Teaching Abroad! What is Stopping You?
Teaching Abroad! You know you want to do it. You know it’s something that you’ll regret not doing for the rest of your life, and you know the longer you put it off, the less likely it becomes that you’ll actually make it happen.
But, it’s human nature to hesitate in the face of major change and to stick within our safety zone. We promise ourselves we’ll do it later. We make excuses. I don’t have enough money right now, I can’t just leave my job, I have to focus on my career right now, or I’ll be way behind my peers, who will take care of my dog for a year while I’m off having adventures?
Each of these individual concerns is actually much easier than you think to address (except maybe for who will take care of your dog – you’re on your own there).
Money doesn’t have to be something that holds you back from teaching abroad. You probably won’t get rich teaching ESL (though long-term ESL teachers, or teachers who take on a lot of private lessons, can do pretty well), but you don’t have to go into debt or dip into savings to do it.
If money is a major concern, you can limit your ESL job search to places that are known for high salaries, such as Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. In those countries, there’s a good chance you’ll make more than you’re making at an entry level job right out of school – plus, the cost of living can be significantly lower.
Plan well, budget, save up before you leave, and you can easily come out of your year abroad with a big chunk of student loans paid off and a comfortable amount saved.
Trust me, leaving your job for one year is not going to put you so significantly behind your peers that you will never recover. In fact, having a global perspective, learning a new language, and taking the time to explore all the world’s possibilities can open up career possibilities that you never would even have considered before, and can give you a huge long-term advantage over peers who haven’t traveled.
And at the very least, it will be a very impressive few lines on your resume and a great way to impress potential future employers in an interview.
Not Knowing Anyone Abroad
The thought of moving to a new country is difficult enough, but for most ESL teachers, you will be going without anyone that you really know. You may have a few contacts, or a few friends in the country, but it’s just not the same as the close network of friends and contacts that you have back home.
But don’t let that hold you back; you think that your new home won’t be filled with awesome, fun, interesting people who are looking for friends and adventure buddies? It absolutely will, and within a few months, you’ll most likely find yourself having the opposite problem; figuring out how you’re possibly going to leave all of these wonderful people who have become like family to you.
Yeah, the thought of getting sick or injured abroad is pretty terrifying. And when you know that you have insurance through your job, or through a national insurance plan in your home country, the thought of navigating health insurance in a foreign country can be overwhelming.
Health care is in general much, much cheaper and just as high quality in most major Asian cities and many countries that you will likely be considering teaching in offer national health insurance plans that ESL teachers are eligible for.
So you don’t speak a single word of the local language? That just makes it that much more of an adventure – but not an insurmountable one. Plus, the best way to learn a new language is through immersion.
Start studying up before you leave so you know the basics, and then jump right in with some language classes, tutoring, and using your burgeoning language skills wherever you can.
Language exchanges are a great way to make local friends while learning the language. This can very easily go from being a potential problem to a huge opportunity if you approach it the right way.
Ultimately, though, regardless of the form that the excuses take, it comes down to fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of how much your world might grow and expand, fear of how far outside of your comfort zone this will take you.
And yes, of course, the legitimate fear of things going wrong, of getting hurt or sick or in trouble – but if you break those types of fears down, you’ll find that you’ve got just as much reason to fear getting sick or hurt or in trouble if you travel to the next town over than if you travel abroad.
For most of us who are considering teaching abroad, there isn’t anything truly insurmountable in our way. Instead, many, many people who truly want to teach abroad, and who absolutely could hesitate in the face of those fears, get intimidated by the vastness of what they are looking at undertaking, and put it off until eventually someday becomes never.
So jump in, start taking practical steps to make it happen, and remember that in a few years, you’ll be looking back on that time as one of the best decisions you could have made.