Before you jump into teaching abroad, you should spend some serious time thinking about whether or not you are ready, and whether or not this is really the right time for you to be making this move. I’m all about seizing the moment and jumping in – when the timing is right.
Ask yourself these eight questions, and spend some time seriously thinking about the answers to make sure that now is the right time and teaching abroad is the right move.
Am I Healthy Enough To Spend A Year Overseas?
Although you will have access to medical care, and usually medical insurance, teaching abroad is both physically and emotionally strenuous. Schools usually require a health check to make sure that candidates don’t have any major health problems that would prevent them from fulfilling their full year contract. Even if you are able to pass the health exam, consider the effect that medical issues will have on your ability to enjoy your time abroad, and consider the access that you may or may not have to treatment and medicine you need.
Do I Have Enough Savings?
As long as you are frugal and smart with your money while you are teaching abroad, you will come out ahead. But just like any major move, there are a lot of initial costs you’ll see before you even get your first paycheck. Expect to need at least $2,000 to cover your visas, health check, flights, apartment, and general cost of living for the first month or two until you get your first paycheck.
Can I Leave Everything Behind for a Year?
From family obligations to missing your friends too much, walking away from your entire life is extremely difficult. But that’s exactly what you have to do – for a year, anyway – if you want to teach abroad. Having people who are dependent on you, or very strong emotional ties to your friends and family back home, doesn’t necessarily have to prevent you from teaching abroad. Before you start making plans, though, make sure you are in a position where you are ready to be gone for an entire year, and those around you are ready to have you away for that long.
Can I Take Care of My Financial Obligations?
Teaching can help you pay off debts, but only to a certain point. You also need to be able to cover your financial obligations during the few months that you are transitioning to living abroad. If you have a lot of financial obligations back home, you may need to make sure that you have more saved up before you go so that you can continue to make payments for three months or more with no paychecks coming in. It will also limit your options as far as where you can go, because only the most lucrative places to teach abroad will pay enough to cover your monthly payments. Refinancing is also an option, to get monthly payments more manageable. Whatever you do, make sure you look your financial situation over very carefully before you commit to any plans.
Do I Enjoy Working With Kids?
While not all teaching abroad jobs are with kids, the vast majority of them are, and unless you have some highly specialized qualification, expect to at least start out working with kids. Since you’ll be spending about 20 hours a week in the classroom (which may not sound like much, but trust me, it is), if you don’t genuinely enjoy spending time around kids, playing games with kids, and seeing them learn and grow, then you are going to have a pretty unpleasant time at work.
Am I Looking For More Than Just A Vacation?
Who hasn’t spent time at their job oogling pictures of far away places. We all long to get away from it all sometimes. The routine gets us feeling like we are in a rut, and the day-to-day starts to seem almost oppressive. For some people, a short vacation to a distant land to reset and have a little adventure before getting back to the routine is just what the doctor ordered. Teaching abroad is a complete overhaul of your entire life, so make sure that is what you really need and what you are ready for.
Am I Doing This For The Right Reasons?
There are a lot of different reasons people teach ESL abroad. Love of travel, wanting to get to know another culture, love of teaching, longing for adventure… On the other hand, deciding on a whim to travel across the world because you hate your job, because you just got out of a relationship and want to make your ex jealous with cool travel photos, or because you can’t find a job back home and are desperate for money, are not reasons that are going to sustain you through a full year in a new country. Sure, those things may play a part in your motivation to travel and teach (who doesn’t want to make people back home at least a little jealous with amazing photos?), but if they are your sole reason for doing this, stop and do some serious soul searching before you go any further.
Do I Really Know What I’m Getting Into?
This ain’t no walk in the part, and it ain’t no beach vacation. You are in for a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hard times, and a lot of restless nights wondering what the hell you’re doing. Teaching abroad will at times be frustrating, lonely, and fraught with uncertainty. If you are prepared to ride out those storms, then it will also be magnificent, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and life-changing. But you won’t get to experience those highs if you aren’t ready to make it through the lows.
Are you really prepared to deal with culture shock, constant language barriers, strange foods, and being a complete outsider in a foreign culture? Teachers who know what they are getting into and are prepared find coping strategies to make it through the hard times and have amazing experiences; teachers who think that it’s all going to be a giant vacation usually end up having a break down a few months in.