10 Things to Know Before Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad is a tremendous job, no matter where you decide to go. From the hassle of moving, visas, packing, and comparing international moving quotes to adapting to an entirely new culture, the whole process can sometimes be painstaking.

Whether it’s volunteering in India, working in a public school in South Korea, or studying at an international academy in Dubai, moving to a whole new country to live and work is a big challenge for sure.

However, with the right help and advice, you can be prepared. Here is a selected list of ten things that you should know before you go on your teaching journey abroad.

1. Teaching & Lesson Planning

Most people who have decided to teach abroad have almost no pedagogical experience. The first problem that will hit you hard as a teacher is the “Lesson” plan. 

It is tough to understand at the beginning of the instructional method, teaching culture, and curriculum. Thus, preparing a lesson plan becomes a difficult task. 

However, some online programs can be beneficial at the beginning of a lesson. If you have a large class or group of children who do not speak English very well, PowerPoint can be your best friend. It is much easier to teach people about a lion when you have a picture of a lion for them to look at.

My biggest advice is to make the lessons fun and suitable for the size and age group of students. With young students, find games, songs, and activities that they love. With older students, joke, make fun Powerpoint presentations, and break up for group activities.

Getting a TEFL certificate is also a great way to prepare for teaching abroad. TEFL courses will teach you how to teach English and give you the skills you need to manage your classroom. 

Even if TEFL is not required to obtain a visa for your chosen country, I still recommend it. It will help.

2. Patience is Key

Whether teaching noisy students or working with confusing administration policies, patience is key to success. One of the qualities you will need most as a teacher is patience, and it is essential no matter what age group you teach.

Younger students usually need patience the most, especially if you are teaching them in class, after school hours. Be sure to remember that they have just arrived from the full day of class, and the last thing they wanna do is sit at another desk. Try to help them by playing fun games and videos, singing songs, and letting them get out of their seats.

Teaching high school students is also a great test of patience. They are at an age when they know when they are doing something bad that can be very frustrating for the teacher. Keep your composure, and everything will be just fine.

Patience is also critical, especially if the country you choose is developing or has vast cultural differences compared to your hometown. You may encounter frequent schedule changes (which no one remembers to tell you about) as well as a bunch of rules that may just not make sense to you.

When you live abroad, you need to learn how to go with the flow. Whether it’s an impromptu lesson with no time scheduling or a random, inexplicable interruption on the internet that no one can fix.

3. Children are the Same All Over the World

Cultural differences are significant factors when it comes to how students are used to learning, but we often expect differences to be more significant than they are.

They would love to play in class, hate to prepare for tests, want to play at lunch, and gossip about their secret friends. 

While the education system has a significant influence on how students are used to learning, children are the same in every country. They worry about getting good grades, calculating their grade point average, and impressing their parents. They want to get into the right college and have a good job. They have a crush, gossip, and write notes in class.

Kids love games and songs. Teenagers love jokes and movies. People are people, no matter what country they come from.

4. Culture Shock is Real

“Cultural shock” is one of those terms that makes many of us shiver. It sounds meaningless scientifically, and it seems that “other people” will experience something similar. However, be rest assured that “cultural shock” is a reality.

We all go through cultural shock in slightly different ways. Therefore, don’t be surprised if it strikes you the same way when you are teaching abroad.

However, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s perfectly normal for you to feel that way at one time or another. The main problem is to get yourself back on track and out of an unhealthy situation asap. 

5. Things Won’t Always Make Sense

When we decided to teach abroad, we knew that we are entering a completely different country with a completely different culture. However, sometimes one can forget that these cultural differences affect our work and the way schools are organized.

It is imperative to remember that when you teach abroad, it will not always make sense when it comes to your place of work, what is expected of you, or how the school is organized.

The best thing one can do is adapt and create a comfortable home environment in which you stay.

That can be possible if you choose an international moving company to move your belongings from your hometown. 

You will already have your plate full, so you can’t afford non-professionals to take care of your move for you to settle in. 

6. You Might Get Sick

No one likes to get sick, especially if you are away from your family and deal with a medical system in a different language. 

Food poisoning is the most common disease for those of us who prefer to live in a developing country. Our stomachs are simply not used to all the bacteria found in the different countries compared to where we grew up.

However, even if you are in countries where you do not expect food poisonings, such as Japan, South Korea, or the UAE, you can still get seriously ill whether it is flu, a stomach bug, or good old food poisoning, its best to make your food.

Make sure your educational institution has a contact person you can call if you need to see a doctor or hospital. Sometimes bad things happen, and when you live abroad, it can be horrifying. 

That is especially true if you do not speak the language. Therefore, make sure that you have a local person who can take care of you.

7. Your Friends & Family Might Not Understand

The longer you stay, the more you will feel that all your friends and family simply do not “understand” you. People will not understand why you dropped everything to go abroad to teach, especially if you do not plan to teach as a long-term career.

If you call home to talk about your daily problems in Japan, most of your friends will not be able to contact you. If you have left an excellent job at home, people will not understand.

Expect people to ask you when you go home and find a “real job.” (News: Teaching is a real job!!!) 

However, not everyone at home will believe that your job is real and may assume that you are just spending all your time traveling and enjoying your chosen country.

However, you can rely on your other former friends as emotional support because they know where you come from. 

Also, be sure to let your friends and family at home know about the not so glamorous parts of your life so that they feel included and understand your experience a little better when you decide to come home.

8. Read & Understand Your Contract

Teaching abroad is like any other job on the planet. Contracts matter, and you must fully understand your contract before accepting the position. 

That’s especially important when it comes to teaching abroad because the rules are usually slightly different from your average contract at home.

Be sure to read, read, and reread your contract. Go through it and write down any questions you may have.

Even if you decide to teach abroad in a program and never want to leave your contract early, sometimes things happen that require you to change your plans. Make sure that your contract covers it.

If they fly you over, will they pay your flight in advance, or will you receive compensation later? How long will it take to get you your money back? Seriously, it can take schools six months to give the money back.

Consider the place. Do they provide an apartment on campus? Also, consider if you have to pay your utility bills.

If you have a housing scholarship, does your job find an apartment for you, or do you have to find it yourself? Will the scholarship be added to your salary, or will it be separate? Do you have to pay the deposit for the apartment yourself?

This may sound unpleasant, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Be sure to pay attention to schools that make you pay them if you want to break your contract. 

9. Many Stay for More Than a Year

You may think that you will just teach abroad for a year, but just know that a lot of people decide to stay for an extra year. 

Most schools offer a decent raise for a second year.

However, remember that the longer you live in the country, the more incredible jobs you will find. The longer you stay, the harder it will be (duh) to leave. 

When you move somewhere, you create your community. You’ll have friends, a favorite restaurant, a local bar, cafes, cheerful coworkers, and a nice apartment. It’s hard to turn away from all of that.

You may also feel a taste for traveling or develop a deeper love of learning. You might even hear great things about Taiwan or Singapore. You also may have a friend who has found a great job in Tokyo and can get you an interview.

Once the traveling bug bites, it may be hard to go home.

10. You Won’t Come Home the Same Person

Whether you are moving home forever or just coming on vacation, you will rarely come back as the same person.

Teaching abroad can change your life. It will make you more patient, understanding, calm, and relaxed. It will motivate you to go with the flow.

Teaching abroad can also help you become more open about other countries, cultures, and ways to do things. You will become more transparent when it comes to how other countries deal with specific issues.

Teaching abroad will also teach you to be more independent and autonomous. 

Some of your friends may not understand or even like you when you return home. However, people change, and all your good friends should be able to understand and accept the new you. 

When you come home, you may feel a little weird or “off your game,” and that’s perfectly normal. It is called backward cultural shock.

The Bottomline

Remember, you’re about to go on the adventure of a lifetime. You want to be ready, but don’t overdo it. The best experiences will come from an open mind and a desire to learn as much as you can in your new teaching environment.

What do you think?


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