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Teaching & Education careers

Teaching Abroad

What's it like teaching abroad?

To travel, to learn, to experience, to challenge, to make a difference! These are a few of the reasons that people choose to travel abroad as teachers. To say that teaching situations vary from place to place is an understatement. However, every experience you can possibly have while teaching in a foreign country brings a sense of worth and accomplishment.

Arguably, the largest sector in foreign education at present is teaching English to non-native speakers. The English language is one of our most valuable exports abroad. English is the undisputed language of business, politics and entertainment. Therefore, there is, and always will be, a great demand across the globe for native English speakers. Your language needs you!

Generally, a teacher could be working with any number of age groups, from kindergarten to adult learners. You could have classes you see every day, or only once a week. You could have classes of 30 students or one-on-one lessons with a business delegate. You may begin early at eight or nine o’clock in the morning, or possibly from mid-afternoon until late; it really is a mixed bag!

If you are in the latter stages of interviews with a school, find out what kind of hours you will be working every week. Check online for personal accounts of individual experiences. Essentially, make sure the school is right for you. It will allow you to prepare yourself for the shock of taking on a new role in a new country!

What might the impact of moving abroad be?

Moving abroad is a lot different to simply moving to a different part of your own country. I never realised it, but ordering a simple hamburger relies entirely on language (unless you have a helpful menu with cool pictures).

A language barrier can be frustrating, and in extreme cases it can be isolating. It can make moving to a new country extremely difficult and stressful. It can also be the most wonderful motivation. It can open you up to new cultures and new experiences. Learning a new language whilst teaching abroad, for instance, is incredibly rewarding.

If you’re thinking of travelling abroad to teach, I would highly recommend becoming a student yourself. Whether in an adult class or by joining local social clubs, dive into language! Becoming a language student again really helped me to improve my own skills as a language teacher!

Why teach abroad?

There are many answers to this question, but let me assure you, it is a huge challenge. You will face difficulties with language barriers and with cultural differences, but the perspective you will gain will be worth it. If you’re worried about relocating or beginning a new profession, or even altering the style of your teaching, taking on any role in a new country is a jump in the deep end.

Be prepared to work very hard and feel a lot of pressure at the beginning of your time as a teacher. The changes involved may seem somewhat overwhelming, but the initial pressure may also come from not using any of the techniques you learnt studying the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualifications.

Often schools have their own syllabus or mantras with regards to teaching styles. Your certificates will prove to be invaluable, trust me!

Not everyone will find the perfect school in the perfect place with the perfect environment, but if you enjoy new things and want to do something out of the ordinary, the lifestyle can be a feast of experiences.

How should I approach teaching abroad?

Tailoring your style of teaching to your students’ needs is very important. You may well end up disagreeing with owners or bosses with regards to small classrooms or the business side of teaching, but this is rare.

 As with anything, don’t fight a problem – adapt to it. Tinker your approach and eventually you will realise that the ability to adapt will help you to become a better teacher. Soldier on!

By learning to adapt to the specific needs of your students, you will become calmer and more in control professionally. You will become better organised and more confident. Your new school and students will teach you a lot!

What can I get out of teaching abroad?

If it is something you could see yourself enjoying, if you like the unknown and you revel in new experiences, do your research and find a place you’d love to go to. I have no doubt: somewhere in the world, there is a school crying out for a teacher.

The importance of teaching abroad is that we act as ambassadors for English. We are charged with displaying the benefits of learning our wonderfully expressive language. It is our responsibility to teach students how to communicate in English, because it is a global tool of great importance. 

It’s an exciting job teaching people about our language, the phrases we use and the history of our country. Living abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It gave me a better perspective my own country and, more importantly, myself.

Written by Adam Underwood
English Language Teacher @ Atlanta American School in Changhua, Taiwan