12 Ways Teaching Abroad Will Change You for the Better

I’ll admit it, when I found out about teaching English abroad I saw it as a pleasant way to afford to travel and score a visa easily. Turns out it was totally that, but also so much more that I could never have seen coming:
Good Morning Vietnam
Good Morning Vietnam

12. You will experience how a job can be actually satisfying and fulfilling.

It is incredibly gratifying to watch your students learn and grow. When a student passes an exam that you’ve been preparing them for or corrects him or herself on something they used to always say wrong, I swear you will get a silly warm feeling inside. You will get to help others achieve their goals and learn something new. Going to work is a lot more enjoyable when you feel like you’re actually making a difference in someone’s life. I’m not promising every day will be pure sunshine but there will be more than enough days full of bright moments to light up the less than perfect ones.

11. You will travel.

Teaching abroad is an opportunity to travel and get paid while you do so. So far, since I started teaching, I’ve been to 8 new countries and 7 new cities in Spain. With teaching, there are lots of paid public holidays you will get off, plus weekends and often times summer. Plus in the summer, you can teach at summer camps in beautiful locations where your accommodation and food will be free on top of your salary. It’s a pretty great gig.

10. You will gain confidence and public speaking skills.

I have now taught pretty much every age group, English level, and educational background  possible. I’ve taught CEOs older than my parents, kids as young as five and everything (including teenagers) in between. I now feel incredibly confident meeting just about any kind of person or talking in front of any group. With this much practice daily it is now something I feel confident and comfortable in. This skill is marketable in almost every field.

9. You will meet people different than you.

In your classrooms you will get to meet people you may never have been in contact with otherwise. My classes have an incredibly diverse mix of people from all walks of life and they bring so many interesting stories and so much new knowledge into my life. Plus your coworkers will probably be from different places than you, too. There’s only two teachers from the United States at my school and the rest are English, Scottish, Irish, Bulgarian, and Spanish. I’ve met English teachers from Finland, the Netherlands, and Canada too. It’s wonderful to meet people who approach things so differently from myself and it has changed the way I view the world completely.

8. Your English will improve dramatically.

When you teach something you also learn it yourself in a deeper way. Plenty of things in English grammar I do without thinking and these are always the things my students ask about. I’ve had to learn WHY I say things certain ways and I’ve learned grammatical lessons I’ve never thought about before. I’ve learned the joy of phrasal verbs! In a weird way, it’s highly probable that you will get addicted to finding out new and strange grammar rules.

7. You will be put in uncomfortable situations.

Inside and outside of the classroom. You will be pushed farther than you thought you could go. You will get very lost and you won’t speak the language. You will not understand customs at first. You will struggle with communication in basic tasks. THIS IS GOOD FOR YOU. This is how we learn. This is how we grow into the people we want to be. There is an incredible satisfaction in accomplishing something you didn’t even know that you couldn’t do. Challenge yourself and rise to meet those challenges outside of your comfort zone.

6. You will learn what it feels like to be the odd one out.

I moved here after spending 5 years in Los Angeles as a petite, young, blonde girl in a sea of petite, young, blonde girls. In Spain, I stood out for that alone. In the bar sometimes I’d be the only one who didn’t speak Spanish fluently. I couldn’t always get the jokes or understand the conversation. It gave me a taste of being an outsider in a way I never had been before. I adored the new friends who encouraged me to try to be part of the conversation and appreciated those who made me feel welcome. It made me want to be the kind of person who makes the excluded feel included.

I respect immigrants who move places where they don’t know the language yet on a level that I absolutely did not before. Once I almost cried at the grocery store because I didn’t know what the rather direct woman at the register was trying to instruct me to do in front of a long line of people frustrated with me that I was holding them up. This was good for me too. I learned how important it is to be compassionate.

5. You will get a new view of your country.

It is fascinating to be on the outside looking in on where you are from. And with teaching, you have whole classrooms of people who will happily give you their opinion on your country. You will learn what stereotypes your country has all over the world. You will view your own politics in a different way. You will have to explain why Americans have guns and don’t have universal healthcare, because, trust me, your students will ask. You will be given a little space from the place that you grew up and it will be a beautiful opportunity to assess your country in a way you never have before.

4. You will think on your feet in a whole new way.

When the copy machine breaks and you have 15 teenagers looking at you and waiting, you will learn how to improvise an English word game on the spot. And it will make no sense but for some crazy reason they’ll like it and suddenly you’ll be surrounded by chaotic learning and it will be hilarious. Or someone will ask you something that you’ve just never considered before and you’ll be forced to create a new lesson about it right that moment. This will stop being scary and start feeling normal. Being adaptable is an incredibly helpful skill in any walk of life, and you will master it.

3. You will become a better listener.

When you’re teaching you want to talk as little as possible and get your students to talk as much as possible. You will become a pro at listening and asking follow up questions to keep them going. You will start doing this more in your regular life too and the people around you will feel that you think they are important and that you are interested in them. You will learn more about the people around you. Everyone really just wants to be listened to, after all.

2. You will learn the difference between buying things and experiences.

This is because of the traveling you will inevitably do on those long weekends. Once you realize that 50 dollars could be a round trip ticket to a weekend in Paris, that jacket from H&M stops looking so much like something you need. Those shoes? That’s two nights in a hostel in Brussels where you will make new friends from Senegal and drink the best hot chocolate of your life.  You’ll start realizing that the stuff is just stuff and most of the time it’s annoying to squeeze it all in a suitcase anyway. You’ll learn to value experiences and you’ll be happiest with a lighter load and train tickets to somewhere new in your hand.

1. YOU WILL LEARN SO MUCH.

Teaching and learning go hand in hand in a way that sometimes honestly feels magical. You will get to meet so many people that know so many things you do not. They’ve lived lives and have stories and you will get to listen to them. The students I’ve gotten to meet and know have been the most tremendous gift of all that teaching has given me.

So it turned out that teaching is more than an easy visa and way to see the world. For me, it has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life. This job has been fulfilling and satisfying in ways no previous job has and taught me more than I could have dreamed. It has given me a new independence and opened doors I didn’t even know existed. It’s shown me that I am capable of much more than I realized and it can do that for you too. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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