There are a lot of things that attract people to teaching English as a second language (ESL) abroad. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about these reasons, and about why I have always assumed it was something I could never do. I want to travel. I’d love to get away from my life for a while. I always thought I would go right into my career, but at the moment I am completely uninterested in settling into a job right away. Is being tied down at 22, creating long-term responsibilities for myself, really what I want? Is teaching English abroad for me? Before I settle into my life, I want to be able to travel, see the world, understand more than just my corner of the planet. So, why shouldn’t I?Not only would I get to travel and see parts of the world that I otherwise never would, but I would get paid to do so. Sounds like living the dream, right? That’s if you don’t consider the long and hard hours spent teaching English to children (many of which may not have the desire to learn), or the language barrier between you and the majority of the people around you, or the culture shock you’ll feel when you realize the closest McDonalds is three hours away in the nearest city. That isn’t to say it’s not worth it. Every day would be an adventure, and for the truly wander-lustful, it is the perfect solution to not having the money to travel.
There is a need for ESL teachers all over the world, but the difficult part is figuring out how to get to one of the many open positions. To get a job teaching English abroad, your best bet is to go through an agency. Some agencies train you as an ESL teacher and then place you in a job right after, and some will train you and leave you to find the job yourself. Erica Sedler, who is leaving in August 2017 to teach English in Thailand for six months, says it’s much riskier to use an agency that doesn’t place you in a job. Then you’re left to job search, coordinate a working visa and secure housing all with a huge language barrier.
There are a lot of positives to teaching English abroad, but one of the biggest perks is knowing the impact that you are having on someone else’s life. Many ESL teachers weren’t teachers before becoming TEFL certified. They come from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing skills from their former careers to the table. But many of these careers did not directly involve helping to improve the lives of other people, and in this case, the lives of kids. Having a good connection with your students is important to establish respect while you’re their teacher, and is exciting when you can keep in touch with them, seeing what they accomplish with the skills that you gave them.
Every day would be an adventure, and for the truly wander-lustful, it is the perfect solution to not having the money to travel.
The relationships that you have with your students are not the only ones that make teaching ESL such a gratifying and increasingly popular choice. Your colleagues, and the locals that you befriend during your stay in whatever your base country is, will serve as your friends, your confidants, and your guides through your ESL teaching abroad experience. The other foreign teachers will know exactly what you’re going through — culture shock, homesickness, the whole shebang – because they’re going through the exact same thing, and the locals will be able to guide and help you to navigate their culture, which you have jumped head first into. These relationships can turn into lifelong friendships, and serve as connections in faraway places should you ever feel the need to get away again (and after teaching English abroad, who wouldn’t?).
It is easy to look at something unfamiliar to you and to assume that it is somehow unattainable, something that you could not possibly do. When I started seeing posts about teaching English abroad, I had all of those thoughts, but the more I researched, the more that I found that it was not only possible, but plausible, for any normal person to decide one day that this was something that he/she wanted to do. It takes planning of course, but this is not something out of reach for the average person. There are so many good things that come from teaching English abroad, that even the worst experience is not something to regret, only something to learn from. For someone with a fear of committing to a life they aren’t sure they want, knowing that teaching ESL is a viable option for just about anyone should serve to take some weight off of your proverbial shoulders.
Words by Victoria LeBlanc.