You may have heard the phrase “gap year abroad” quite a bit over the last few years. While gap years have long been the norm in countries like Australia and the U.K., the truth is, Americans are starting to take gap years in increasing numbers. Harvard University alone has reported a 33% increase in the number of students taking gap years, including President Obama’s daughter, Malia, according to Business Insider on the benefits of gap years.
But what would taking one for yourself actually mean for your career, personal life, and self-growth? Well you know what we might say: you won’t know until you try! Here are 7 benefits of taking a gap year abroad, but not just to move somewhere new or to do a bit of self-discovery while traveling (though, those aspects are inherent in meaningful travel abroad), but specifically to take a gap year to teach English abroad in a country completely of your choosing. Whether your gap year follows your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or perhaps is more of a sabbatical at another time when it just feels right, the benefits will outweigh anything else.
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7) Getting Flexible
The beauty of deciding to take a gap year to teach English abroad is that the decisions about where to go, where to teach, which program is right for you, and so much more…are all up to you! Though these decisions are yours to make, what you will find intertwined in them is the incessant need to remain flexible. Sometimes what you want is found in the truly unexpected. Know you’ve always wanted to teach, but terrified of immersing yourself into a new, completely unfamiliar culture? You’re not alone! But one thing that will always serve you is to remain flexible in your plans. If that isn’t a life skill, then we don’t know what is!
6) Getting to Know Yourself Better (In and Out of the Classroom)
Learning to teach English or applying your teaching skills to do so abroad is challenging. It comes with a lot of hard work, the need for perseverance, as well as a positive attitude. But what happens on a bad day when you’re tired, your students aren’t paying attention, and you feel like the universe is working against you because you’ve dropped everything, it rains when you forgot your umbrella, and you spilled coffee down the front of your new teacher attire? You learn more about yourself, your capabilities, and what it takes to pull yourself out of a bad day. Taking a gap year to teach English abroad isn’t going to be sunshine every moment, but it gives you all the right tests to get to know yourself better as a teacher, and as a person.
5) Getting Ahead in Your Career, Not Behind
Silencing negative comments others may have about you taking a gap year will be necessary, whether it’s two friends or your entire family. If you’ve just finished your bachelor degree, your loved ones may expect you to take the first high-paying job you can get your hands on, or to head straight to graduate school “to keep momentum.” If you’ve just finished your graduate school years, others may wonder why you’d take a job halfway across the world to make the same amount (or less) as you did while you were in school. But remember: you’re gaining more teaching and life experience on your resume than losing. Plus, it’s only 365 days (or less!) in the grand scheme of things!
4) Getting Your Resume Ready
Did you know that taking a gap year to teach English abroad and do some traveling earns you an invaluable cultural experience in an employer’s mind? The kinds of skills you will gain by taking a gap year abroad are endless, but here’s just a few: real-world experience, adaptability, strong communication skills, great at problem solving, strong interpersonal skills, and the most obvious, culture skills. While you teach English abroad, you will learn more than you can possibly imagine about that region or country’s culture—about the food, the traditions and customs, and if you want it: another language to put on your resume.
3) Getting Cultural
Speaking of cultural learning, a new language is not easily learned for the average person. It takes a lot of work and persistence while learning vocabulary, reading, and speaking this new language aloud. But what’s the best part about doing this while you’re already teaching English abroad? You’re already immersed in that culture instead of sitting in a classroom! Learn about those foreign concepts and traditions through the lens of this new language—Spanish, Thai, Chinese—and walk away from your gap year feeling like you truly learned about a new culture from the inside of it, rather than as a bystander on vacation.
2) Getting to Travel, on Your Terms
Built into almost every teach abroad position is the opportunity to travel. You may have cultural immersion weekends included in your program (like our Thailand TEFL Program), have weekends off to explore this exciting new place you’re living in, or your contract ends before your visa does, leaving you time to go somewhere on your bucket list. We think what is most exciting about the opportunity to travel while you teach English abroad is that you can do it all on your own terms. You’ve already chosen to uproot your life for a year in a foreign country, so don’t stop there! Elevate your cultural lessons by traveling solo, or take a new friend and get out and explore!
1) Getting Self-Reliant
We think the number one benefit of taking a gap year abroad to teach English is what it will do to your personal growth (the teaching experience is unparalleled though!). Removing yourself from the familiarity of your own culture and group of friends and family is the best way to toughen yourself up. You may have a support system or guidance offered in the program you choose, but what happens is ultimately up to you. You are responsible for how you shape this experience, and learning how to rely on and trust yourself is an invaluable life skill that can only be learned by taking a risk you know is worth it.
You might be wondering how to handle this risk exactly: what if after your gap year abroad you realize you weren’t cut out for teaching English abroad? Or what if you realize that the culture you’ve just spent a year immersed in is not a place you’d like to return to? Well, all you’ve really done is determine something you don’t want to pursue, and that’s just as important as determining what is worth pursuing to you. We think the number of benefits of taking a gap year abroad to teach English far surpass this list (in fact, here are 10 more reasons from the Huffington Post, including “make new friends” and “perform better in college”) but hopefully our points got you pumped to (finally) take that leap yourself!
If so, use these 5 steps to prepare for your gap year abroad!
Have you heard of a gap year abroad before? Let us know your thoughts on its increasing popularity!
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Words by Jayla Rae Ardelean.