8 reasons why teaching English abroad is the best thing you could ever do
Nicola is a second year Psychology student at the University of Liverpool, and last year she travelled to Sri Lanka to teach English to adults and children, which she believes is the best thing you could ever do! Here's why...
Every year, thousands of people are grabbing the incredible opportunity of teaching English abroad to both children and adults. From Spain, to Thailand to Costa Rica, there have never been more countries available for you to live and work in as an English teacher. After travelling to Sri Lanka last summer to teach English, I got a full taste of what it’s like to teach abroad. It was without doubt one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. So, here’s why I think everybody should consider teaching English abroad and a few tips for the journey…
1. You quickly develop essential new skills.
Most people, myself included, are incredibly nervous before they start teaching abroad. They worry that they won’t know how to teach well, how to plan lessons or how to lead a class. However, after just a couple of lessons you’ll be well into the swing of things. I’d never taught English before and I didn’t speak the local language which I thought would make it really difficult to communicate with my pupils. In reality, you quickly learn new skills such as how to communicate with others, even when neither of you are fluent in the same language. You also pick up teaching skills really quickly and you’ll be confident in planning and running lessons in no time. Even better, these skills look really good on a CV and I’ve already used the experiences to talk about in interviews!
2. You’ll meet loads of new, interesting people.
Meeting local people from whichever country you’re living in is very exciting! You’ll learn all about a new culture through them and make friends you would’ve never have met if you’d have stayed at home! Just make sure you know a bit about the culture before you head out there, especially if you’re in a country with a vastly different culture to the one you’re used to - you don’t want to accidentally upset or offend anyone! (Check the FCO travel advice for information on your destination country’s laws and customs). You’ll also meet English teachers similar to you who have travelled to teach and gain new experiences too. You’ll probably end up spending a lot of time with these new friends and even travel together at weekends so you’re likely to make friendships that will last even when you return home!
3. You gain a new perspective on life.
Without sounding like a generic British traveller who ‘found themselves’ while travelling and teaching abroad, being part of schools that are often so different and perhaps deprived compared to the UK really does open your eyes to a new aspect of the world. Some of the areas you visit may be very deprived or even dangerous compared what you’re used to at home as not all countries have the same safety standards as the UK. Since you’re not a local there may be some health risks you haven’t been exposed to before. Because of this it’s best to check which vaccinations you need before you go in order to avoid any illnesses!
4. Your students will teach you a thing or two!
The reason you’re out there is to teach others, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn as much as you teach. Whether you’re in Europe, Asia, South America or another far corner of the world, you’ll be sure to learn a few things while you’re out there. I taught English in Sri Lanka and in return a few of my students taught me a bit of Sinhalese! You’ll learn loads of new things from the people you meet, from a new language to how to make a friendship braid with some of the younger kids. However, when teaching in a foreign country you may need to cover up any tattoos you have, especially around children. Tattoos were viewed very negatively in Sri Lanka so it was important that we knew to cover up before a lesson.
5. You can be creative with your lessons.
Teaching doesn’t have to be boring. You’ll be able to get as creative as you want with games and activities that will help your pupils learn. Even making simple things like word-picture matching cards can be really fun and are a simple and effective way to engage, involve and teach younger children. Just be sure that your tasks are appropriate for your age group and that you always have extra tasks if a pupil or two finish early!
6. Kids are hilarious – there’s never a dull moment!
If you enjoy boring, monotonous jobs that involve you sitting at a desk then teaching abroad is not for you. If you enjoy being active, busy and having a classroom of people to attend to then teaching abroad is for you! Kids are really fun and come out with all sorts so you’ll find yourself laughing and having fun with them every day. You’ll find that the kids will really appreciate you being there to teach them which will make the job even more rewarding. Just be aware that you’re a respected member of staff, so always dress appropriately – particularly in countries that are more conservative!
7. You’ll be able to travel at weekends.
Teaching can be really tiring. This makes for the perfect excuse to get up and find the nearest beach to relax on. Alternatively, you might want to travel to the most adventurous place you can find! Whatever you want to do, teaching abroad offers incredible travelling experiences that you simply have to make the most of while you’re there. However, I found that it’s important to plan and prepare for the weekend in advance to get the most out of it. Know where you’re going beforehand and research the places you’re staying at before you book to find the best hotels or hostels!
8. It’s fun!
Even though it’s a proper job, it won’t feel like one most of the time! Teaching others, no matter what age they are, is always fun and incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing better than seeing your students improve and you can make your lesson fun and enjoyable for everyone! Outside of the classroom, you’ll have so many opportunities so visit places you may have always wanted to go to, or places you don’t even know exist right now! Just remember to check your passport is in date before you go. It sounds obvious but some countries even require that your passport is valid for up to six months after your leave date! As a teacher, you may need a different visa to those who are visiting as tourists so research the visa options before you travel. One of the easiest ways to check out information about visas, passports and other travel essential information is by checking out: https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.
So now you’ve read the list, what are you waiting for? I know if I hadn’t taught in Sri Lanka I would’ve never gone and would’ve never discovered what a beautiful country it is. So make the most of the opportunity and teach English abroad!