As it has been said, teaching abroad isn’t for everybody. Each program you will encounter will require some prerequisites and the proper attitude, but will offer unique challenges and personal incentives to the right individual. Here is an impartial analysis of opportunities confronting both sides of the arguments you need to consider before deciding to teach abroad. Beyond the opportunities for those able to teach within specialized disciplines, there is an incredible demand for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in non-English speaking nations. This demand coupled with job placement opportunities offered by TEFL certificate programs and school groups makes finding a foreign teaching job easier than you think. On the other hand, you must consider that many of the fulltime teaching jobs require Bachelor’s degrees and TEFL certificates are a must if you are serious about making a career of teaching in foreign countries. The qualifications will obviously depend upon the employer, but a college degree and relevant experience will help you land the right job for you.
Most exciting for some when considering teaching abroad is the opportunity to educate one’s self. Being able to live in foreign country, learn the language, study the culture firsthand and travel on days off is something that many dream of, but few are able to realize. You will be exposed to new food, music and customs but still have e-mail to relay your astonishing experiences back home. Yet, if you have difficulty leaving the comforts of your home or can’t live without a particular American item, this sense of awe could easily become an unbearable sense of culture shock. You must also realize that teaching is a fulltime job that requires incredible patience and commitment. While most positions don’t represent permanent employment, they also aren’t vacations. Though the right surroundings can make your experience worthwhile, you shouldn’t select your travel location based on sightseeing aspirations.
Considering the financial aspect, it is possible to earn more than enough money to live comfortably and travel during free time while teaching abroad. The income will obviously be contingent upon many factors, including the location of the school and your qualifications. When deciding where to study abroad, you must first consider your destination’s cost of living. Calculate your expected personal expenses, both here and abroad. Then, see if any programs cover the cost of housing, insurance and utilities while teaching. The difficulty here lies in the fact that it may be difficult in some situations to pay any of your bills back home with a modest salary. Also, as most of these positions are temporary they lack the job security and advancement possibilities one might have at home.
One thing taken for granted by many before teaching abroad is the possibility to meet and interact with interesting people unlike anyone at home. You will develop lasting friendships and important professional relationships while teaching everyone from young children to corporate executives. Many teachers take great pride in the fact that their students stay in contact years after returning home.
Despite this fact, you may also experience a distinct sense of isolation while teaching abroad. This detachment from the known world allows many to focus wholeheartedly on teaching while forgetting previous worries; the experience can easily be eye-opening and enriching if the proper motivation exists. When necessary, many teachers even like the added challenge of developing their own curriculum with limited supplies or English language materials. But there will come days when you will simply want to go home. Based on where you are teaching, you may find yourself surrounded by poverty or difficult political circumstances, struggling to adapt to the foreign language and culture. Maybe you will lose patience with your students or find the program to be boring and repetitive. At times like these, you must remember that most teaching opportunities require a contract and if you choose to abandon your requirements, you might never find a similar job again.
In summation, the most important thing to realize when considering teaching abroad is that one person’s pro may be another’s con. Everyone’s experience will be unique, as each opportunity requires special skills and returns different rewards. If you find the right position for yourself, firm commitment and motivation may easily overcome many of the cons mentioned here.
This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about teaching abroad for TIEonline.
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