So you’ve done the vast majority of the work and gained your TEFL qualification from a reputable company and you’re ready to start thinking about taking up a teaching role. In these days of ever-improving online video-conferencing platforms it’s tempting to decide that the working from the safety of your home is the best option. It doesn’t involve any commuting, any super smart clothes, any money spent travelling around and you’re free to tweak your timetable to suit yourself. But before you breathe a sigh of relief and pack away your thoughts of teaching abroad, take a moment to consider what the benefits of teaching English abroad really are.
When you picture yourself teaching English abroad, what does that picture look like? Are you in a city or out in the country or by the sea? Is there a nice beach nearby you can chill out on in your spare time or would you prefer to be close to historical architecture and valuable artefacts? You are the only person who can decide what your employment landscape looks like so read on to really understand the positives.
Plans to teach English abroad assume that some basic thoughts have gone into why and how you will do this. You obviously have a passion for teaching that you want to indulge, you like the fact that you can choose your country and you’ll have researched what you need, when and why. Lastly, you’ll be ready to embrace the benefits of working as a teacher abroad. But what are the plus points that really stand out?
- You will have the unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a foreign culture in a way that simply isn’t available elsewhere. You will become a valued and integral member of the community and come to truly understand the local culture and traditions.
- This next is obvious, but you’ll be seeing the world – whilst getting paid! Depending on which country you’re in, and the value of their currency, you can probably save 30-50% of your salary after paying for your personal expenses. You’ll also be enjoying the culture and lifestyle of the country whilst saving money.
- You’ll be able to travel more easily because the cost of travelling will probably be lower. If you’re teaching in Spain, for example, you can hop on a train for the weekend and nip off to France or Portugal for some cheap adventures. If you’re further afield somewhere like Korea, then you can plan a week in the sun in the Philippines or Thailand for roughly only £300. Now that’s a cost that would never work if you’re travelling from Britain or Europe.
- More altruistically, you will also be having such a positive impact on the lives of others in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Learning English for them could be the gateway they need to accomplish their dreams and enable them to go on and have a better life. Good education is something which we too often take for granted so to be able to teach English abroad really could make all the difference for some students.
- It will be a real opportunity to learn a new language and quickly! It will be far easier to pick up Portuguese in Brazil, or Spanish in Argentina than it is to learn from a book at home, or listen to tapes. You’ll be immersed in the language from day 1 which will really kick-start your understanding of it and this is a huge advantage when you’re learning something new.
- You’ll create friendships from around the world. With people who you never thought you’d meet. Imagine making friends with an Amazonian tribe! Well, that’s less likely than other people, but you get the drift. These people aren’t going to be the same crowd of people that you meet down the pub, they will be from different cultures, have interesting traditions, they’ll be able to educate you about things you didn’t know existed. And those that you get on really well with, will become people that you can call your friends. Teaching and living abroad is a unique way to meet people from all over the globe. And if you’re pining for familiarity, then there will probably be lots of other English teachers out there so the chances are that you’ll end up with a new English buddy as well! Just think – you could leave having 150 friends and return with 200.
- On a different tangent, this is a great time to enhance and augment your professional skills. You might be good at something – so go on and learn to be excellent. This alone will boost your chances of securing a good job in these more challenging and difficult times. The demand for English teachers will stay a booming market though, so you don’t have to worry too much. Have a think about which skills you’ve already mastered and which skills you would like to improve to support you TEFL abroad.
- You will have the opportunity to learn about a completely new culture, first hand. The lifestyle, customs and traditions may be very different to what you know, and reading about this stuff in a book is no match for actually being physically present in the country and absorbing the culture around you. Think of all the differences there could be – music, for example, art, cuisine and local architecture. And you’ll be in the prime position for drinking it all up.
There will be things that you miss from home, of course. Maybe family, friends, social life, your old job – whatever. But the key thing here is that you have the opportunity for a totally unique (to you) experience. Life moves on and you might one day be in a position where you can’t travel so much, or it just becomes too expensive to venture far. So before that reality hits, TEFL abroad is a chance that you should seize with both hands. You have so much to gain – and so little to lose.