The Adventure of Teaching English Abroad

February 12th, 2015 by

Teacher and Student If you are a people’s person who longs for adventure and loves learning new things, you may be considering taking up teaching English abroad. There are a number of reasons people decide to go to another country to work as teachers – the most common one is their longing for adventure, to be able to travel, meet new people and learn about foreign cultures.

It sounds like a lot of fun, and it really can be, but you have to be well prepared before you go.

What you will need for a career as an ESL teacher abroad:

The minimum educational requirement for a professional ESL teacher is a bachelor’s degree. Learning a second language is not necessary, but it can be a great advantage to have foreign language skills as it helps you relate to your students and guide them on the basis of your own experience as a language learner, as well as helping you get along in your new environment.

As an ESL teacher, you may apply for employment in diverse learning environments, like schools, international education programs, community colleges, corporations, and adult schools, to name a few. You will also need to develop and fine-tune qualities like patience, flexibility, and empathy.

Here are three things that you need to do when taking on the job as an ESL teacher in a foreign country:

1. Embrace the foreign culture

You will experience culture shock when you move to a new country. There is no way around it. It usually happens like this: when you first arrive, you fall in love with the people, the country, the landscape, everything is so new and fascinating. But after some time the differences between what you are accustomed to and the foreign culture you have been thrown into start becoming more apparent, and this causes the feelings of anxiety, frustration and anger known as culture shock.

Working as an ESL teacher will also put you into more direct contact with the people, which makes the language and cultural barriers more obvious. The good news is, this state is not permanent. Once you figure out how to deal with it, you enter the adjustment stage where everything starts to make sense and you can accept and even grow to love the foreign culture with all its nuances that used to upset you.

2. Learn from your students

Something to remember: You may be the ESL teacher, but you will be the one who has to learn the most. Look up the lyrics to the song “Getting to Know You” from the musical The King and I – that is the best explanation of how you will feel as a teacher in a (to you) foreign environment.

You are guiding the students on their way to better jobs and better lives, but they are the ones who can help you by teaching you the cultural details that you won’t find in the books. Listen to the locals, and be humble – accept correction when you get it and don’t get offended when your mistakes are pointed out.

3. Accept your students’ learning style and work with it

As you have probably noticed by now, working as an ESL teacher abroad is a lot more about learning to get along with people and broadening your horizons as a person than it is about the salary (which in most cases is not as high as some might expect).

If the students feel comfortable around you, they can relate to you and communicating with them becomes easier, thus speeding up the learning process both for you and for them. This is important because of the variation in the teaching methods employed over the world – make sure that your students understand what you expect from them and how and why they should do it.

Working as an ESL teacher abroad is a beautiful and rewarding experience that, whether you decide to do it just for a short while or make it your career, will change your perspective on life for the better.


About the Author:

Sarah Elb

Sarah Elb is a long-time educator, writer and translator who for the past 9 years has been working as an ESL teacher in the country of Ecuador. She loves working with people and sharing her knowledge and perspective through writing.

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