How to Choose Your Study Abroad Program

When choosing to study abroad there are many things that go through your head – is it worth it? Will I really learn the language? Can I get enough course credit? All these questions and anxieties are completely normal and ultimately important to your decision making.

The first thing you should do if you are looking to study abroad outside of your home University program is to meet with your school advisor about what you want to do and what you want to achieve. The most important part of your education abroad is that you are rewarded not only in the experience but for the work you did while you were there.

Every University has a different list of criteria for issuing US credit for the courses you take abroad, so before booking a course you should always consult with your advisor on how many hours you’ll need to complete and what type of courses you’ll need to take to not only get the experience you want but the course credit you need.

By confirming the amount of hours you need to complete and having a detailed list of the documents you need from the institution aboard to submit to your home University, you will be well on your way to making your study abroad experience happen. Having this information at the beginning of your search will help you determine which program in which location is the best for you and allow you to make the best decision more efficiently.

Once you have that information, it comes down to how much time you can commit to studying abroad and how many credits you ultimately want to receive. Do you have a week, a summer, or a whole semester? Do you need 12 credits or just 3? Here’s a breakdown of types of study abroad programs and what will work best according to your goals:

Winter and Spring Break

If you want to make the most of the few weeks you have off for winter or spring break there are plenty of options around the globe. The best option for this short period of time would be an Intensive Language Course or a Combined Language Course. These courses are 30 lessons (25-30 hours) per week and focus on advancing your language skills as quickly as possible in the short amount of time that you are there. The standard rule is that 45 contact hours equals 3 credits, so take 2 weeks of the Intensive or Combined course and there’s a solid chance your University will issue you the credits for your time abroad


Doing a study abroad program in the summer is a great way to make sure you take enough hours of a course to gain the credit you need while still allowing you a varied amount of programs to choose from. You can take a Spanish and Mayan History Course in Merida, a Language and Culture course in Paris or Aix, a German and Music course in Vienna, or a Japanese and Traditional Culture course in Fukuoka, Japan. These courses will not only advance your language skills in a short time period but give you extra elements to the course to provide your home university with good reason for issuing you more course credits.


If you’re going abroad for an entire semester, it’s most important that you focus on a program that offers you variety to allow you to get the most credits for your time abroad. The reality is that if you’re looking for a whole semester of credit, taking just a language course won’t be enough. Focus on the programs that offer language courses as well as cultural courses so you can get a well rounded academic semester. A good example of this is the semester program in Malaga, which offers a Spanish course as well as courses on Spanish history, literature, economy, and media. Taking this type of program will not only make your time more enjoyable, but will make it much easier to transfer credit upon your return when you are able to present varied course syllabi and assignments for approval.

Ultimately, the options are endless, but the more organized you are about your goals with study abroad, the more likely you are to gain the credit you need and make the most out of the experience.

Still need advice? Feel free to contact us for information on possibilities and programs.

Great value Spanish courses abroad

At the time of writing, the following three courses offer the best value for money in terms of course fees for a general one-week course. Please note that registration fees and course materials are included in these prices.

1. Flores, Guatemala – £79 / $115

If you’re looking for an all-round bargain Spanish holiday, you can’t go wrong with the tranquil, northern Guatemalan town of Flores. Popular for its proximity to the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tikal, Flores is also a fascinating destination in itself; situated on an island on Lago Petén Itzá, it is a colonial treasure, filled with attractive colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, historic monuments and charming places to eat and drink out.

With a General Course of 20 lessons priced at £79 / $115, and an Intensive Course of 30 lessons only £99 / $144, this is Spanish tuition at its cheapest. Add to this the general low cost of life in Guatemala, compared to western standards, and you could probably afford to study here for several weeks for the cost of just one week in other locations!

* Special feature: Volunteer opportunities are also available for those who wish to work within the local community in Flores.

2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – £109 / $160

Coming in at number two on our scale of cheap courses is the General Spanish Course of 20 weeks in Santo Domingo. Founded in 1496, Santo Domingo is a beautiful colonial city, its centre a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, its surroundings consisting of endless white beaches, tropical rainforests and tumbling waterfalls. imageWith a 1-week course costing just £109 / $160, there has never been a better excuse to soak up some Caribbean sunshine for less.

3 (joint). La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain – £139 / $213

The warm Canary island of Tenerife is home to our third most economical Spanish course. The school is located in the island’s second largest city, San Cristobal de La Laguna, in the north of the island, where 99% of the inhabitants are Spanish-speaking. La Laguna was established in 1496 and became capital of the Canary Islands until their conquest; as such, it boasts numerous historical monuments, palaces and churches, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. As a place to learn Spanish, it is oozing with activities, tradition and culture – and the bonus is you can head to the beach at any time. Take a one-week General Spanish course of 20 lessons for just £139 / $213.

3 (joint). Granada, Spain – £139 / $213image

Many people know Granada for its magnificent Muslin palace of the Alhambra, and this certainly sets the scene for what is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most historic and fascinating cities. With the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the distance and the glistening Mediterranean just one hour the other way, anyone coming here to immerse themselves in the culture has plenty of weekend activities to enjoy too – and more money to spend on them all, given the great price of this course, at just £139 / $213 for a General Course of 20 lessons.

Cactus offers Spanish language courses in numerous locations across Spain and Latin America, for all ages and levels, and from as little as one week upwards.

We also offer Spanish part-time and evening courses in the UK and North America for those wishing to learn the basics or brush up on their existing language skills before heading abroad.

Top 10 tips to make your language course abroad more affordable

It’s true that times are tight, but here are some tips on how to make taking a course abroad a viable prospect financially.

1. Ask for advice regarding the more cheaply priced courses

Cactus works with a large range of schools in a variety of destinations. Whilst all of our partner schools offer high quality courses and accommodation, the prices can vary from centre to centre. Often this relates to the city they’re in – for example, courses in very popular and affluent cities like Nice may be more highly priced than those in cities such as Brest and Tours, which are not as expensive and not as commonly frequented by tourists. Lower prices can also sometimes relate to the size of the school and the standard and range of facilities available for students.  If you are specifically looking for an affordably priced course, you can ask our course advisors to recommend some suitable options.

2. Look for special offers

There are always special offers to be had when it comes to language courses abroad – even in the more popular and expensively priced locations. Often, schools will offer three weeks for the price of two, or knock money off the cost of accommodation. If you’re flexible about which particular location you choose to study in within a country, you can definitely take advantage of these. Our special offers are updated regularly on our website. 

3. Go off-peak

Taking a language course during the peak tourist season can be popular – after all, language students want to benefit from good weather and lively free time pursuits, just as any other visitor! Whilst course fees may not vary that much throughout the year though, the price of accommodation and of travel there and back can be very different during peak season. If you can take your course during the low season you will benefit from cheaper prices when it comes to these things. Whilst high season runs from May-September in most European countries, it can vary more from country to country in areas like South America. We can give you more detailed information on this if you’re interested in finding out.

4. Change any currency up before you leave

If you need to change some money before you go on your language holiday, try to do so in advance. If you leave it until you get the airport, you’ll probably be charged more in commission, and if you wait until you get abroad to draw money out of the bank you’ll probably also find that you lose out. Ordering foreign currency online can be a good way of assuring a good rate of exchange.

5. Choose somewhere with a variety of transport links

The vast majority of our language course locations abroad are easily reached via plane or train, but there may be some – possibly smaller – locations that are served by fewer airlines, and/or only by rail. If there are only one or two travel companies serving a particular destination it may be more likely that they can charge higher prices. Choosing a destination that is served by low cost airlines also helps keep the cost down.

6. Use or other travel comparison websites

When you look into booking your travel to your language course, it’s definitely worth using travel comparison sites such as These ensure that you have access to all travel options and can select the one which offers best value for money.

7. Propose it as a training option to get funding from your employer

It’s true that times are tight, for companies and organisations as well as for individuals, but some places do still have some training budget allocated. If learning or revising a new language is going to be beneficial to your professional life, it might be worth trying to get a contribution towards your language course. See our article on top tips for getting your company to pay for your training.

8. Stay with a host family

At Cactus, we are very keen that students stay with host families wherever possible. This is largely because they can experience a much higher degree of cultural integration, and get the chance 24-7 to practise their language skills. Another benefit though, is that staying with a host family and eating your meals with them tends to work out cheaper than staying in self-catering accommodation and buying your own food. If you do choose this option though, buying your food at local markets can be the cheapest way to stock up.

9. Choose a compact city, or somewhere with accommodation close to the school

Whilst the cost of travel from accommodation to the school isn’t always expensive, everything adds up when you’re away. For this reason, you might want to consider opting for a destination where you’re guaranteed to be able to walk from where you’re staying to the school. Speak to your language course advisor for recommendations of such locations.

10. Read our top 10 free things to do articles – or download travel apps like Time Out

Although the main focus of any language course abroad is the lessons, taking in the local sights and sounds outside of classes is also part of the experience. Whilst some of these may involve paying an entrance fee, there are usually plenty that don’t. You can read our articles on the top 10 free things to do in Rome, Berlin, Brussels and Malaga, and can also find more information in guide books, on tourist websites and via iPhone Apps offered by companies such as Time Out.

Cactus TEFL: Answering all your TEFL queries

The Cactus TEFL website contains lots of information about the different courses that are available, the different capacities in which you can teach EFL, and where in the world you can work. This information has been gathered from various sources over the years – from industry bodies, from partner schools and from teachers who have applied for a course through us and kept in touch after gaining a qualification.

All of the Cactus TEFL team have worked within the TEFL industry, and our former colleague Jenny Johnson – highly experienced and respected in the TEFL world – represented Cactus TEFL at regular TEFL Q&A sessions with The Guardian, which you can find links to below:

Live Q&A: A beginner’s guide to TEFL, Mar 23 2011

TEFL careers — A graduate guide, 21 July 2010

Teaching English Abroad, Oct 7 2009

We have chosen five of the most frequently asked questions to post below, but would encourage anyone with another TEFL-related question to leave us a comment below. One of our specialist advisers will get back to you with an answer or some advice.

1. What is the difference between TEFL, CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL?

TEFL is the name of the industry you would be working in – Teaching English as a Foreign Language. In order to gain access to this industry, there are two key qualifications which stand out as being quite special in their international recognition – the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity College CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Both the CELTA and CertTESOL courses are types of TEFL courses.

2. Will a 2-day/online TEFL course give me a certificate in teaching EFL?

Courses such as these do award a certificate of completion. However, it is important to recognise that it is not the TEFL qualification that a lot of employers will require. When prospective employers ask, ‘have you got a TEFL certificate?’ what they are usually referring to is the Trinity Certificate TESOL, the Cambridge CELTA or a certificate gained from doing a course of equivalent length and value as these two.

The short courses, however, are ideal if you want a basic introduction to TEFL. If you are looking to teach on an informal basis, or if the kind of teaching that you are planning to do is voluntary or temporary, these courses are perfect. They are particularly beneficial to anyone who is looking to do a few months travelling, and perhaps pick up some casual work along the way.

There are some schools that will employ teachers permanently who have done a short or online course, but in Europe they tend to be smaller, locally-run schools or schools that are in locations slightly off the beaten track. In countries like China where there is a huge demand for teachers, it’s more common to be able to find work with a shorter course behind you – it’s sometimes more important in Asian countries for teachers to have a university degree than a four-week TEFL course certificate.

3. What are the requirements to get on a CELTA/Trinity CertTESOL course?

For native speakers of English, ideally you need to have the qualifications which would allow you to access a degree course – i.e. A-Levels or an equivalent. Having said that, certain schools may require you to hold a degree, whilst others will consider your application if you just have relevant life experience.

If you are a non native speaker, you will also need to be able to demonstrate your ability to use English to a very high standard – ideally you will need to hold something like Cambridge Advanced English (CAE), Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or IELTS level 7. If you don’t have an external qualification, the school will be able to test the level of your English, often by providing you with an additional language task to complete.

You need to be at least 18 years old, though some schools prefer you to be at least 20. There is no upper age limit for these courses.

4. Which countries have the most TEFL jobs?

You could, visa permitting, arrive anywhere your heart desires and offer your services as a TEFL teacher. Whether or not people wanted, or needed to learn English though, is another matter! In general, Asia tends to be the region with the most demand for English teachers – particularly China, Thailand and Vietnam.  The Middle East is another region where there are lots of jobs to be found, and also European countries like Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Russia is also a plentiful source of work, as is Australia, although the regulations and qualifications required there can be stringent. South America is another area of the world where it is relatively easy to find TEFL work, with Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile seemingly top of the list for jobs. The hardest places to find paid EFL work tend to be Africa and North America, where unless you have a green card it’s almost impossible to get work. Opportunities in the UK mainly exist within summer schools – competition for year-round TEFL jobs can be very high, and opportunities for paid ESOL work are now also relatively few and far between.


5. What happens if I’m a mature applicant? Can I still do the course/get work?

The impression given by the industry websites and many forums which discuss TEFL issues is that TEFL is an industry designed for the younger generation. There will of course be specific situations where schools will prefer younger staff, for example during summer residential programmes where students tend to be in their teens. There are also certain countries where you are unfortunately quite likely to encounter discrimination on account of your age.

However, if you are flexible and open-minded, and you’re not intent on earning a fortune, then TEFL is arguably more suited to more mature teachers. As far as employers are concerned your wealth of experience will probably mean that you are more at ease with groups and individuals from diverse walks of life, and you will better relate to, for example, the life issues that students face.

Also, a more senior teacher may have the business experience and knowledge which comes in very handy for a school’s company clients, who will not take too kindly to a very young teacher without much life experience.

Foreign language courses - tips for best progress

1.Invest in a good dictionary

Whilst we don’t generally recommend using a dictionary in class [you should always try to work out words from context first], they are certainly very helpful when it comes to homework. They also represent a worthwhile investment long-term, especially if you plan to go abroad to use your language skills. If you want advice on which dictionary to buy, your teacher should be able to give you some guidance.

2. Listen to the language as much as possible

Sooner or later you WILL be able to listen to the language and understand it immediately.  How do you reach that goal?

Spend a lot of time listening to the language, either by using the CDs that come with the text book, or buying them if they do not, or listening to the radio, or TV/CD/DVD/Video or the like, find things to listen to or watch on-line (you-tube is great!), listen to and learn songs, and so on.

Try to listen as much as possible WITHOUT referring to the written text.  The trap many students fall into is to assume that they have understood the spoken word simply because they have heard it while reading it. In reality, your eyes have understood it, not your ears.

Depending on your level, of course, you might not actually be able to understand everything you hear – the trick is to develop your ears to the point where they can hear the words they recognise without getting lost in the stream of sound. You need to get the gist of the speaking without necessarily understanding everything.  If other students in your class seem to understand when you can’t, most likely it is because they have learnt this trick.

The ideal scenario is to get to the point where you can listen to spoken language without reference to any written material. Train your ears to do this. Listen to passages again and again until you recognise every single word without referring to the written text.

3. Practise, practise, practise

Students can find it difficult to ‘get their words out’ for various reasons, feeling embarrassed or ‘silly’, not knowing what to say, mental block, stress, not concentrating, and so on.  In learning a language, generally the main reason is not that the student has not learnt the language yet, but because the language has not been learnt to the point of being able to ‘pop out’ at a moment’s notice.

Memory work and drilling is very important in language learning, particularly at the beginning stages.  This means that you as a student need to commit phrases, words, sentences, conversations, stories, songs, and whatever, to mind.  But – it is very important not to just simply learn by rote.  You need to put things into your mind that will come out of your mouth naturally in the context that they should come out.

It would be great if you could learn the words/phrases/sentences etc.  in their setting.  For example, you are learning Greek in Greece and you know you have to go to a Greek ‘taverna’.  Before you go, you would make sure you know the phrases, sentences and words you know you are likely to use, and you would practise them BEFORE GOING.  Well, you can do this in the classroom the same way! Pratise the language for the situation with your teacher and classmates (and at home in front of the mirror – you are your own worst critic) until they are more or less perfect.  Practise them within a role play in class, so that the sentences before and after also become natural.  This way you will not only impress people at the ‘taverna’ (real or imaginary!) – but also yourself.  Being successful is a real boost to confidence.

AND – if at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Repeat words, phrases, sentences and so on, on and on until they become natural. Remember, you can speak your own language so well because you have had years and years of practice – but if you listen to a baby learning how to speak, you realise how much practice you had to put in to get to where you are now – around three years as a baby, without taking into account the in-between years that you have spent refining and expanding your language!

Luckily, as an adult you have a head start on a baby – you can develop strategies so as be able to learn quickly.  When learning a new language, you need to squash all that practice into a much shorter period of time.  And repeating things continually until they become natural is one way of doing this. The more you do it, the more you will find that it is actually easy to speak in another language.

4. Complete your course in full

Learners experience many pressures which can cause them to drop out of their courses, which is a great pity. The temptation to drop out becomes particularly strong when two consecutive classes are missed. To help make sure that students who have had to miss a class or two can keep up, every class generally starts with a brief revision of the previous week’s work. The homework is also useful for this.

If you know you are going to miss a class – or if you have had to miss a class – let the teacher know and find out what you need to do to keep up to speed.  A bit of extra effort and you will soon catch up.

5. Build a support group

It’s a good idea to organise yourselves into ‘support groups’ of 3 or 4 students if possible. When one of you misses a class, the others can brief them on what happened, pass on any handouts and generally persuade each other to keep coming.

Get together in a local café, preferably one that has something to do with the language, invite along anyone you know who speaks the language, do you homework together, invite your teacher. You have joined a group class, so make use of it!

6. Bear in mind the ‘physical’ aspects of learning

One little-known effect on learning relates to physical aspects of being in a class. When we are stressed out, or embarrassed, or frustrated, then the brain apparently produces ‘stress hormones’ which act like a defence mechanism – slowing down all brain processes except those necessary for survival. This obviously means that teachers and students should be working together towards a relaxed and cooperative learning-teaching situation. Keeping calm, cool and collected is the key.

Also, language learning should be a ‘right-brain (global)’ to ‘left-brain (logical)’ process. It is most effective to learn language as a ‘whole’ experience, and then build up rules and logic from this. This type of learning promotes long-term learning, while learning ‘left-brain first’ [rules and grammar] produces short-term learning. We all learnt our first language from right to left, and this is why in memory problems such as amnesia and short-term memory loss, we never forget how to speak. But also it is important to have the complete cycle when learning – left brain without right brain doesn’t make for language learning, but right brain without left brain doesn’t, either.

In short:

For you to make the most of your language course, you need to keep the following in mind:

• People mostly learn a language in order to speak it : You need to spend a significant part of your course actually speaking and hearing the language.

• Grammar is essential for learning how to put sentences together – but there is no point knowing the language in your head, if you don’t practise getting it out of your mouth.

• Long grammar, reading and writing activities are better done at home, rather than in class, so that more time can be dedicated to practising conversation.

• The text book is written in the language you are learning – this is to help you learn much more incidental language than just the specific lesson.

• Get to know the language-learning jargon. Lessons should not be dependent on grammar, grammatical jargon and writing; many people have never studied ‘grammar’, and learning ‘proper’ grammar is not the same as learning to communicate.

Having said this, knowing the names of the parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), is a good short-cut for those who know it, and if you don’t, a little bit of homework will get you up to speed – there is not actually that much to learn, and if you do it in context and as you go along, then things should go well. You can find a basic glossary of grammatical terms on the English Club website.

• Writing things down is important – but try not to fall into the trap of leaving it on the paper. You’ve got to put it in your head and into your mouth too

• And relax and get to know everyone! You will learn a lot quicker and have fun doing so.

7.Set mutual expectations

At the beginning of the course, set ‘mutual expectations’ with the teacher – something like the following.

What you can expect from the teacher:

• that he/she will come to classes well prepared and in plenty of time

• that he/she will try to make the class as interesting as possible, using a variety of activities

• that he/she will give weekly homework and appropriate feedback on all work handed in

• that he/she will listen to and welcome any suggestions for improvement.

• that he/she will help you to become a better language learner and – more importantly – user.

What the teacher would like to expect from you:

• that you will only speak the ‘target’ language in class

• that you keep him/her informed of how you think the course is going

• that you too take some responsibility for making the course a success; for example, homework is amazingly important.

• that if you miss classes, you will make the effort to catch up

• That if you do have to pull out of the course, you let him/her know the reasons why

The most important thing is – if you have issues with the class, discuss it with your teacher.  Teachers appreciate all feedback, positive and negative.  But it is important to do this in a respectful, trusting and constructive way. You need to trust your teacher, and your teacher needs to trust you.

And, ensure that you take every opportunity to speak in the language, and that the teacher does so as well. Take an interest in everything to do with the language – stimulated and interested students help the teacher to create a stimulating and interesting class.

Cactus offers a range of part-time language courses in locations around the UK, the US and Canada.

Who takes foreign language courses abroad?

People who take foreign language courses abroad come from all sorts of backgrounds, age groups and countries, and have all different reasons for enrolling. Generally speaking though, people who take language courses in a foreign country tend to be open-minded, friendly and keen for new experiences.

To a certain extent, the kind of people that a school attracts depends on its location and on the type of courses on offer. For example, schools in lively resort towns such as Biarritz (France) and Malaga (Spain) often attract a younger crowd who want to benefit from the nightlife, whereas schools in more tranquil or cultural locations, such as Dresden (Germany) or Verona (Italy), appeal to a different demographic.

Equally, schools which specialise in exam-preparation or business language courses might attract a more ‘serious’ student whose main purpose is to study hard and immerse themselves in the language. On the other hand, schools offering mainly general language courses, or courses coupled with sporting or cultural activities, may have a more laid-back atmosphere and therefore attract students who attach equal importance to learning and to having a good time and meeting new people.

Anyone with a specific preference for the type of school they’d like to attend can speak to one of our team for location advice – we regularly visit our partner schools to get an accurate idea of what they offer and the kind of students that they tend to attract.

Whilst some schools arrange ‘closed-group’ courses for groups who want to learn together – often school group classes – the majority of people who take language courses abroad are on their own, or with a friend or partner. Usually, classes consist of a mix of nationalities too – this is primarily to ensure that the target language is always spoken in class…with monolingual groups, it can be very tempting for students to communicate in their native language!

The atmosphere in language schools is usually very friendly and welcoming, and it’s very easy to make friends. Although students are obviously there to learn or revise the language, schools make every effort to teach them about the local culture and traditions too, which is why local excursions and activities are arranged for outside of class time.

Courses are available at a variety of levels (from beginner to advanced) and can be booked for however long you wish. Obviously, students who need to become proficient in the language for a specific purpose, whether for business, for personal reasons, or for university study, tend to stay longer than students who are there more for recreational reasons, but generally you can book anything from 1-52 weeks of study.

For full listings of languages, courses, destinations and prices please visit the Cactus Language website. Alternatively, feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced advisors on:


0845 130 4775 (local rate)

+44 (0)1273 725200 (international)


(+1) 212-601-9343

Toll-free: 1-888-577-8451

Why use Cactus to book your language holiday abroad?

Here’s a run-down of the factors that make booking with Cactus the best way to ensure both value for money, and a great learning experience abroad.

1. First-hand experience of our courses

Here at Cactus, we all speak foreign languages and have attended courses abroad and in the UK. Every year we are encouraged to take a week-long language course at one of our partner schools, which gives us first-hand experience of what it’s like to take the courses that we sell, and an understanding of the questions and concerns that you might have.

2. Useful insight into our schools

Aside from the language course that we take each year, we also visit our partner schools on familiarisation, or ‘fam’ trips. This ensures that we have direct experience of the schools that we work with, meaning we can give you informed and impartial advice on which would be most suitable for your requirements, tastes and budget.

3. Help with foreign language communication

If you’re a beginner and don’t speak any of the language that you’re hoping to study, booking through Cactus avoids any communication difficulties that you might experience if booking directly with a foreign school. All course advisers at Cactus speak foreign languages, and can organise your booking in the language that you’re hoping to learn on your behalf.

4. Financial security through ATOL and TOPP

We’re ATOL bonded and TOPP protected, so your money is safe in the unlikely event of financial failure.

5. Careful school selection to ensure quality

It’s worth pointing out that all of the schools we work with have been carefully selected – in other words, we don’t just work with anyone who approaches us. We only maintain partnerships with schools that we consider to be high-quality, fully compliant with laws and regulations, and that we think will provide you with a great learning experience.

6. Lower costs relating to currency and domestic call rates

If you live in the UK, for example, you can pay for a course taking place in Europe or South America in Pounds, which may avoid currency/bank transfer fees that you might incur when booking direct. Equally, our US customers can pay for their courses in Dollars. Although it may seem like a small point, talking to our advisers in Brighton/New York also means that you avoid paying international call rates when you book and pay for the course, which, in some cases can prove costly.

7. Flexibility with payment options

We recognise that paying for a course and accommodation abroad can be a significant financial commitment, especially in these difficult financial times, and as such are able to offer certain bookings the option to pay in instalments.

8. Peace of mind in the case of emergencies or problems

Although the vast majority of people who book courses abroad with us have a fantastic time, occasionally there will be instances where people need to get home quickly, or where something occurs during their course that they need help dealing with. Our advisers are here to help throughout your whole booking, from start to end, and having an English speaking contact at the end of the phone who can offer useful language skills, or make the most of close relationships with the school staff to help sort your issue, can be priceless.

9. Useful assistance with travel ‘extras’

A point that again, is especially useful for beginner language learners, is that we are also able to help with arranging airport transfers and other travel ‘extras’ that you may require, including extra nights accommodation (availability permitting), hotel accommodation and multi-destination trips.

10. Continued learning after your trip

When booking with Cactus, we have options for you after your course abroad to help you continue your learning when you get back. We are all passionate about language learning, and we want to encourage our clients as much as possible to make the most of what they’ve learnt and to carry on building their skills. As a result, we offer discounts to anyone who wants to continue learning at one of our UK or US based language courses, which include 10-week evening courses, 5-week evening courses, 1-week intensive courses and weekend ‘crash’ courses. Tailor-made language training to cater for your individual needs can also be organised for you, at a discounted price.

Please visit the Cactus Language website for course listings, prices and to book a course.

TEFL courses – which one is right for me?

There is little more disheartening than deciding on a specific short-term project or long-term change, only to find that there is no concrete information available to you on how you can make it happen.

I imagine that this is often the case with people whose projects and life changes centre around teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

There are so many different courses available, and so much conflicting information on which are best and which will get you where you want to be, that it’s extremely difficult to know which one you should choose.

Included amongst the myriad of options, are four-week TEFL courses, weekend TEFL courses, online TEFL courses, combinations of online and weekend TEFL courses..the list goes on and on.

As is the general rule in life, the bigger the investment you can make, the bigger the reward will be. Anyone who is able to invest the time and money in doing a month-long (or part-time equivalent) course that will lead to either a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL qualification is certain to have the most flexibility when it comes to where they can work and in what capacity. These qualifications have traditionally been the most widely recognised qualifications internationally, and are the only to feature within the UK national framework of qualifications (at level 4).

Anyone who is thinking of making a career in TEFL, of teaching in a range of different countries, or of teaching in the UK at any point would be advised to try to get one of these two qualifications if at all possible.

There are plenty of other, good-quality, four-week courses around that would provide you with a TEFL certificate too, but as a result of being moderated and examined in-house, they would not give you a Cambridge ESOL or Trinity College ‘stamp of approval‘. In many places, these would count as equal to the CELTA/Trinity qualifications, but amongst the more prestigious and traditional establishments you may still need to be prepared to justify your choice of course.

For those that cannot afford the time or expense of doing one of these month-long courses, the good news is that despite the general overriding preference for Cambridge CELTA/Trinity Cert TESOL or equivalent-length courses, the huge demand for teachers worldwide, and the lack of any real overseeing authority to dictate specific rules and regulations within the TEFL industry worldwide means that all is not lost. There are plenty of other options that will get you work.

Although online learning in the TEFL sense has its drawbacks in that no actual teaching practice is possible, there are definite advantages to doing your training this way. If you can couple this type of course with a weekend or short course to allow you some experience of standing up in a classroom, even better.

A lot of people who choose to take online, or weekend-type courses tend to be looking for a way to ‘dip their toe’ into TEFL waters, and for this purpose they are great. Starting off with a shorter and more flexible course to give you some basic knowledge will also give anyone hoping to do a more comprehensive course such as the CELTA/trinity Cert TESOL a definite head-start, and can be great for helping to achieve a really good grade on your final qualification.

Another category of people to be suited to courses like these, involves those whose TEFL plans are very short-term, and possibly even secondary to another project such as travelling or volunteering abroad for a few months. Weekend TEFL certificates and the like can be a great tool to carry abroad with you, just in case you need to top up funds along the way.

Although some TEFL courses are obviously more comprehensive than others, all will provide you with a variety of skills that will be useful not only within the TEFL sphere but in a more general context too. As long as you have the time, the money and the inclination, it’s also worth remembering that you can start with the basics and work your way up. The great thing about the range of courses out there means that you don’t have to take the leap and invest your savings in a comprehensive course until you know that it’s definitely for you.

Why use Cactus TEFL to book your TEFL course?

Not only is there information on the different types of TEFL courses available, on how to choose which one will be best for you, and on TEFL in various countries of the world, but it also offers a useful and effective way to compare a huge range of course locations, start dates and prices in one fell swoop.

This is not where our service ends though. There are many other things that we can do for you, and lots of reasons why applying through us will be beneficial to you:

1. The site is an application portal for all the courses that we list on our site. It is quick and easy to both download and submit the application form for your chosen course via our site, and this service is completely free. You will pay exactly the same price for your course, whether you apply via us or you apply direct to the school.

2. We are primarily an internet-based company, but are unique in that we do have a team of knowledgable, experienced advisers at the end of the phone who can help you with any remaining questions or concerns that you have after you have looked through the site. The advice that we give is not only informed and unbiased, it is also free.

3. Many people prefer to apply or book direct rather than via a ‘middleman’, and it’s understandable why. Leaving the updating and advancing of a task to an intermediary means that you have to have confidence in their ability not only to complete the project or booking, but to do so competently and quickly. Fortunately this is an area in which we excel. We process your application as soon as we receive it, and the fact that we’re constantly in touch with our partner schools means that we can keep a close eye on how your application is progressing, and even fast track it if necessary. We can swiftly locate another course for you if the one you want is full. You can easily apply for more than one course at once, and keep track of your applications on My Cactus TEFL.

4. Applying through us for a course abroad is sometimes easier and cheaper communication-wise too as there is someone for you to contact during the same working hours (i.e. there are no issues with time differences) and on the same national call rate.

5. We can help you prepare for your TEFL course as thoroughly as possible, giving you the best chance of gaining a ’pass’ grade, or better. Not only do we provide useful information on what to expect in your interview and on the course itself, but we have also developed a pre-TEFL English Language Awareness course so that trainees get an excellent preparation in English grammar before beginning the course.

6. Once you have booked and completed your course, we can also give you tips on how to go about looking for work. We have lots of contacts within the industry and are fortunate to have a good and up to date insight into what is going on TEFL-wise around the world.