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7 Reasons You’ll Love Teaching Abroad

Running into UNESCO volunteers
People who travel abroad to teach English do so for many different reasons.  Some are paying off debts, some want to learn about a culture they are interested in, some want to meet someone, others for the increasingly popular “gap year” experience.  The list goes on.  Whatever the reason to make you take the leap, you’ll find that the experience turns out to be many more things – some of which you couldn’t plan for.
Teaching English in Korea was for me a way to travel and experience another career option.  I also wanted to get away from the humdrum of my previous career in IT.  I initially planned on a 1 year excursion, but here I am about to close out my second year and I’m neck deep in a teacher certification program to continue this path in the future.  The past 21 months have shown me that the rewards from travelling to teach abroad are numerous, with new benefits presenting themselves all the time.
Though the reasons can be endless, I’ve found a core number reminds me each day why I’m so glad I made this choice and why my efforts are focused on continuing down this path.
Here are 7 great reasons why you too would love teaching abroad.
In the middle of a typhoon

You’ll Live a Bold Life – From the onset, travelling abroad to teach requires bold decisions and massive change in your life.  Uprooting yourself from comfort and routine is likely the hardest decision anyone will need to make when deciding to travel.  When you arrive at your destination, you will be challenged daily on whether to live boldly or to retreat into comfort.  I know this first hand.  It’s easy to go back and forth from school and hang out only with foreigners who share similar cultures with your own.  To do the difficult thing though, whether learning a language, eating unfamiliar food, or building bridges with someone very different from you will require self-motivation and courage.  Travel an uncomfortable path and like the saying goes – it will make all the difference.

Hiking with students
Endless Free time – After years of working and chasing the “dream”, sometimes for grueling long hours, I’ve found that there are definitely other ways to skin a cat (sorry cat lovers).  Getting up to face traffic or an over-crowded subway, rushing just to get to my desk to sit for 8-10 hours (or more), only to rush through it all again to get home for a few hours was the story of my life for many, many years.  It may be the story of yours too.  Teaching English in Korea has afforded me an abundance of free time to pursue my true interests and to venture into news ones.  I have this blog and a YouTube channel now.  Two things that helped to make my experience in Korea all the more memorable.  I spend much free time going out and about, visiting interesting places, and then sharing them with people from around the world who tune in.

I’ve been able to train steadily in the martial arts – something that has been a passion of mine since an early age.  I volunteer consistently and help to coordinate efforts at a large soup kitchen nearby.  All this and plenty of time for a nice nap each day!

Hiking with friends

Stress-Free Living – Though some people may say differently, being a guest English teacher is about as stress free as you can get.  If you’re young and disagreeing with this statement, go work for 5-10 years and see what the difference is.  My “work” life consists of finding pop songs, movies, and games that will interest 450 carefree middle school girls.  No emails.  No facilitating meetings with a room full of adults who act like they’re in middle school.  No planning, documentation, hand holding, needless chasing…you get the point.

Sometimes the most stressful decision I make is whether or not to try the mystery soup at lunch time.  

I leave work at 4:30 pm and arrive home 10 minutes later.  Back to the free time thing.
My International church
Making International Friends – Depending on where from, this may be different for you.  I’m from the United States and I’ve lived in New York City for eight years and the Miami area (my current home).  I’ve been fortunate to meet people from many different nations.  I know people from all around East Asia, the Middle East, India, SE Asia, South America, and even Russia.  Thanks mostly to living in large cities and working in IT.  Maybe you can relate.  But how many South Africans do you know?  Have you ever actually heard someone speak Afrikaans?  What about New Zealand?  I grew up in New Hampshire right next to Canada, but I’ve met more Canadians in Korea than I did back home.  Whatever your experience is with people from other cultures, be prepared to expand upon it.  And I don’t mean meeting natives of the country you’d ultimately teach in.  You’ll get to know more about the world through friendships you’ll make teaching abroad.
Experience a Culture First Hand, but from the “Outside” – Being a foreign English teacher will bring you to new areas of the world to experience the culture and people of that land.  Somehow though, we don’t have to worry about the societal rules as a native does.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn, but you’ll be judged by a different standard because you are a foreigner.  People will generally give you a pass on many of the nuances of cultural standards because they know you don’t know what you don’t know.  Being a foreigner also let’s you watch life from the outside.  It’s very entertaining to see how natives interact, to hear of their views on life in general, and to watch intriguing everyday life situations play out.  Being a teacher in a foreign land makes us an anomaly of sorts.  We can live our lives in limbo and enjoy a constant story line unfold before us in the day to day life events of others.
Team MAD MMA Fighters

You’ll Enhance Your Resume – No matter how long you plan to live and teach abroad, one thing is for sure.  Being an individual who has lived in another culture will only add value to your marketability to future employers.  In an ever changing face of the global workforce, showing that you are capable of adapting to cultural differences will give you an edge in finding work.  Everyone knows the fear and frustration that living in another culture could present.  If you are one who braved it, you’ll always earn some respect.

Learn About Your Own Culture Through the Eyes of Another – You have your opinion of your home country.  I do too.  The funny thing is, I knew I was right!  Until I came to Asia.  This is one aspect I cannot put to words.  Being remolded, being forced to think in different ways, to read queues differently, and to have a different media source will change your perspective of your home land.  Hearing other’s opinions of the decisions that are made back home will move you.  It could shock you.  To hear other’s opinions of another country in comparison to yours can sting.  What do you mean you want to visit France or Canada over America?!
At the race track with students
Teaching abroad will shed light on your own culture.  One thing I’ve been able to experience and see first hand is the difference in the EMPHASIS placed on students in Korea.  Korea ACTS as if their future depends entirely on their students.  A slight departure from what we may be accustomed to.  Just another perspective I’ve appreciated learning since being here.
Have you thought of travelling abroad?  Teaching English is a great way to make it a reality.  Maybe it’s your time to go.  What’s one year?  Whether you’re still in high school or 50 years old, travelling abroad to teach English will leave you a changed person.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds great man, cool pics! I may be going there pretty soon. Did you present the gifts you took over to your principal or your co-teacher?

  2. I actually didn't bring any. I give little gifts here and there instead once I get to know them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh. I don't know why, but I thought you said something somewhere about giving a gift. I guess I shouldn't give it too much thought.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Over think it I mean, lol.

  5. I think it's a great gesture for sure. I just opted to wait, plus no room in my suitcases!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Lol, I know. It's challenging finding the room for so much stuff.

  7. I taught abroad for a bit and I agree with most of these points except enhancing your resume. When I came back to the US, my time abroad was more of a negative than positive, aside from people finding it briefly interesting (I didn't pursue teaching back home though). Outside of teaching, I think your IT experience would mean a lot more and perhaps what you're doing now is also seen more favorably. Ie, you had a more respected career, so you must have had a good reason to pursue TEFL, as opposed to, you weren't good enough to find "real" work back home or wanted to get laid, which is what I think HR departments/interviewers want to believe when they see my TEFL experience.

    Nevertheless, I started watching your videos and reading your blog as I'm stuck in an increasingly depressing rut now that I've been back home for a few years and have been struggling to figure out what to do to get out of it. I have had an okay job, it's just going nowhere and I'm not interested in it at all. I've looked at possibly moving to other western countries, but so many of them have high unemployment, foreigners complain on forums how difficult it is to find work in them, even ones with lower unemployment, or are extremely expensive and far away (Aus/NZ).

    I miss the free time, which I really did not value and wasted when I taught abroad before. I miss the adventure. Discovering new things. Meeting other foreigners from all over the world like you mentioned. I live in an international city now, but it's hard to meet them because we don't have a common connection (clearly being outsiders who also speak English well). I don't miss feeling at the low end of the totem poll in the dating scene, as you mentioned in another video, though the same is true back home as well, but perhaps not as greatly so long as you're not around that sort of crowd.

    It just gets harder and harder for me to justify at this point in my life. I really do not want to have to go through what I did when I returned last time. If I can find a way to make the experience enhance my career progression and increase my chance of finding a good, better paying job, I'd do it again in a heart beat.

    Anyway, thanks for this blog and the videos! They've been very helpful.

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