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The Pros and Cons of Teaching English Abroad
By Brianna Duff
If you follow Quail Bell at all, I’m sure you’ve seen Brandon Jeune’s monthly installments for his series titled “Pooping in China” that follows his experiences teaching English to children in China. His stories from across the ocean are funny and chock full of the culture he’s thrown himself into, but his is only one version of what it’s like to teach abroad. It’s a complicated thing to consider, full of back-and-forths, something I’ve seen in many of my own friends as they start to consider teaching abroad after college.
If you're considering teaching abroad yourself, you want to know what it's really like. Is it worth it? Or is it just an outlandish excuse for adventure? I took a minute to compile some of the pros and cons of crossing the ocean and choosing to teaching English to help you in deciding your case!
It’s feasible: It’s very easy to get a job teaching English abroad. The only real requirements are that you must speak English fluently and that you have been college educated (although even that isn’t necessary for some places). Sometimes you aren’t even required to know any of the local language, those is it probably recommended that you have at least a basic handle on it, if not for the sake of just saying hello to the people you meet.
Travel: If you’ve always wanted to see the world and live in a foreign country and you didn’t get the change in college – or, if you fell in love with a place while studying abroad – this allows you the chance to live in and experience an entirely new culture. You’ll get a year of being abroad and traveling, all with the benefit of a regular paycheck.
New Language: Whether you go in knowing only a little of the native language or are fluent in it, teaching abroad will only help better your proficiency in the language as it is spoken in day-to-day life. It will also help with the amazing friendships you are sure to make with your students and colleagues alike.
Feel-Good Factor: Teaching in an incredibly worthwhile profession no matter where you do it. And if you teach abroad, often times you are working in communities that are like not your typical affluent U.S. school system. You’re giving something to these kids that they may never have gotten anywhere else, and that is an amazing thing.
Brandon Jeune with his students from "Pooping in China."
Low Pay: Though you will be receiving a salary while abroad, it will most likely be the salary offered by a developing or middle-income economy. This is important to keep in mind when looking at plans for returning back to the U.S.
Stuck for a year: Sure, you get to travel and experience someplace exotic, but what if you find that even if you loved it that one time you toured for a week the fall of your junior year, it’s just not the same living there? Or, what if you really want to be in Bejing, but end up in a rural village several hours from civilization? You have to decide if the desire to teach and do-good trumps your desire to live a particular kind of lifestyle abroad.
Loneliness: You’re someplace unfamiliar – which means unfamiliar things. You don’t have the same kind of convience stores, food at the grocery stores, or even people around you. It’s easy to get lonely when you are far from friends and family and when you might be one of only a few English speakers. Not to mention you will always look like a tourist, even if you’re living there.
It’s not vacation: Thoguh you should use the opportunity to travel, it may not be as frequent as you’d like because you are working. You can’t just leave mid-week for Paris or Milan. It’s a full-time job that requires patience and commitment.
When it comes to teaching abroad, there are certainly a handful of negatives to go with every positive. But in the end, it is important to think about what you want to get out of it. If you are expecting a luxery apartment in the middle of a beach resort, well, maybe you won’t have such great luck. But if you truly love teaching and want to make a difference, no matter what might have to change in your own lifestyle for the time you’re there, then maybe teaching English in a foreign country is the perfect job for you! Good luck and bon voyage!