It's Better Abroad

Studying and teaching abroad

When people say they could never afford to travel abroad they tend to operate from a pretty limited perspective on what it takes to spend some significant time in a foreign country. Not only is it much cheaper to travel abroad than most people initially assume, most people tend to forget there are plenty of ways to cross the ocean that bear little resemblance to how the jet-set hops over to Aspen on a whim. Two of the best ways to travel abroad are either completely free or built into investments you’re already incurring. Both of these methods are educational in nature, but which you choose to take advantage of depends on your current position in life.

Study Abroad

Every single reasonably-ranked school in the U.S. has some sort of study-abroad program. Foreign-study programs offer a way you a conveniently travel to another country and continue your university education. These programs often last a semester and they rarely, if ever, represent a greater financial investment than spending another three months learning in the States.

Not only is studying abroad an incredibly cost-effective way to take an extended trip to another country but the nature of these programs eliminates most of the other concerns the average American has related to exploring the world. Your university and the foreign university you’ll travel to fund departments devoted making travelling abroad as easy as possible. They help you travel to your new temporary home and back, they will either provide dorms or help you find housing on your own, they usually incorporate an intensive language-learning component, and they almost always have services and activities related to helping you explore and integrate into your host country.

Studying abroad is basically the easiest way possible to travel to another country. Once you graduate you will never receive this deal again, so I strongly, strongly, strongly encourage you to take advantage of your university’s foreign study program as early and as often as possible.

Overcoming Excuses Not to Study Abroad

As someone who finished up his university education several years ago, I’m going to let you in on a secret- going to university is a really weird experience. You’re shoved into close quarters with a bunch of other people your exact same age who are learning and doing the exact same thing as you for four years straight. You eat together, you live together, you basically spend every waking hour together.

Unless you’re looking to join the military or a cult this strange life situation probably isn’t going to repeat itself ever again in your life. Which means university offers a warped perspective on what life is all about. This is a perspective that leads countless undergrads to believe that spending another nearly identical semester in the same place, with the same people, doing the same things, somehow offers a greater life choice than studying abroad.

I’m going to give it to you straight- whatever you think you’re going to miss out on studying abroad instead of staying, just isn’t going to happen. You are not going to miss anything. You’re going to come home after studying abroad and everything is going to be exactly the same, except you. You will be a better person. Foreign study is an experience, a magnificent opportunity you should not ignore.

Teaching Abroad

If you’ve already graduated from university, you can easily travel abroad and support yourself by teaching in a foreign country. I know what you’re thinking- why would anyone pay you to come to their country to teach their citizens anything? What could you possibly teach some foreigner that their country’s instructors, instructors who actually speak the country’s native language, couldn’t teach them better?

Answer: the English language.

Our world is in a really interesting place right now. We’ve globalized and connected so thoroughly that not only does every country have the ability to communicate with every other country, but they want to communicate with every other country. The world is gabbing away like never before and the language everyone’s using to stay in touch is English. That means the ability to teach English is in very, very high demand.

The world is filled with countries who are ready, willing, and able to pay good money to make sure their kids get to join the global conversation; and believe it or not, all of these countries think you are the perfect person to do just that. This is because you grew up in a native English-speaking country.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking you aren’t even remotely qualified to teach English, that you don’t speak a foreign language well, that you don’t have teaching experience, and so-on and so-forth.

How Could I Possibly Teach English Abroad

I’ve got good news for you- most of the companies hiring American English teachers don’t really care about any of this. Here’s the average list of credentials you need to teach English abroad:

  • You have a college degree (it doesn’t matter what you majored in).
  • You don’t have a criminal record.
  • You can stumble your way through a Skype conversation without seeming like a complete weirdo.

And that’s it!

Sure, some schools and some countries have stricter standards for the English teachers they hire. Countries like Japan only take instructors with a couple years experience teaching English in other countries, and some foreign schools only take TOEFL certified instructors. However, the hunger for English instructors is so ravenous in certain countries that you won’t need to pass a single (easy) exam or have experience teaching the fundamentals of sentence structure to get a plum position.

These days, first-timers seem to have the most success applying for positions in South Korea and China as schools in these countries are facing such high demand they’re taking pretty much anyone who applies. In addition to paying you a pretty decent salary, some of these foreign schools will provide you with a free round-trip ticket, free lodging, free health insurance, and a host of other benefits that make teaching English abroad a GREAT deal. Let’s just say I’ve never met a single person who returned home after one of these gigs without a bank account at least a few thousand dollars larger than when they left the States.

Now, you do need to perform a little due-diligence before you sign up for a position teaching abroad, but as long as you undertake a little research to make sure you’re signing up with a high quality school that treats its teachers with respect, you’ll have the time of your life.

Allen Routledge is a travel veteran with extensive backpacking experience ‘on the road’ in Europe, Australasia, and the Americas. Read other articles about his travel experiences plus practical travel information at

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