Picking up and moving to a different country isn’t something to be taken lightly. It takes courage and fortitude to immerse yourself in a culture that is different from your own, let alone learning the language spoken locally. On the other hand, the adventures you’ll have and the friendships you’ll develop, along with the work experience you’ll gain will more than make up for it.
If you are getting ready to begin your career teaching English abroad, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. We reached out to some of our past graduates and have gathered together some of their best advice for anyone preparing to start their TESOL career.
Make Short and Long Term Financial Plans
Many people choose to teach English abroad for the duel benefits of experiencing a new culture and building up some savings. While there are many countries where your living expenses will be less than your salary and you’ll have a chance to set aside some money, you need to carefully consider a realistic set of expenses. That means listing out immediate expenses like the flight to your country, shipping costs and living expenses as well as future expenses like your flight home and short term living expenses while you search for a new job.
An important thing to remember when it comes to financial planning is the fluidity of your plans. “Do not assume you will only stay for one year–many teachers change their minds,” says Jason Ryan from Kimchiicecream.com. (For a financial checklist to prepare you for departure, visit our Financial Reminders section.)
The Culture Shock Can be Difficult
No matter how prepared you are, culture shock happens to everyone. You’ll be surrounded by people who think and act differently than you do. While this upheaval can be fun at first, you may find yourself feeling angry and frustrated a month or so in. This switch from the “honeymoon stage” to the “hostility stage” isn’t at all uncommon, especially for those who have never lived abroad or experienced radically different cultures.
Many people who take jobs teaching English abroad must face feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation before really coming to terms with the reality of their new environment and embracing the things that make their country of choice “home.” It can take several months to really start to make friends and to feel comfortable. This is usually when you’ll start to see and accept the good things about the culture you are living in. (Culture shock hits everyone a little differently but there are ways to combat it. For more information about it and what you can do, visit our Culture Shock page.)
Digital Copies are Your Best Friend
There is nothing worse than finding yourself overseas in a new country without a vital piece of information or document. Taking the time to prepare digital copies of important documents like your passport, driver’s license, social security card, insurance papers, flight plans and so on can make life immensely easier if you run into an emergency situation.
It’s also important to realize that some documents are better left at home, while others need to be taken with you. Making digital copies and having them accessible via email or a cloud program like Dropbox can make relocating less stressful. It also ensures you’ll have them at all times in case the paper copies get lost. (For more on what documents you’ll want copies of, visit our Preparing Your Documents checklist section.)
Don’t Assume you Know Everything There is to Know about the English Language
Sally over at unbravegirl.com, taught English abroad for a number of years. Despite having a degree in English, she struggled with teaching obscure things like Future Perfect Continuous tense (“I mean, seriously, who knew about this?”). She goes on to offer some advice to ESL teachers: “At least, for the love of verb tenses, bring a grammar book along with you.”
English is a complicated language and your students will probably challenge your knowledge of it time and time again, especially with the inevitable “why” question. Don’t worry – this is normal and is actually a good sign that they’re learning. (For more on what to bring to for when you teach, you can visit our Prepare for the Classroom checklist section.)
Picking up your settled life and striking out to take on a new challenge like teaching English abroad might feel intimidating, but it’s also a life changing experience full of adventure and growth! Oxford Seminars is here to help you make the most of your teaching adventures. For more information on becoming a TESOL, request our free information packet.
Not only should you have digital copies of your documents, you should have an external hard drive as backup to all photos, videos, music, and other things. Never use this hard drive in anything other than a computer that you trust. I just lost 45,000 files by plugging mine into a virus filled school computer. Three years of lesson plans and other files have been corrupted and perhaps lost for good.
You should also invest in buying a good VPN service before you leave your western world. It will make you life much easier when you arrive in some countries. While you are investing in things, think about how old that laptop is. Get a very good one with lots of memory and capabilities. That laptop is your bread and butter wherever you go.