For the past six months I have been living completely outside my comfort zone. Going to the grocery store was a challenge, finding my way around left me getting lost from time to time, and virtually everything in my life had been flipped upside down… And I absolutely loved it.
I have been teaching English at a high school here in South Korea for the past six months and can honestly say it has been the best decision I have ever made. If you’re anything like me, when I graduated from college I couldn’t stand the idea of getting a job I hated, working there for X years to make the person above me look good, only to find out down the line that I hated the job I was trying so hard to get in the first place.
That is precisely why I am writing this today. Because if you are anything like me, then all you need is a little push to take a step off the beaten path and pursue something that your heart truly desires. So, if you’ve ever thought about teaching English in another country, here are 6 reasons to consider it.
If you love traveling, new foods, cultures, people, and life experience, then teaching abroad is one of the best and easiest ways to do that. Plus, in Korea and many other countries, you often get a decent amount of vacation so you can travel to surrounding countries. If they don’t, you can always use the money you make to go after your contract is up!
2) Personal Growth
There’s no doubt that a decision to make the move to another country is scary. You are leaving behind everything that is familiar to you, your friends, and maybe even everything that represents who you are. However when those things are no longer in your life, you are given the opportunity to redefine yourself. The stresses and successes of teaching children and living in a new country will surely help refine who you are. I personally have used this time to educate myself more than ever, read a lot of books, learn a new language, and become more spiritual. What would you do with such an experience?
I feel like a lot of us HEthens have within us a deep desire to teach. Discussion forums here are a hot bed of life lessons, experience sharing, and educational insight. And since I have been here, I find a striking similarity between the perspectives of many of us, and those of my fellow teachers here. All of us in some way or another seek knowledge to grow ourselves and share with others. And personally, I feel that sharing that experience with children is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Even though I can hardly speak to many of my students, I can see in their eyes that I’ve inspired them to learn English and explore the world. I feel honored not just to teach them English, but to represent it to them. Without me (or maybe you in the future), English is just something they see on a test.
4) Your Future
As unsure as I was graduating from college, I have since come to find comfort in that uncertainty. If living in the moment is the only way to truly see what is, then one must learn to become comfortable with uncertainty. Since I have been in Korea, I have made friends and decisions that will likely become an incredibly important part of my future successes. I have no idea necessarily how they will, but I know that as long as I decide to use everything I learn now, then I will certainly end up somewhere where those skills are useful, if not crucial.
5) Life Perspective
There were so many positive things about America I took for granted in my life, and yet, at the same time, there were so many negative things I completely ignored. Since I have been here, living in a different culture has allowed me too look back on my own country and life from a different perspective. I never realized how incredibly blessed I was to be born speaking English until now, for instance, and I am so thankful that I understand that. Being here has also helped me realize the value of family and close friends – who truly cares and who doesn’t. If you value life experience over money and fame, then I’d encourage you to consider adding an experience like this to your life resume.
6) Making a Difference
This may sound a bit cliché, but let me tell you a quick story. A few months ago, I had gotten to know one of the students from my mentoring class on a somewhat personal level. One day, I noticed that she seemed a little blue. So, after class, I asked her to come by my office if she wanted to talk. Sure enough, she did, and after sitting with her for a couple of hours, she managed to tell me the news. Two weeks prior, her mother had taken her and her younger sister away from their verbally abusive father and moved in with another man. A week after that, they found out that he had killed himself as a result. Since suicide is a taboo issue for discussion in Korea, she didn’t feel like she could tell anyone, not even her best friend. But since I didn’t fit into that category, she felt comfortable telling me. We talked for quite a while and many tears later, she resolved to be more open with some of her close friends and family. She has since decided to follow her heart and pursue art as a career. Maybe it’s just being at the right place at the right time, maybe not. You never know whose life you can make an impact on, simply by being a positive outsider.
Hooked yet? If so, here are the logistics. If you are going to make the leap, you have to do a bit of research first. Initially, when I started searching for countries to teach in, I looked into South America and Europe. After reading a lot of mixed reviews about both and finding out that you don’t always make enough money to cover rent, I decided to look further east. At the time I had a friend teaching here in Korea and decided to go through her recruiter. If you know someone already who is doing this, then you can ask them for information about their recruiter. If you don’t, there are literally thousands of websites out there that you can find information about the given country of your choice. And I could post a bunch of them here, but you’re going to google it anyway. The best resource I have found is www.eslcafe.com (known as Dave’s ESL Cafe). If you just want to research countries or read what others have to say, there are forums for that. If you want to post a resume or start applying, you can do that there as well. The exact process for getting hired varies depending on where you are going AND where you currently live.
Generally, they are looking for native English speakers (meaning it was your first language or you speak fluently) and college degrees (but not always). In addition, some countries and schools will require you get a TEFL or TESOL certificate. This isn’t always the case, but usually it is required from what I have gathered. There are options to do this through your local university or online. From what I have seen, online is usually cheaper and faster. Let me just stress again however, the requirements vary greatly, so before you get too excited or discouraged, look around and get in contact with someone in the country of your choice.
Your Life Abroad
Every country offers different salaries, living situations, and types of kids. You could end up teaching highly educated third graders that practically speak better English than you do (true of one of my friends teaching at a private school here in Seoul), or you could end up teaching high school kids who hardly know any English at all, like me. You could find yourself in the nicest apartment you’ve ever lived in, or taking cold showers for a couple of months in a studio. Of course you should take all these things into consideration when deciding to go, but believe me, later on in your life some of the ‘worst’ things that happen to you end up making the best stories. If you’re willing to take a chance and do something exciting, this is for you.
I was looking for it before I even knew this type of job existed. All I needed was a little push, and now I’m here. So if you are like me, and looking for a nudge in this direction, I hope this information inspires you to start making moves. The world could use some more HEthens out there. Let’s raise the existence bar a little higher!