I live on a lush green island. I mostly set my own hours and I do not have to wear a business suit. My laptop is my trusty co-worker and we pass many hours together. I travel, I write, and occasionally I teach. All these things are true; however, you won’t find me in a hammock by the beach with an umbrella drink sweating beside me.
The reality is that living and teaching abroad is not composed of dreamy adventures where I get paid simply to vacation. In fact, I work more than I would back in the States and I get paid far less than I would have if I had stayed. Further, I live in the smack middle of Taipei city and the nearest beach is not a postcard Thailand-inspired gem.
At 24, I work as an English teacher and tutor, both in a prep school and privately. At the same time, I juggle several other self-employment gigs. I take editing jobs and write copy work. Beyond those paid projects, I run my own travel website, manage four sister sites, and update social media platforms for all five. Adventuring and traveling is only a small part of what I do and days where I am off roaming, my mind is still collecting and analyzing my experiences for shareable and meaningful content.
So before you jump on the “Teach Abroad” bandwagon because you dream of lazy days on the beach, consider what my days typically consist of:
I tend to wake up around 9:00- 9:30. I check my emails, messages, and social media outlets. Then it’s off to get up and splash around for a while. Insert a few hours of online work or grading, interrupted only for lunch.
Post lunch, I bunker down to work on more grading. This activity takes me twice as long as the time I spend in the classroom. Rule: For every 1 hour of teaching, 2 hours will be needed for grading and curriculum preparing.
By this time, my mind will begin to wander. So I normally head for a snack and possibly a walk (weather permitting). I normally also take this time to work on checking site logistics, analyzing statistics, and creating more social media content. (Note: Any time I am working with social media, I also take the time to read and engage in the content of others in my community).
By this time it is around 4 in the afternoon and I have to begin preparing for evening classes or tutoring. Seeing as I commute by public transportation, I normally leave 1.5 hours earlier than the start of my class. This leaves me time to clean up, print, or grab a drink prior to walking into my classroom. Teaching abroad requires that you are constantly “on” with your students and others in the office. Having 45 minutes to prepare and set yourself up will allow for success over the all-too-common rushing in right before class starts.
Most weekdays, I am not home before 9:30 or 10:00 pm, at which point I will eat dinner, grade, watch a few shows, upload articles to my website (10 pm Taipei time is morning for the US), respond to emails, and message my mother.
Bedtime is normally around 1:00 in the morning, although I am often in bed physically around 11:30 continuing to engage my social media and website platforms.
Every now and then, I break this cycle and go for an adventure because let’s face it: I am living abroad after all!
Simply put, I am up by 7:00 am, out of the apartment by 8:30 and do not return until 9:00 at night. I teach straight through Saturday and Sunday, with only 2 hours for lunch and dinner.
Summer & Christmas/New Years:
If you are thinking of teaching abroad, you may as well completely forget these are holiday seasons. In the world of teaching English or test prep abroad, these are considered the intensive seasons, in which students come home or have time off from school. The result: many of them want to cram a semester’s worth of classes into a few short weeks. Plan to be working Monday through Friday 9:00- 9:00. While you might have weekends off at an educational institute, remember that there are students who will still want to private tutor. And did you forget about all that grading? Yeah, weekends will be spent working as well, just not in the classroom.
Overall, I love living abroad and I wouldn’t change that. The idea of going back to the States is not necessarily anywhere near the front of my mind. But the reality is: work is work no matter where you are. I love that I get to work on my own projects and that I don’t always go into an office. I can sit in a tank top on my bed eating cookies and Goldfish crackers while I work (and you can be sure that I absolutely do). The closest I get to coconuts and waves on a normal day is when researching for my upcoming travel destinations.