I probably don’t talk about it enough, by my experience teaching English abroad changed my life profoundly.
In the fall of 2010, I had just moved into an apartment in New York City after finishing a yearlong nutrition internship in Connecticut. At that point in time, I knew only one thing with any certainty–I wanted to travel the world.
During that yearlong nutrition internship, I’d realized that that particular career path simply wasn’t for me. Faraway lands were beckoning, and so far I’d had only one opportunity to set foot abroad. I desperately wanted more–perhaps even the chance to live abroad or travel long-term (but preferably both).
So, I set about coming up with a plan to make it happen. But where to even begin?
I was trained for something that wasn’t especially useful overseas. I didn’t have many unique skills to speak of. I had no savings, so I couldn’t just move abroad and hope to figure things out as I went.
The things I did have going for me included a college education and a fierce determination to make my dream a reality. After doing a bit of research, it became immediately clear to me that if I wanted to kickstart a new life of travel, teaching English abroad would be my best bet.#TeachingEnglish abroad is the perfect way to kickstart a life of #travel Click To Tweet
I could earn enough money to make ends meet, and in some parts of the world, I’d even be able to save money, too. This was especially enticing because it meant I could continue to travel even after a teaching contract had ended.
After a bit more research, I enrolled in a TEFL program to give me a leg up against the competition.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and the certification is a great way to learn the ropes if you’ve never taught before, much less to students who don’t speak your language. A TEFL certification is also a requirement in many places.
This turned out to be an excellent choice because it not only taught me what I needed to know as a language instructor, but it connected me with a network and support system of other aspiring teachers and helped me start this new and exciting endeavor on the right foot.
What ensued in the months that followed was an experience that changed me forever.
My year and a half of teaching English solidified my resolve to travel and live abroad, gave me the opportunity to explore a country deeply and gain a profound understanding of its culture, introduced me to scores of like-minded people (many of whom I’m still very close with today), and gifted me the confidence I needed to continue pursuing a life that I loved, on my terms.
If you’ve ever considered beginning a new life of travel, teaching English abroad is one of the best ways to go about it. Here are just a few of the reasons this path is a fantastic one to pursue:
Teaching English Abroad as a Path to a Lifestyle of Travel
You won’t have to go it alone.
When you join a TEFL program, you’ll be instantly connected to others who have dreams and goals similar to yours. Moving abroad alone can be an intimidating prospect, but knowing that you’ll already have a community upon arrival will give you peace of mind you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
You’ll make instant connections with people who understand your struggles, people you can go to for advice or encouragement, and people to explore your new home with. My fellow TEFL graduates were some of my closest friends during my time in Southeast Asia and I’m forever grateful for that network.
You’ll get to experience life in another country with no obligation to stay long-term.
Another major benefit of teaching English overseas is that you can try out a new place knowing that it’s only temporary should you decide it’s not the right fit for you.
Depending on the type of institution you end up teaching for, you may be required to sign a contract, but these contracts typically expire after one year with the option to renew. This means that if you decide this new life abroad (or whatever country you find yourself in) isn’t for you, there’s no obligation to stay for the long haul.
One year is nothing in the grand scheme of life, and who knows–you may just fall in love with your new lifestyle before the year is over.
You’ll have tons of opportunities to travel throughout the year.
If travel is a major objective of yours like it was mine, teaching abroad will give you plentiful opportunities to do so. While I was based in Thailand, I was able to visit Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, not to mention all the traveling I did within the country.
On holidays from school, I’d buy cheap flights to neighboring countries or take the train to a new part of Thailand. I attended festivals, I got my open water diving certification, I took cooking classes, and explored the mountains by motorbike.
I was also able to play tour guide to the many friends who visited me–you’ll be amazed at how many friends decide to visit when you’re living someplace new and exciting!
It’s a great way to get a work visa.
When traveling as a backpacker or even as a digital nomad, you’re limited to tourist visas that only allow you to stay in a certain country for short periods, usually no more than three months. But when you work for a school or a language institute as an English teacher, you’ve got a prime opportunity for work visa sponsorship.
After being hired to teach kindergarten English, my school facilitated the entire process of obtaining a work visa for me. All I had to do was show up at the right place at the right time with my passport photos and documents in hand. Once secured, I no longer had to worry about overstaying my welcome, and I could still come and go when I wanted to travel to neighboring countries.
Of course, every country’s and every institution’s requirements will be slightly different, so be sure to do the proper research once you’ve decided where you want to teach.
It’ll help you decide if a travel lifestyle is right for you.
It’s true what they say–you won’t know unless you go. If you want to find out if a lifestyle of living abroad and traveling is right for you, teaching English in a foreign country is a low-risk way to do so.
Your skills as a native English speaker are in high demand in many parts of the world–for example, China is one of the fastest growing TEFL markets and teaching jobs in China are plentiful–so if you’ve considered starting a new life of travel but weren’t sure how to do it, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Take the well-trodden path that myself and so many other people have taken before you and become an English teacher abroad. You’ll be thankful you did.
Would you ever consider teaching English as a way to kickstart a life of travel? It was the best decision I could have made and I’m eternally thankful for the experience.