Teaching overseas is a big commitment. I recently wrote an article about different facets to consider before taking the plunge. I urge you to read that article here. However, there are many wonderful things about teaching abroad that you should factor into your decision as well.
1. As much as you teach, you learn. So many times, I have to review or even learn materials before I can teach them to my students. This has given me a chance to continue my own learning process. More meaningful though, my students teach me about the culture of Taiwan. Reading travel guides, Wikipedia, or other blogs only gives you a textbook glimpse into the culture and lifestyle of where you are living. If you simply travel abroad, chances are your interactions with locals will be limited. Not only do my students give me insights into daily life (as they make surprised faces at my lack of knowledge on KPop music or street food names) but they also share more intimate details as I gain their trust.
2. Getting to be a student’s perfect listener. Any teacher in any classroom will tell you that she or he means a variety of things to each student. Some students will see you as an evil homework provider while others will be at your desk during break for a small chat. In a group of students, I find that I am just the perfect person for a student who needs someone in which to listen. On some days I am hearing about problems with friends and on others I am giving advice to students nervous about going to boarding school abroad for the first time. Some schools have locals teachers and the information they have on going abroad may be limited. Older students enjoy that I can help fill in the gaps more honestly than any school recruiter or parent.
3. Living abroad is an adventure in itself. There is this myth that when you teach abroad, you have tons of time to be lounging on exotic beaches or climbing ancient mountains. The truth is that you really do not have as much time to travel (see this post on a likely schedule). However, living abroad in itself is an adventure. One that requires more work than simply traveling abroad. When we travel, we tend to eat out more and stay in hostels or hotels ready to help us with little tasks. When you live abroad, you are largely on your own and have the added responsibility of managing routine tasks that you would do at home but not necessarily when traveling. This should not scare you away. Instead, this is an added bonus and one that expat sites and communities in your area can help with. Daily life becomes its own adventure, minus the planes and trains.
4. Perspective is a beautiful thing. This word is one of the most used words in my vocabulary. It seemingly relates to everything and I find that this carries over into my classroom. When you teach abroad, you gain such a new love for this word and what it entails. To share with you a short story, I wanted to write about one of my students. There was this boy in my class, a fifth grader in a class of seventh graders. He was fairly advanced for his age but I could not get much more than three sentences from him on writing assignments and barely five words in conversation. One day, he realized that I was not a typical teacher asking for a formal essay. Instead, I was looking for perspective and lots of description. That day, my fifth grader wrote about how the sky and the ocean are brothers. On some days they fight but when it came down to it, they needed each other. The piece was one of the best he ever wrote for me and his sentence structure became unexpectedly better. When you live abroad, the world suddenly opens up into an endless supply of beautiful perspectives.
5. Teaching abroad boosts your résumé. It goes to say that living abroad is a challenge no doubt. Teaching in a classroom is no easy task either. Combine the two and you have a new twist. A future employer will recognize your ability to problem solve, deal with cross-cultural contexts, as well as demonstrate your comfort in being in new situations. No matter your ultimate career goal, teaching abroad provides you with skills that you can use in the future.
6. Teaching abroad gives you a whole lot more lunch options. As a food lover, I could not be sustained with sandwiches or salads every day for lunch. While I love American food, being abroad grants me access to such a variety of ethnic food options to munch on. As my schedule is geared towards evenings and weekends, I can sit and enjoy lunch specials followed by a cup of coffee while I grade or write. Who wouldn’t love that!?
Whatever your reason, teaching abroad could be just the right adventure for you!