Making the decision to TEFL abroad is probably a pretty major one in your life. Maybe it’s been your intention since leaving school, or maybe it’s just occurred to you as something that you’d like to do. You can take the plunge for lots of reasons, travelling the world, saving money, opening up new horizons or maybe you just want to become fluent in the language. Unless you’re a seasoned traveller and used to living in foreign countries, there’s every chance that you might find life a bit overwhelming there, at least in the beginning. You can have all the plans in the world about getting out and about and meeting new people the minute you arrive as an EFL teacher, but for the first couple of days it might be lonely. Instead of immersing yourself in Netflix with a pair of noise cancelling headphones, concentrate on the great positives about living abroad.
- The food. Ah yes, the local delicacies. We aren’t talking about snacking in the local café with hot chocolate and churros, we’re talking about finding the real bars and restaurants, the ones that tourists don’t usually come across. Of course you’re going to have the advantage here that you probably aren’t confined to 14 days in which to explore the town or city, you’re going to have more time, possibly even lots of it at the weekends and after school, so you can take this time to explore gradually. Try new foods, learn about them and decide which ones are your favourites. Then when you get home you can scout out the restaurants that might serve them – or find the recipes to male them yourself. You could go home with a much wider palate than before.
- Appreciating the small things. Largely speaking, there’s no time for doing this at home. Life has a tendency to become full of day to day routines, working, weekends crammed with the stuff you don’t have time to do during the week and the minutiae of life passes you by. But when you first arrive in your new country you will immediately notice the little things around you that show that you’re in a new country, things that are new, exotic, exciting. You might notice the heat as you step off the plane, the noises, the smells, the houses. The town might be completely different to what you’re used to, different layouts, different people and different shops – you can indulge your senses entirely. And you won’t only appreciate the small things while you’re there, it can carry on when you’re home. Once you’re used to appreciating your surroundings, it can become a habit. Likewise if you’ve been staying somewhere where running water is a luxury, returning home is going to give you renewed appreciation for modern luxuries!
- Widening your network. As any professional person will tell you, networking is one of the most important aspects of being involved in business, which is why so many networking events get held (well they have been and undoubtedly they will be once the C19 pandemic has passed). The more people you meet in your industry, the more possible revenue streams get opened up to you. So there’s that aspect of living abroad and working in a school, you’re bound to learn of opportunities that you might have missed had you not been there. But it’s not only professionally that you will benefit, but personally as well which is why networking is such an important skill these days. You’ll have more access to support and resources, as well as widening your horizons and meeting people that would never have come you way otherwise.
- Saving money! This is a common goal that not everyone achieves. The price of life in the western world is not insubstantial and wages can easily be swallowed up by things you didn’t even realise were there – it’s always the little things that add up. But TEFL abroad will give you a valuable opportunity to pare down your lifestyle and it will also save on lots of the usual expenses. The cost of living is almost undoubtedly going to be a lot cheaper and as far as accommodation is concerned you’ll probably get assigned somewhere to live by the school or University, especially if you’re living on campus. So whether it’s a tax bill that you need to pay off, or you’re saving for a house deposit, or just saving, you’ll find it a million times easier to do while you’re teaching abroad.
- Growing in confidence. You might arrive as a shy butterfly, but you’ll very quickly learn how to speak for yourself, even if you are afraid of getting it wrong or be the only one to stand out. Staying quiet is not an option when you’re teaching abroad – you’ll need help with various things from directions, getting to the shops, transport to a bigger town or just practicing the language. Do it a few times and you’ll feel fine with it, you’ll learn that being unsure isn’t a weakness and it’s a valuable skill that will benefit you in lots of areas.
Once you’ve taught abroad and got the experience under your belt, you can return home and making a decent living by teaching English online will be a real possibility for you. And that gives you a job which is very flexible and that you can entirely make your own.