Photo: Manu Padilla/Shutterstock

10 Ways Teaching Abroad Will Change Your Life

by Ash Merscher Sep 20, 2017

Moving your life to another country to teach English is one of those super scary and hard, yet super rewarding decisions. The gratification may not be instant, but I can tell you that if you ride out the excitement and anxiety waves, teaching abroad can change your life forever.

Here are ten ways.

1. You won’t sweat the small stuff.

Teaching abroad means living and working in a country that isn’t your own, where you might not speak the native language or have fully acclimated to the culture. It goes from beyond the challenges of visiting a foreign country, to driving full blast into attempting to live in one. Even the most mundane tasks, like opening a bank account or buying groceries, become everyday trials. But the meeting, overcoming, and learning from those challenges will build your resilience against intimidating experiences. These experiences are important for growth, and you may morph into a person who is more patient, tolerant, and confident.

2. Your priorities will change.

It can be easy to fall into the cycle of consumerism, but your new salary probably won’t support such a lifestyle. Besides, material things will slowly fade in importance. What becomes more appealing than 20% off and free shipping, is a bus ticket to the countryside.
What tastes better than bottomless mimosas? Sipping different varieties of local wine while learning about the history of the region. And it’s not just where you spend your money that will change, but also where you spend your time and your energy.

3. You will travel more.

Teachers anywhere live for long weekends and extended breaks. (Spoiler: teaching is exhausting.) And the best part of teaching abroad is that those holidays are opportunities to travel, to dig deeper into your new culture or cross a border to experience an entirely different one. It doesn’t have to be extravagant: a nearby hike to an abandoned lookout tower or a discounted train ticket to a neighboring capital. But it sure will feel exciting, and it will certainly rejuvenate you, at least until your next break.

4. You will grow a thicker skin.

Not everyone is going to love you. Not everyone is going to help you. Not everyone is going to appreciate you. It will be up to you to learn to advocate for yourself, to learn to ask for help, and to learn to be responsible for your own work. You are, after all, the foreigner, the stranger. There is always room for improvement, but if you’re truly doing your best and someone still doesn’t treat you well, you also learn to let go of control. Chances are, someone else’s problem has nothing to do with you.

5. You will develop new skills.

A lot of teaching positions require you to create materials from scratch. So, what happens if something goes wrong? Take planning the perfect lesson: you work hard to incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components; your students are actively using language; and you are simply facilitating from the projector, watching the learning unfold before your satisfied eyes. But then the internet goes down and 31 young, eager students are staring at you. Waste too much time trying to fix the projector, and your students will be lost. These kinds of situations make you an adaptable master of improvisation. You’ll become organized and prepared with a dozen go-to activities and your new-found patience will allow little glitches such as this to be only speed bumps.

6. You will learn.

Being a teacher in my experience creates an insatiable need to learn. The exposure to a new culture (or cultures); delving into the history of your new home; navigating life in a foreign language; meeting comrades with the most entertaining and illuminating stories; fielding never-ending questions fueled by the innocent curiosity of your students; witnessing new teaching techniques and approaches to education; and making endless mistakes will teach you more vital life lessons.

7. You will meet people from all walks of life.

Whether they are your students, your coworkers, or your neighbors, your exposure to new people will be endless. And with meeting new people comes enrichment and knowledge of other places, cultures, and backgrounds.

8. Your job will be rewarding.

Teaching abroad is a career like no other, one with a lot of job satisfaction. You get to interact with your students, standing and walking around the classroom. You act out scenarios and bring energy into the room as you facilitate interesting conversations. It’s not all roses and rainbows, of course; but you get to see firsthand every single day, the results of your hard work.

9. You will be kinder.

Moving abroad is hard, scary, and challenging, easily evoking impatience and frustration. At first, you may beat yourself up for all kinds of things, like not remembering the word for a sandwich when holding up the line at the bakery. But eventually, you may realize that if you want to survive, you will have to practice patience. From my experience, you reap the most benefits with a positive, kind attitude.

10. You will experience gratitude.

Moving full bore to a new country requires a lot of preparation, research, work, effort, and savings. It takes guts and smarts too, but remember to thank your lucky stars in the process because being able to travel and teach is a wonderful gift.

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