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Why Teach Abroad or Overseas?
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) expert John Bentley provides 6 reasons why teaching abroad may be a great fit for you.
Written By: John Bentley | Updated: June 29, 2023
Written By: John Bentley
Updated: June 29, 2023
Have you got a serious case of the international travel bug? Missed out on studying abroad, but still want to travel the world? Do you like the idea of getting paid to live in Europe, Asia, or Latin America? Are you thinking of retiring abroad full-time or part-time?
Well, here's some great news: you can take your international experiences to the next level by getting paid to live and teach abroad. Because English language instruction is in such high demand around the globe, most opportunities for teaching abroad will be in the field of TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language). But there are opportunities in other fields as well, especially if you have specific credentials or teaching expertise. There are also opportunities outside of academia in areas ranging from culinary arts to fitness to yoga and scuba diving.
Teaching English offers the most opportunities both for those with or without prior teaching experience, simply because the demand for English language instruction is economical. Whether you do or don't possess prior teaching experience or credentials (or even a college degree), earning an accredited TEFL certification will provide you with the skills and credentials you need to get a teaching job in dozens of nations all over the world.
Why Teach Abroad?
Teaching abroad provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, develop new teaching skills, learn a foreign language, travel, and make a positive impact on the lives of others. It can be a rewarding experience with personal and professional benefits.
Teach Abroad as an English Teacher
There are many reasons why someone might choose to teach abroad, some of the most common reasons include:
You Can Get Paid to Travel
You Can Get International Work Experience on Your Resume
You Can Live Like a Local in a Foreign Country
You Can Stay Abroad as Long as You Want
You Can Live in Multiple Countries and Regions
You Will Make a Positive Impact on the Lives of Others
1. You Can Get Paid to Travel
Teaching abroad can be an opportunity to explore new parts of the world, travel to new destinations, and experience new adventures.
As a teacher abroad, you will actually get paid while living overseas - in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and just about anywhere. Certainly teaching abroad will require incurring certain start-up costs, but they are a fraction of what you will spend on studying or traveling abroad and once you begin working, you will be making a salary that enables you to cover your living costs and enjoy all of the experiences and adventures of living overseas.
Long-term travel or studying abroad can each be a life-shaping experience and while it may be worth every penny. Let's be frank, however, both can be prohibitively expensive as most study abroad programs end up costing the average student $10,000 - $30,000 for one semester overseas, and long-term travel for any period longer than several weeks or a month can also be prohibitively costly.
Basically, you will be able to fund yourself while living abroad as long as you like; and, in some cases, you can make and save a good deal of money as a teacher abroad. In fact, in some countries, you can even make enough to pay off some of those big student loans you incurred while studying abroad!
Did you know that a first-time English teacher with a TEFL certification in a nation like South Korea will receive free airfare, free housing, 3-4 weeks of paid vacation, and make enough salary to save $1,000 a month or more after expenses? That way you can actually start repaying some of those student loans you racked up while studying abroad. In addition, you can spend your vacations scuba diving in the Philippines, backpacking in Thailand, or eating sushi in Tokyo.
How many entry-level jobs right out of college can match that? Virtually none.
2. You Can Get International Work Experience on Your Resume
Teaching abroad can be an opportunity to develop new teaching skills, gain international experience, and enhance your resume. It can also be an opportunity to learn or improve your proficiency in a foreign language, which can be valuable for personal and professional growth.
Studying abroad is often hyped as a resume booster and certainly, it does provide some juice, but teaching abroad will provide actual international professional work experience on your resume. In the globalized economy of the 21st century, potential employers in nearly every field seek those with exactly this sort of experience.
In addition, teaching abroad provides a ready answer that will set you apart when an interviewer for a job or a placement in a quality graduate program asks you to provide a real-life example of how you've taken on new challenges, stepped out of your comfort zone and adapted to new environments. Your international experience and stories will set you apart from the thousands of others who possess a similar academic background, internships, and so forth, but who haven't been abroad.
"My professional and life experiences abroad made me memorable, worldly and interesting. They helped my resume stand out from the others in the stack. I didn’t need to tell my interviewer that I am motivated, diligent and determined - my experiences abroad provided ample evidence to my interviewer that I was all of those things and more. I made a goal to throw myself out there and really do something meaningful and different and I followed through. When asked to provide examples of my abilities to take on new challenges, adapt to new environments, or work with people from different backgrounds, teaching English abroad provided compelling answers."
- International TEFL Academy graduate & staff member, Jessie Smith
3. You Can Live Like a Local in a Foreign Country
Why teach overseas? Teaching abroad can be an opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, learn new customs and traditions, and gain a deeper understanding of the world.
As a teacher abroad, you will certainly be able to tap into a diverse and active English-speaking community in most cases, but you will also truly live life as a local. You'll typically live in a local neighborhood away from tourists. You will shop at local shops and markets and hang out at local bars and cafes just like the locals. You'll probably ride public transportation every day and as a teacher, you will encounter local citizens from a variety of backgrounds, both as students and colleagues and in the routines of your daily life.
What's also great is that almost no matter where you teach in the world, your colleagues, students, and other local citizens of your host country will welcome you into their homes to experience their daily lives and cultural traditions firsthand, from weddings to national festivals. And, if you're looking to master a foreign language, this sort of immersion can provide a perfect opportunity to really achieve fluency.
As a teacher abroad, you will become a valued friend, mentor, and colleague in the local community.
4. You Can Stay Abroad as Long as You Want
When you study or travel abroad, you're typically abroad for several months - maybe a year. This provides a perfect opportunity to experience international travel and move far away from home, but many students or travelers still don't find it is enough time to actually feel at home or to experience everything that they want.
As a teacher overseas, you will typically teach in one country for 10-12 months (contract lengths can vary from 1-2 months for summer camp positions to a year or longer), with the option to stay as long as you like - many teachers stay abroad for several years and some even make it their long-term career.
This really provides you with an opportunity to make the country where you teach your home for as long as you like, whether it be 6 months, a year, or five years. You will develop a routine, make friends, and have time to travel and explore not only the city or country where you teach, but the region as well.
5. You Can Live in Multiple Countries and Regions
Whether you teach English or some other subject, whether it's high school math or scuba diving, you can likely teach in multiple countries and multiple regions around the world. If you are a high school math or science teacher, you may follow in the footsteps of others by teaching several years at a time at overseas American or international schools in one country before moving to another.
At International TEFL Academy, all students and graduates receive lifetime job search guidance for teaching English abroad, so if you teach first in Spain and then decide you want to experience another part of the world and teach English in Asia, or Latin America, you will have access to all of the assistance, resources, contacts and guidance you need to gain employment opportunities in those regions.
Many International TEFL Academy graduates have taught in multiple countries and some, like Annie Chen from Los Angeles California, have taught in as many as 4 or 5 different countries (and traveled to many more along the way).
6. You Will Make a Positive Impact on the Lives of Others
One of the great aspects of working as a teacher overseas is that you will be able to make a difference in the lives of others. You will make a positive impact on the lives of others, particularly if you are teaching in a developing country or working with underserved communities. As a teacher, enabling your students - whether they be schoolchildren, businessmen, or university students - to achieve their goals will probably be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. In addition, you will enjoy a status of respect as a mentor and teacher that you just never would have otherwise.
Overall, teaching abroad can be an exciting and rewarding experience that offers a range of personal and professional benefits.
Still, need some convincing? Check this out:
- Why teach English Abroad?
- The requirements to teach English abroad
- The best countries to teach English abroad
- The 5 best-paying countries for TEFL
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
― Anthony Bourdain
Posted In: Money & Finances
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
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