Teaching English abroad is risky, adventurous, thrilling, and rewarding. Actually, internships abroad and study abroad (Erasmus) are in the same category. In my experience, there are some perks and life changing experiences of teaching English in another country.
Here are 7 reasons why I love teaching abroad:
1. The Bond with Your Students: Whether you are teaching adults or children, a bond is formed when you teach your students. Meeting weekly getting to know your students is like welcoming a new friend into your life. After a year or even months, your relationship status will most likely be that as 'part of the family.' There is a hospitable and cozy environment when your students or the parents graciously welcome you into their homes or workplaces offering refreshments, food, and peace of mind. My students are my family abroad.
I’ve never been invited to so many Christmas dinners, birthday parties, summer homes, and trips. In my experience the most important part of 'the bond' is when parents tell me they are happy with the progress their children are making. They always joke that they don't want me to go back to the U.S. or they will never be able to understand someone speaking in English. At the end of every class I receive big hugs and sad faces because I have to leave to teach my next lesson. The bond can be seen in many ways and everyday I am glad to have work I love.
2. The English Language: Well, the English language and I have a love / hate relationship. (You can see our relationship status as complicated on Facebook). Yes, English is my maternal language. Yes, I was born and raised in the United States. Yes, I am a certified English Teacher. However; I don't know everything about the English language. (Raise your hand if you agree... or don't).
The English love relationship: Teaching English abroad has broadened my vocabulary. It allows me to see different perspectives of topics and conversations with my students, answer weird questions, and see the bigger picture about current events at home and abroad. English is a common language that allows me to communicate with students and locals alike.
The English hate relationship: Teaching English abroad has made my tongue twist way too many times by the end of the day (really my English speaking friends don't consider me an English speaker anymore). I have been behind in my slang language. My students know more than I do oftentimes! Everyone wants their English to be corrected (there just simply isn't enough time in the world to correct everyone). This has made me realize grammar and rules suck, British vs. American English word spelling, the ability to speak fast (more a curse than a blessing).
At the end of the day, the English language is one of the most common languages to learn now, thus giving me employment. Moltes Gracias English.
3. Income: When choosing Europe to teach abroad, I was expecting to break even financially. When I first started teaching, hitting the ground running was hard. Most academies wouldn't hire me because of my visa status, and I put many hours everyday into posting flyers in universities and online. I even signed up on the website Workaway to teach English in exchange for accommodation and food, which was amazing, but it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted.
I soon started teaching private lessons and it was exactly the experience I wanted. Now with 20 students, my schedule is full and arranged to my liking. I make around €800-1,300 ($930 - $1500 USD) a month living comfortably in Barcelona, Spain, and I am able to choose my lifestyle. You can do this too!
I don't have job security or a 401k. It is a risky lifestyle that is not meant for everyone, but I am happy and experiencing life as it comes.
4. Travel: Most of the countries in Europe are well connected, which allows you to travel around very easily. Whether your goal is just know that travel is key — take a solo trip throughout Europe, explore world renowned museums and restaurants, travel locally, relax by the beach, or go hiking. In my three years abroad, I have had the opportunity to live in France, Italy, and Spain. I’ve also been able to travel to many other European countries. I never could’ve predicted all of the places I’ve been able to go so far.
5. New Languages: When living in the country you are teaching in, it is vital to learn the local language. It makes your daily life much easier. I never thought I could learn two languages at once, but living in the region Barcelona, Spain, the languages Catalan and Spanish are the heavy influencers. I am currently taking Catalan lessons for free at Consorci Per A La Normalització Lingüística while learning Spanish from friends, picking up words and phrases on the street or when traveling other parts of Spain.
It is a headache learning another language in general and confusing to say the least but it is worth the investment. You may not be a master at the language you want to learn right away, it simply takes time. So keep calm, join a language exchange, practice when you can, immerse yourself in the culture, and drink some liquid encouragement so you can let your barriers down. For more tips on learning a foreign language while teaching English abroad, check out 16 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language while Teaching English Abroad.
6. My Squad: I came to Europe alone and along the way I have met: many locals, bla bla car drivers, roommates, ITA Alumni, and many other like minded people who share the same passions in many different ways. All of their personalities give me the strength to continue pursuing my dreams. It is amazing how we all came from such different backgrounds and parts of the word yet we share so many similarities in life. There is something about the people I hold dear here in Barcelona. Kaci, Lindsey, Àlex, Jimmy 1, Jimmy 2, Sheila, Kyle, Gavo, Max, and to the many others, thank you!
7. TEFL Certification: If I had to choose another thing to treasure while traveling besides my passport, it would be my TEFL certification. Because I invested the time and money to get TEFL certified, I’ve been able to make my lifestyle of traveling and learning a reality. The ability to live in a new location every year or six months if I wanted to is just phenomenal.
Where to next? Asia maybe!
About as Midwest as they get, Omaha, Nebraska, Allen always dreamed of: visiting new countries, learning new languages, experiencing cultures and living a simple life while doing so. After graduating University in 2014, Allen sold all he had and bought a one-way ticket to live those dreams and share his experiences along the way. He decided to teach abroad to break free of life's traditional routines.