If you’re thinking about taking a job as an English teacher abroad, one of your biggest concerns might be how this year off from your intended career path will impact your chances of being hired later.
While taking a year to teach English, travel, and save some money might sound both tempting and terrifying, you don’t have to be scared. A post-university gap year teaching English abroad isn’t just about drinking in hostels and finding the best beaches. You will actually be gaining professional experience. While you might not be writing lesson plans or explaining the different parts of speech after teaching abroad, the transferrable skills you’ll gain as an English teacher abroad will help make your resume stand out when you start your job search.
More and more companies have a global presence these days, even if it’s just because their social media accounts can be accessed by anyone in the world. Because of this growing interconnectedness, having international experience is becoming more of an attractive quality on a resume. Having taught English abroad means you are able to navigate different workplace cultures and most likely have developed cross-cultural competence This ability to work with people from different backgrounds in an effective manner will be an asset when job hunting.
Being a good teacher is not about how much you know, but about how well you can convey concepts to other people and have them understand. You will also most likely be working with a local staff with varying levels of English skills. Because of this, you will develop a manner of speaking that is clear, concise and easily understood by both your students and co-workers. These new skills will translate into being an even better communicator in the workplace at home.
As an English teacher abroad things are not always going to go as planned in the classroom. Sometimes not enough students will show up to class to complete the activity you had prepared, and sometimes your plans will just fall flat with the class. When you have a bunch of children staring and waiting for your next move, you’ll become a quick thinker in no time. Additionally, when you’re living in a foreign country you are bound to encounter situations you can’t figure out on a near daily basis. Don’t know how to ask for a bag and are now stuck trying to carry a week’s worth of groceries home? Even the smallest of day-to-day tasks will make you an expert problem-solver by the end of your contract.
Living in a foreign country without going crazy is all about your ability relearn what you think is normal. If you are teaching English in China, you will see men coughing up large amounts of phlegm and spitting it in the streets. You may or may not see a woman hold a child going to the bathroom over a trashcan in an outdoor food market. Maybe you have to take your shoes off before entering your school or pay an exorbitant amount for special trash bags. You have two choices as an expat: complain to other expats or come to terms with your new normal. By completing an assignment abroad employers know they can send you into an unknown situation and you’ll come out on top.
The world is a diverse place and every country seems to have its own way of doing things. By teaching English abroad you will gain insight into how another country functions. You might spend time in a country with a different political system or majority religion. Or maybe you’ll just realize that other countries make some really awesome movies. No matter how trivial, having a bigger, more worldly perspective means you are more open to new ideas and solutions. It also shows that you can learn from others and possibly bring the better parts of what you learned from your time abroad to your new position .
Being an English teacher abroad is sometimes like being a stage actor. You have to be engaging in front of an audience, you need to project your voice, and, especially if you’re teaching younger kids, you just might find yourself breaking out into song and dance. It’s not a job where you can be fearful. Also, when you throw a language barrier into everyday life it’s easy to become scared. But once you muster up the courage to half-sign, half-speak, half-write to your apartment maintenance man that your toilet is broken, you’ll feel like you can do anything. You might have been a shy wallflower when you arrived in China, but you won’t be when you leave.
Don’t put off teaching English in China because you think it will hurt your chances of finding work when you’re back home. Teaching English abroad can actually help your resume by giving you the skills you need to successful in any field.
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Elyse has taught with ABIE in Nanjing for a year and just signed for another year! Check out what she loves about living in China and teaching with ABIE
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