Q and A with Jessica Wiler

Istanbul, Turkey English Teaching Q and A with Jessica Wiler

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Jessica Wiler Turkey2What is your citizenship?              

United States

What city and state are you from?    

New York, New York.

How old are you?           


What is your education level and background?       

Bachelor's Degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?       

Studied Abroad

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?        

Most of Europe and a few countries within Asia, the Middle East, Central America and the Carribean.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?              

Two things sparked my interest to teach abroad. Firstly, I wanted to get out of the current job I was in. I sat behind a computer everyday and worked hours upon hours for a company that never showed any appreciation. Secondly, I missed traveling. I grew up living abroad and missed learning and living within new cultures.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? 

After doing research, I knew getting my TEFL certificate was a must.  Almost every school requires one for teaching at the very least. Why I choose the TEFL Academy is because I didn't have any previous experience in teaching and I wanted to join one of their schools/programs that gave you hands on experience working and being critiqued in a classroom.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?         

Greece - Crete TEFL class

How did you like the course?

The TEFL course definitely provided a good foundation for anyone starting off. The course was definitely intensive, I remember working 10 hours a day sometimes and coming back to my apartment absolutely exhausted. The instructors were friendly enough. They really helped critique us on our weaknesses and helped us try to improve them and more forward. What was most helpful, was on the 3rd or 4th day we were already pushed to get up in front of real students and teach. I was really nervous the first time, but there is no better way than to get accustomed to it rather than to just dive right in.

I felt like most of our time in the course was about making lesson plans/materials. I've been working two years now and the schools I've worked for don't always follow the same format as we learned in the course, but it's always good to have some structure to fall back on in case you feel you are losing your way.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

It helped me build my confidence. I was really shy beforehand. I wasn't sure I could stand up in front of a whole classroom of students and not only present myself in a confident manner, but also convey and teach my students the useful information they needed. After the course, I felt much better. Also, I knew I had learned some basic skills that would help me, too, to do demo lessons and get a job.

Where I am working now I can still see some of the skills I've learned coming from the TEFL course, especially when it comes to the CCQs (Comprehension Check Questions). I am working with children, who will almost never admit when they don't understand something, so I use a lot of questions in which can let me know if they really understood the materials.
turkey english teaching


Which country did you decide to teach English in and why?

Turkey, because after doing research I found there was a need for a lot of teachers and it was easy to get a job even as a newcomer.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?      

This is my second year. I may do another year, but I am hoping to try out another country soon, too.

How did you secure your English teaching job?       

I got my job within the first few days of landing here. I just went around the city with a bunch of CVs and did demos.

How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.

The first year I worked for a language school under the table. I was working on a residence visa and it wasn't a problem really. The good thing about that visa is that you don't have to leave the country every three months. The bad thing about it is that you have no legal protection in your job (in case they don't pay you, etc) and you have no medical insurance.

Now with my second job I do have a work visa. It was a very long and expensive process. I had to pay to get all my documents translated to Turkish and notified twice. Also, to speed up the process, they asked me for bribe money. And despite that, I still had to make many appointments and go to their police station(s) many times to get it all sorted. It was a real headache and took about 4 months all together to get it done!

Tell us about your English teaching job!

The first year I was working at a language school. I worked more hours than usual, the norm is 24 hours, but I was teaching about 39 hours a week. The pay wasn't great, but with these extra hours, I could finally save something (at least enough for a summer vacation for a few weeks around Turkey itself.) I was still very frugal most of the year, but again, was trying to pay off the expenses of the move and the TEFL course, etc.

I worked most evenings and weekends (11 hours a day both Saturday and Sunday.) I also worked some mornings, too. The hours were awful really. I never had anytime to really meet people and socialize on days when most people had free time because I was always working or had to get up early the next day. Not everyone has this problem though. If you can get into a language school that at least gives you off one day of the weekend, I'm sure you'll be much happier.

At the language course I was working mostly with adults or teenagers. It was really nice to work with adults. They can really come up with great comments during our open conversations and teach you a lot about their culture, too.

Jessica Wiler Turkey

We had most of our lesson plans already made up for us. I was teaching 4 hour blocks (same students for 4 hours straight) and I knew following the book all the time would get boring, so I always did extra research and bought in different materials to keep the class active and happy. The course was pretty much open to anything I wanted to to with them as long as I covered the few basics they listed.

There wasn't any vacation time at the language school. You could take off a couple weeks once a year and they didn't mind, but it was also unpaid.

This is my second year teaching now and I am working for a private middle school. Things are completely different. It is very structured and efficient, but the hours are very long and the mornings, very early! The lessons are all planned 2 weeks in advance. The teachers make all the lessons and materials for whatever grade they are assigned to. We make their books, we make all the presentations, homework, etc.

On the plus, I am getting paid almost double as what the base salary was at the language school. I am definitely able to save about 1,000 USD a month, if not more and we have 2 weeks of paid vacation in the winter and paid summer break, too, which is a big plus!

The students, however, are challenging. It's quite a wealthy school and some children are very spoiled. Some of them have no respect for authority and are quite unruly. This is the biggest challenge I've had so far.

At the moment I have 24 teaching hours a week (Monday - Friday, plus some weekends, too, for parent-teachers meetings), but unlike the language schools, when you are not teaching you have to remain at the school for the rest of the day, but seeing I have so many tests and homework to grade, I honestly couldn't even leave if I wanted to!

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?        

The first place I found to live was through a real estate agency. They took their fair share of their cut, too! I was living with 2 other foreign girls at the time, in which I met through the TEFL course actually. We lived in the suburbs and there wasn't much to do, but at least we had each other.

Second place we found, we found through a friend. Now two of us are living in a more popular part of town and I feel more connected with the city. I think location is really important, even if you do have to spend a bit more money.



Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportuntities, etc. about your country:

Cultural aspects:

For the girls - The biggest thing you have to worry about is how you dress. You really can't go around showing any cleavage or too much skin of any sorts. This not only goes for when you are teaching, but in general. Sometimes the Turkish women can get away with it more easily, but as a foreign girl you are perceived in a different way and if you don't want to be followed or harassed, it's best to try to blend in rather than stand out. Where I work now, there is a strict dress code. You need to wear pants (never jeans) or skirts that go past your knee, you can't expose your shoulders and you have to wear close-toed shoes.

Men are supposed to dress business appropriate, but don't have to wear a tie.

Public transportation:

Istanbul is such a big city and the traffic is a nightmare. Expect to take several modes of transportation to get anywhere and spend hours doing so as well.

I do love the ferries though. There's a sense of calmness when you are out on the sea.

Jessica Wiler Turkey3Nightlife:

Pretty good options. There are more men than women that go out (due to the cultural aspects.) This can be overwhelming for some women sometimes because you are preyed on quite easily. If you end up liking Turkish men, this can be great for you, but if you are like me, you can easily become annoyed with being hassled.

Social activities:

There aren't too many options in English, if you want to do something other than drinking. There are some dance classes, yoga, etc. but everything is in Turkish.


Kebabs. Rice. Yogurt. Turkish food is good, but if you go looking for other foreign options they are difficult to find.

Expat community:

Surprisingly, I expected it to be better here. It really has taken some time for me to meet other foreigners. I think another thing that is to our disadvantage is that the city is so big and when we do meet each other, the distance between us can be hours sometimes with the terrible commutes. My second year here has been better than the first though. In the end, maybe it just comes down to time.

Dating scene:

Not so good. If you want to date a Turkish woman (you are going to have to date her family as well) and if you want to date a Turkish man (be prepared to have him attached to you at all times.) That's the best way I can sum it up simply. (Sorry, if anyone feels differently, these are after all, just my opinions.) And if you want to date an expat, it's possible, but there is a greater majority of expat women to expat men here, probably a 5:1 ratio.

Travel opportunities:

Depends on your work situation. Hopefully, you can get the summer off and have lots of time to travel. At the very least, you can at least have their religious holidays off, which are usually 3-4 days in a row to do something. Traveling within Turkey is quite cheap and worth doing of course. Airline tickets to fly outside Turkey ended up being more expensive than I expected, despite it being centrally located in my opinion, although still doable sometimes.



What are your monthly expenses?


Depends where you live, but roughly about 350-400 USD a month for a room (if you don't want to live in the suburbs)


If you eat in, maybe around 80USD a month. It's also cheap to eat out if you don't mind Turkish fast food.

Social activities:

Beer is about $4, other alcohol is very expensive however, mixed cocktails are about $13. Going to dinner, can be cheap if you eat Turkish food, but trendier restaurants and anything that offers foreign food is $25+.


Maybe about $30 a month. Depends how much you travel though.


If you share the internet with your roommates and use your phone to only make local calls, maybe $25 a month.


That's really up to you and what you want to do - but traveling in the country is significantly cheaper.

How would you describe your standard of living?   

6 out of 10

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?   

2500 Turkish lira ($1400)



What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

If you are just starting out, I would recommend Turkey. I haven't had any experience elsewhere (besides my short stint in Greece for the TEFL course), so I am limited with only my experience here. Most people who come here stay at least a year, if not two. Most men seem to stay longer than the women from my observation. It's a male driven society, so maybe that is to their benefit.

Posted In: Teach English in Turkey, Teach English in Europe, Istanbul

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