There are lots of blogs on the Internet which write about how amazing it is to teach English as a foreign language abroad. There are few which write about the difficulties of teaching English abroad and the reasons why it might not be the right choice for some people.
For this reason, Connecting Worlds has put together a short post which highlights the main reasons why some people just don’t enjoy or get the best out of a teaching English abroad experience. Too many bloggers focus on painting the experience as though it were a walk in the park. Not enough make reference to some of the challenges teachers have to face.
1. You do have to work and you have to work hard
It’s important that anyone thinking about teaching English abroad understands that it is a full time job. You have to plan lessons, teach them, inspire students who might not be that interested, mark homework, join in with extra-curricular activities, take public transport to work everyday, and more. Teaching English abroad is just as tiring as any job you might have at home. If you’re only interested in traveling around and getting to know a country as a tourist, a teaching English program is probably not for you.
2. Parties and travel plans must come second
You’ll probably find time to go out at night on the weekends and there’s always the option of traveling around the country when your teaching practice comes to an end, but expecting more than this would be foolish. You’ll need to be fit and ready to teach classes every day. All-night partying is not conducive to turning up to work on time or to being mentally prepared for the day ahead. Likewise, it might take days to travel to another part of the country you’re teaching in. Expecting to travel throughout the duration of your teaching program is naive. Partying and endless travel are for tourists on holiday, not for foreigners who have signed up to a teaching English abroad program.
3. You’ll be far away from friends and family for a long period of time
Long-term travel is different to living and working in the same place for a few months. Travel is full of distractions. Everything’s new and it’s all about fun and play. Working as a teacher in a foreign country is a very big responsibility to take on. When working day in, day out, it’s easy to start missing the other routine elements of your life, including friends and family.Teaching English abroad can be an emotionally difficult experience to go through and you should be prepared to have to deal with those feelings without giving up and returning home at the first sight of any kind of challenge.
4. Communicating in a foreign language can be exhausting
When not teaching English, you’ll have to speak with, listen to and read in a foreign language. This can get very tiring. Even going to the supermarket to buy something to eat can be a real challenge when in a foreign country for a long period of time. You might almost start to yearn for someone to speak to you in the street in your native language. It’s easy to see how some people burn out and hide away from the foreign-speaking world under these circumstances. Therefore, it’s a really good idea to have at least a small understanding of the foreign language you’ll be dealing with before booking your flights and heading out to launch your teaching English abroad career.
5. Learning customs and eating foreign foods can heighten homesick feelings
You might be used to eating Fish and Chips in the UK, or surfing the waves in Australia, or eating pancakes for breakfast in New York. Once you arrive to your teaching English destination, all will change. Some days you might find you really begin to miss food back home or miss taking part in certain activities. This is topped off with having to “fit in” with the traditional customs of your host country. You might find that you don’t enjoy the customs and that you have to find a way of coping with these differences.
6. You will sign a contract and commit to a set period of time
Naturally, you will have committed to teaching for a specific amount of time. Breaking that contract will cause all kinds of problems; problems for you, but more importantly problems for the school you’re teaching in and the students who are learning from you. Seeing you give up in the middle, because you suddenly realise that teaching English abroad is for you and that it isn’t what you thought it would be, is something that everyone involved will want to avoid.
Therefore, be responsible and investigate into the subject before signing on the dotted line. Find out all you can about your host country, the school, the kind of teaching you will be doing, the hours, the costs and the length of time you will have to commit to. Do your research and make an informed decision. Avoid agreeing to teaching English abroad if you think the experience is just going to be a barrel of laughs. It’s challenging, inspiring and not for everyone.
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