Teaching English abroad is fantastic – you get to experience new cultures, take on new challenges, sample a whole new world of exotic beers… but, we will warn you, it’s not all cute kids and endless days on the beach. So, to help you remove those rose-tinted spectacles and manage your expectations about TEFL, we give you the truth about teaching English abroad…
It’s not a holiday
No matter which way you look at it, teaching English overseas is not a holiday – you’re there to live and work abroad, not to lounge around on the beach. So, don’t expect every single day to be sunshine and fun!
The upside: On holiday, you’re just a tourist taking snapshots, but when you’re working and living abroad, you’re actually in the picture yourself. This is your chance to really experience another culture, not just from the fringes, but right from the centre of the action.
You’ll always be a foreigner
OK, this might be stating the obvious, but being a foreigner does have implications. No matter how much you try to integrate yourself, you may still find yourself feeling isolated, stared at and well, foreign.
The upside: You may be seen as different, but you’ll also be seen as special. So you can expect to be taken out for lots of meals and drinks, and allowed to get away with behaviour that no local ever would! Plus, your English skills will probably see you becoming very popular indeed.
Things won’t run like they do at home
Whatever niggles you have with the way things run in your home country, you’ll probably find yourself longing for them when you move abroad. Any TEFL teacher will tell you that things can be slow, bureaucratic and liable to change at the last minute. Mix in the fact that you probably don’t speak the language fluently and you have a recipe for frustration.
The upside: You’re there to experience another culture, not to have everything run like it does back home – embrace the differences and go with the flow
Everything will be an epic mission, to start with at least
Even the most simple of expeditions, like going shopping or taking a bus, can turn into a mammoth task, complicated by language barriers, misunderstandings and general faff.
The upside: If everything becomes a little more inconvenient, it also becomes a little more exciting too – even the most mundane outing can turn into an adventure, peppered with serendipities and comedy moments. Plus, after a little while you’ll soon get the hang of life in your new home.
Culture shock is a fact of life
No matter how much you prepare yourself for living in another country, you WILL get culture shock, and it could leave you feeling lonely, unhappy and generally discombobulate
The upside: Culture shock is one fact, but another fact is that you WILL get over it. There’s a great article here that can help if you are suffering from culture shock: http://www.tefl-chalkboard.com/travel-guides/181-How-to-Cope-With-Culture-Shock-While-Teaching-English-Abroad
Your students probably won’t be that well behaved
There’s something of a myth floating around in TEFL circles that kids in foreign countries are immaculately behaved angels, ready to sit and learn quietly and happily at all times. Funnily enough this is not the case – kids are kids, and by that we mean they can be boisterous, noisy and sometimes just plain unwilling to cooperate.
The upside: Do you really want to teach automatons? Your kids might not be well behaved, but they will be enthusiastic, energetic and generally a lot of fun. It might be tiring, but it will certainly be rewarding.
What do you think? What’s do you think the truth about teaching abroad is?