As the third month of my second year of teaching is well underway, I still find it incredible that I’ve been in Russia for fourteen months. Honestly, when I first arrived on Russian soil (a thought that still boggles my mind even to this day), I couldn’t imagine how teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) would take me to places that I only dreamed of and enabling me to do things that were seemingly far fetched. In honor of that, this post is dedicated to why you absolutely should teach ESL abroad!
- For starters, it’s a rewarding job. While there are certainly highs and lows (i.e. hectic Saturdays and dealing with antagonistic students), I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Sure, some lessons make you question why you flew halfway around the world to deal with the various types of shenanigans, but there’s no better feeling than seeing how much your students improve! Not only that, but having the leeway to make their learning as fun as possible is ever so satisfying! Seriously, I’m not aware of other jobs where getting to show (appropriately relevant) Buzzfeed videos, cartoons, and other related pop culture material are encouraged Another perk of the job is that since you’re abroad, travel becomes far easier and cheaper, especially considering the airfare from the US (or Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa). Now, the caveat to that is you cannot treat your job as a means to travel, but doors do open when abroad. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to travel around Europe, Asia, etc., there are plenty of chances to travel domestically-exploring your host country is absolutely worth it!
- You become more confident. The day of my first lessons, I was a nervous wreck, almost irrationally so. I’m a native speaker and I had a great certification course, so why was I freaking out? Simply put, it was the first time I really had to present for an entire afternoon/evening. However, after doing this for so long, you become confident given how much is thrown your way. Dealing with rowdy kids? Getting them to simmer down while remaining stoic becomes a habit. Have you run out of material while there’s still plenty of time left? No worries, you’ve cataloged plenty of games to break out. Lesson planning for multiple days reaches the point where it is just another minor thing. All in all, I’ve found myself able to deal with any and all things thrown my way, and I’m loving it!
- The chance to soak up knowledge. You get to spend significant time abroad, so why not take advantage of that fact? Initially, it may seem daunting when you’re thrown into the fire, but it’s the best way to see the world and expand one’s horizons. After all, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” It’s an eye opener realizing that what we take for granted here is either non-existent or severely different. Then again, that’s why we travel, right? If we don’t leave our own borders, we don’t get to see the splendor found in the rest of the world. Getting used to a new set of norms and culture has been fascinating, if not splendidly confusing at times. At work, my coworkers get treated to plenty of entertainment at my feeble attempts to wrap my head around Russian and the various culture faux pas’ I commit, but once the laughter dies down, they’re able to enlighten me as to the truth/non-academic vocabulary. I’ve even been fortunate enough to learn some historical tidbits, especially pertaining to the USSR, from my older colleagues; you can’t pass up the chance to learn new things! Heck, even the students are able to shine light on to what the popular things are these days (man, I feel old typing this), so it learning goes both ways in this profession.
- Being independent is one of the many advantages; admittedly, I say this as someone in their early 20’s, so to some people, this point may not be as relevant. As someone who landed my job straight out of college (technically a few months after graduation, but who’s counting?), I had to become independent right off the bat. Yeah, my parents helped out with preparations and whatnot, but I’ve had to figure out how to pay rent, budget money, take care of my diet without some American staples in the stores, manage my time, and living away from your parents in case. In essence, I’ve learned how to become a functional, working adult. By no means has it been a perfect ride, but I do feel a ton more comfortable with my ability to survive. On that note, I do think that it has been a great experience getting adjusted to new things. I wholeheartedly admit to being coddled at home, so having to get adjusted to new things is the kick in the rear I needed. I departed a cozy life of comfort and predictability for one of work and adjustment, but that transition has rewarded me many times over.
- Finally, as I alluded to in the opener, teaching ESL abroad is a life changer! You get to see parts of the world that you wouldn’t have been able to, you get to experience a shift in your lifestyle, and you get to make a difference while teaching. Even if you don’t ultimately make teaching a career, it opens up a new chapter in your life, which you can use as experience for future endeavors. All in all, the memories you make are ones you’ll never forget!