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Teaching English Abroad at the Ripe Old Age of 40
Written by: Adrienne Glenn
Last Updated: March 19, 2021
In many jobs, age can be a burden. Even though the concept of aging has slightly improved in the good ol’ US of A, and the wisdom of age is much more appreciated than it was in the past, many jobs will still pass your resume by if they get a whiff of an age above the 40 mark. The wonderful thing about teaching is that this is NOT the case. Schools, institutes, and private students are all often grateful to see a candidate with some years under their belt. Because with years, you usually also bring experience, reliability, responsibility and a honking suitcase of wisdom. Though I was aware of the age difference, I chose not to let it dampen my excitement. I am a firm believer that surrounding yourself with the air of youth aids in your ability to stay young.
While many of us at home are used to our English teachers being of advanced age, the world of teaching English as a second language abroad is very much a different experience. For those that have already been through the TEFL training courses, they will attest that the average age of most teachers-to-be is in the decade of their 20s. I very quickly noticed that I was one of the oldest in my course, and the age gap became glaringly apparent as the course continued, and I forewent multiple nights out to stay in and study. Nerd! Though I was aware of the age difference, I chose not to let it dampen my excitement. I am a firm believer that surrounding yourself with the air of youth aids in your ability to stay young, and because of this belief, I embraced the chance to experience the TEFL course with some youthful abandon, while also applying my mature focus in equal amounts.
The truth is, usually few people of a more advanced age have limited “burdens” and the ability to upend their life and move across the globe at a moment’s notice. So, in contrast to the majority of your teaching counterparts, you actually have a leg up. Your age is, in fact, a competitive edge. Some of us consciously made the choice to be unattached at this point our lives, and some of us were not awarded the honor of family, but whatever the reason behind it may be… if you have gotten to the point of considering this path, you are probably relatively unattached. This lack of attachment, in turn, allows you give a lot to your teaching craft. And what better time to embark on an adventure, spread your knowledge with other parts of the world, while also amassing exorbitant amounts of new wisdom? I decided that I would not let my age be a factor in the decision. And I can tell you now that I was not wrong.
I had many concerns about my age when I first began thinking of heaving myself onto this new career path. I asked my program coordinator about it ad nauseum and he reassured me each time that it was not an issue. I questioned many, many people. I did countless late night internet searches. Finally, after watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and getting inspired by characters twice my age stepping towards new opportunities, I decided that I would not let my age be a factor in the decision. And I can tell you now that I was not wrong. It has been nothing but an asset, truly.
Two and a half years ago, Prague was where my teaching journey began when I took a course with an ITA partner school. So it is quite fitting that a Franz Kafka quote came to mind when I began thinking of this article: “Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty, never grows old.” Our minds are powerful, and we can place ourselves anywhere. If we make the choice to see life as an open opportunity full of beauty and experience, it will be. So go forth, share your knowledge with the world, and don’t let the count of your birthdays dissuade you from setting out on the career adventure of a lifetime.
If we make the choice to see life as an open opportunity full of beauty and experience, it will be.
With many countries now stamped in my passport, I can state with humble surety that the US is one of the few countries skilled in the ability to make women believe that age is a detriment. In many places around the world, age is revered and respected. A woman’s value does not diminish with age; in fact, from my viewpoint, her worth usually increases in other’s eyes. This is, of course, the same for men who may be interested in taking part in the teach abroad journey. I don’t want to leave you fellas out! As a gal myself, sharing my experience, I feel the need to come at this from a slightly feminist viewpoint.
As your years pass by, the respect for the word ‘regret’ also strengthens. And in 2.5 years, I have not encountered a tinge of regret. But if perhaps my reassurances have left you with remnants of doubt, and you are still waffling with the idea of taking the leap; if you are unsure of whether teaching abroad is right for you, I would like to impart some priceless bathroom graffiti knowledge that I encountered on my travels: Always remember if in doubt dance all about. The answer WILL come to you.
A California girl, born and raised, Adrienne always itched to pack up and leave for France with nothing in her hand but a suitcase. At the age of 38, that dream materialized for her, only in the form of another European country, the Czech Republic, where she began teaching English. She has since taught English in Argentina, Costa Rica, and is currently teaching in Guatemala.
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