Do you consider teaching English abroad? It is a great opportunity to travel the world, spice up your résumé and make some money. But besides the facts, teaching abroad will have a much deeper impact on your life than you might imagine. Read on if you want to learn, how.
If your goal is becoming a stronger and more capable person, there aren’t many activities that help you develop faster than teaching abroad. Stepping out of your comfort zone is a surefire way to stretch your personal limits until they crumble away and leave you with a truer and better version of yourself.
Nearly everyone who teaches abroad has a variation of the same narrative. It goes something like: take a chance, ignore the naysayers, leave the familiar behind, meet new friends, learn new skills, expand your worldviews, and become a person you wouldn’t have recognized before – in the best way.
When I say that teaching abroad will make you stronger, I mean it in more ways than one – I mean that you’ll have a stronger character, stronger convictions, a stronger personality, and a stronger sense of your place in the world.
Discover Who You Are and How You Fit in the World
It’s impossible not to challenge yourself on a daily basis, in ways big and small, without uncovering more of who you are as a person and what you want to do with your life.
I studied abroad in Costa Rica and then taught English in Spain a few years later. Both experiences, while very different, had similar effects on me in terms of self-awareness and personal development. I discovered what I need to be happy, who I like to spend time with, what I value in a work environment, and how I best handle challenges.
The most important lesson I learned is that strength is key to breeding success in all areas of your life. If you are a steady, driven, and confident person, you will attract people and opportunities that add to your value and your joy.
All of this may sound like a tall order for simply teaching abroad – but I truly believe that if you go out on a limb and do something intrepid and challenging, you’ll come out wiser and stronger.
Build Strength and Character by Teaching Abroad
So, how exactly will you build strength by teaching English abroad? In order to begin teaching, you have to actually move abroad first – which comes with a whole host of valuable, self-improving traits:
They say that courage is a muscle you must flex regularly if you want to keep up with it. The more you step outside your comfort zone, the less you’ll actually fear to do so. Moving to a country – for example when you are teaching English in China or traveling and teaching in Thailand – where you don’t speak the language, don’t have a support system, and don’t have any semblance of an established life (yet) requires a great deal of courage.
I’ll be the first to admit that packing up your belongings and jetting off to a foreign land, where you’ll be expected to create a new life entirely by yourself, is a terrifying prospect.
When you think of it that way – why would anyone ever do it? Instead, look at it from a historical context. People have left everything behind in search of opportunity for centuries and will continue to do so because the rewards ultimately outweigh the risk.
Moving abroad was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – yet it was so rewarding once I settled in and established myself. Now that I’ve moved abroad and built a new life for myself on two separate occasions, I feel much more comfortable taking risks in other areas of my life.
One of the first things moving abroad will teach you is resilience. As soon as you step off the plane, get lost on public transportation, misunderstand directions the locals give you, and realize you forgot the adaptor for all of your appliances – you’ll understand the importance of resilience.
There’s a learning curve for moving to any foreign place, and it comes with plenty of confusion and frustration while figuring everything out. It’s simply the price you have to pay to reach the “promised land” of one day realizing that you are happily surviving and thriving in your new country.
As you spend more time learning the nuances of your country’s language, people, and culture, you’ll have fewer moments of helplessness and more of self-sufficiency. It will feel sweeter than any self-sufficiency you’ve felt before because you really had to earn it this time.
Mastering your new life to the point where you can sail through most days with ease and assurance is a fantastic feeling and a huge source of pride for everyone who reaches this point.
Develop New Skills While Teaching a Foreign Language
Once you begin teaching, you’ll find yourself honing even more skills. Educating students, day after day, is an exercise in strengthening both your mind and your will. Expect to use the following :
This is arguably the most important skill to master to be an effective ESL teacher. There’s nothing worse for students than sensing their teacher is exasperated or apathetic about guiding them through the learning process.
It is especially important to be patient with language learners since they often feel more timid and subconscious about practicing their new language than students studying in their native tongue.
Patience will continually serve you in your own life as well. From waiting for a tow truck after your car breaks down, to working effectively with other people, to devoting the time necessary to learn a new skill – patience is key to your success and well-being.
Teaching will not only show you how to be patient but also empathetic. In order to connect with your students, you must be able to understand their unique perspectives. You must see them as people with their own thoughts and goals. You being able to relate to them and build trust with them to foster the best learning environment possible.
Building empathy with others will also teach you to be empathetic with yourself. As much as anyone else, you deserve to be heard, respected, and supported. Learning that we each deserve to be treated well and cared for, first and foremost by ourselves and second by others, is a lesson that will give you real, lasting inner strength.
Educating other people is not an easy job. You have to show up every day and bring out your best, most attentive self. You need to constantly be “on” for your students, and be willing to continue teaching even when they’re pushing your buttons or struggling through a lesson. You must see challenges as areas for growth, and you have to be determined to help your students succeed.
Progress can be slow with ESL learners, but that makes victory all the sweeter. When you’ve been practicing the difference between regular and irregular verbs for weeks on end, and your students finally have a breakthrough – that moment will be such a reward for you and for them. In order to reach the reward, you have to be persistent and understand that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Leave Your Comfort Zone and Challenge Yourself
At the end of the day, strength is not a single quality or characteristic that you can acquire by snapping your fingers. It’s a collection of individual traits – all unique and valuable in their own ways – that work together to make you a stronger person.
The best way to build strength is to challenge yourself, welcome the unfamiliar, and expand your limitations. That is where you’ll find true personal growth. Teaching abroad forces you to leave your comfort zone and build a life from scratch. So it naturally fast-tracks the process of becoming a strong and independent person.
If you’re interested in teaching abroad but aren’t totally convinced of its value, consider how much you’ll grow and develop as a person. If you carry out nothing else, you’ll have dug deeper into who you are and honed a very important set of skills.
No one comes back from a teaching abroad journey the same person as when they left. The best part is that while you’re helping students learn and better themselves, you’ll be learning and bettering yourself too.
About the author: Brooke Matta is a girl in her mid-twenties who loves her home in the U.S. but still leaves as often as possible to explore the world beyond. She’s lived in Costa Rica and Spain and has taught English there for a year.