Change your Life with ESL Teaching

There is no denying it, you will change your life with ESL teaching. Most people who are looking into teaching English abroad aren’t looking for just a job; they’re looking for a life-changing adventure. 

JumpAnd there’s no doubt at all that teaching in another country changes who you are and how you look at life.  Here are a few ways that the adventure of teaching and living abroad shifted my perspective.

I learned to trust people more

Going to another country terrified me at first.  I remember those weeks before I boarded the plane – one minute I’d be bouncing off the walls with excitement, another I’d be running through every worst-case scenario you can imagine, convincing myself that every single one of them was probably going to happen to me.

But after a few weeks in the country, I realized that everyone there, regardless of the language they spoke or how they dressed or what different cultures they had, was just a human being, no different from me.

And the vast majority of them were wonderful, giving, helpful people.  Having to rely on the kindness and generosity of strangers, many of whom didn’t even speak the same language as me, opened up doors of trust that I hadn’t even realized had been closed.

I learned to simplify my life and be happy with what I have

Paring down all of my possessions to fit into a couple of suitcases was a journey in and of itself.  It was a journey that continued as I traveled, with each move and each change leaving behind many of the things I’d accumulated and come to love.

And through that journey, I learned to have enough trust in the world to know that anything I couldn’t bring with me, I could find or live without.  I learned to see the ways that possessions can become burdens, and to appreciate the lightness and freedom that comes from having only what you need, and truly appreciating the things that you have.

I learned acceptance and patience

Even the most challenging of people and situations in our lives are opportunities to grow and learn, both as a teacher and as a person, if we can approach them with acceptance and patience.  Learning how to teach difficult students required patience, empathy, and most of all, being willing to accept them the way that they are instead of trying to change them.

Living within a foreign culture requires the same.  Anyone who has lived abroad knows that sometimes, there are aspects of that culture that baffle or just plain annoy you (like, for example, incredibly noisy fire-cracker-and-gong-laden temple ceremonies at sunrise every Saturday right outside of your apartment window).

Some things you can’t change and all there is to do is approach them with understanding, patience and an open mind as to what you might learn.

I learned that any situation is what you make of it

There were certainly times when I felt frustrated with my job, with my living situation, with my visa situation, and even just with the most basic inconveniences of living in a foreign country.

I learned that I had the power to find meaning, growth, and adventure in my surroundings, no matter how poor a job they were doing of matching up to my expectations.

The frustrating students and co-workers I had were some of my greatest teachers; the unexpected glitches in travel plans were chances to have a new adventure; less-than-ideal living situations were opportunities to reevaluate what I really need and what I can be grateful for.

I learned to appreciate the beauty of impermanence

At first, it drove me crazy to be living in such a nomadic community.  It seemed I would just be starting to get to know someone, and then their teaching contract would end and they’d be off to the next adventure.

After a while, though, I came to see the beauty in how fleeting so many of the friendships and connections I made were.  That impermanence demands that you take chances and embrace life; because you can see just how short your time is with this wonderful person and in this wonderful place.

Some of the most meaningful relationships, interactions, and moments in my time overseas only happened because I knew that there was no option to wait until tomorrow to say what I needed to say or do what I needed to do.

Every one of these lessons has carried into my current interactions, and there is no doubt at all in my mind that I am a more patient, grateful, bold, and loving person as a direct result of my time teaching ESL abroad.

Please share!

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