Many developing countries around the world are becoming increasingly urbanized, thus speaking English is essential for getting a good job in any kind of business. As a result, the demand for foreign volunteers and English teachers is steadily growing and hundreds of positions are available in many places all year round, such as in Asia, including all time favorite countries like Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam, in Africa or Oceania.
Teaching abroad is a great way to give meaning to a gap year, career break or just a multi-week stay while being able to travel and immerse yourself in a different culture. The benefits and experiences of working and living in a different community are plentiful and something that cannot be achieved by an extended vacation.
After graduating from high school, I spent about 4 months working as a teaching assistant in Fiji. It has definitely been one of the most intense trips of my life so far, with numerous both challenging situations and life-enriching moments. In this post, I´m going to share with you 6 kick-ass benefits of teaching abroad and why I consider it a fantastic opportunity for keen travelers as well as high school graduates who want to gain some life experience.
When you´re teaching abroad, weekends are usually off, plus you´ll be entitled to as much as two weeks of holidays for every three months of work. So, why not make use of your free time? The most obvious benefit of teaching abroad is being able to travel. During your leisure time, you may explore the country outside the city you´re teaching in, for example on short weekend getaways together with other volunteers or colleagues.
Your daily routines from back home will be gone, so why not take the opportunity to learn a new skill or try out different sports? Depending on the country you´re in, you might even find very unusual, cultural sports or disciplines, such as ulama or sepak takraw.
During my gap year teaching abroad, many volunteers also decided to get their diving certification. Becoming a certified diver takes time, so it is actually a pretty good idea to use your teaching stay to do the course without any rush on the weekends. Also, you are already in the country, have a place to stay, know your way around and perhaps can get a volunteer/teacher discount, so diving while being a teacher abroad may actually save you some bucks compared to regular diving as a tourist. There are also numerous other ways of saving money on a dive trip!
If you are working in a paid position, you may use the money you make for traveling and fun activities, which is a damn good advantage of teaching abroad as you would normally just be spending money while going on a vacation.
2. Get To Know People
Leaving family and friends back home is certainly not an easy thing to do. However, one of the greatest things about teaching abroad is the fact that you will make new friends rather quickly. Being a teacher in a local community may introduce you to some amazing people and opportunities. You will have the chance to meet other international teachers as well as locals, such as a host-family or colleagues. Most of all, you will get to work with and learn a good deal about your students.
The bonds you will have with like-minded people will enhance your overall stay and may even result in long-lasting friendships. For example, I had met my best friend while teaching abroad in Fiji. She had been my roomie for about two months and had helped me overcome my initial culture shock. Back home, we realized we were only living 60 km apart and have been developing a great friendship since.
Teaching abroad will help you build a network of international connections, which may even be helpful at a later stage in your life.
It´s not rare that many teachers even end up extending their stay abroad, simply because of the friends they made and the fact that they managed to create a home away from home.
3. Gain Work Experience
Work experience on your CV is becoming increasingly important in the globalized world. Many companies seek potential employees with international work experience and fluent English, preferably the ability to speak another foreign language. Teaching abroad is a great way to enhance your resume regarding professional experience in an international environment as well as personal skills. Not only does it show that you manage to adapt to new working conditions but also that you´re willing and able to take on new challenges in your life. Having such an experience in your CV will very likely put you ahead of other applicants.
4. Immerse Yourself In A Different Culture
Working and living in a new place for a couple of months allows you to immerse yourself in the daily life and culture of a foreign country, and become integrated into society.
It´s the small things that create a home away from home and help you adjust to new living conditions: staying in a middle class neighbourhood, maybe even in a host family, shopping at local markets, riding to work using local public transportation and having a drink at the corner café or bar with your colleagues. Perhaps some locals will invite you to join them at a celebration party (Christmas, Diwali, Chinese New Year, etc.) or family gathering, providing you with an opportunity to experience a foreign culture in depth.
As a community member, you may broaden your knowledge by constantly dealing with the mentality and way of life of the locals. Interacting with them on a daily basis will help you learn about traditions and norms in the country, and you will better understand different people and their mindsets. The whole experience will make you internationally-minded, and you will have numerous new friends by the end of your stay.
5. Personal Growth
In addition to exploring the country and cultures of other people, teaching abroad also allows you to step out of your own comfort zone and get to know yourself a little more. Dropping your own routines and experiencing culture shock may put the peculiarities of your own culture into a better perspective.
While adapting to a different lifestyle, you will challenge your insecurities and have to solve your own problems. The school environment will very likely improve your social skills: you will become more sociable, a better team player and develop leadership skills while working as a teacher.
During my gap year, many great moments but also challenging situations taught me valuable life lessons. I had my own kind of Eat Pray Love – experience and discovered approaches towards life that have stuck with me until today.
6. Make A Global Impact
For some people, teaching abroad is merely a good opportunity to make some money while on the road traveling. However, most people I know who have done this, including myself, took great satisfaction in being able to make a life-changing impact on other people.
In fact, teaching the English language and basics of other subjects like math may open doors of opportunities for the local kids and their families. Also, you may teach them values you consider essential in life and help your students become more open-minded towards different cultures around the world. As a foreign teacher, you can provide them with expertise and knowledge they would never have received in everyday life.
Your impact on those kids may sound trivial to you, but sometimes it is the little things in life that make all the difference. If you´re able to see it this way, the whole teaching experience will be very rewarding for you, too.