An Experience of Many Rewards
The experience of teaching abroad is one that has rewards and life lessons on many levels. It brings to mind that old remark about enlisting in the military: “See the world and get paid to do it.” This method of experiencing foreign cultures, however, doesn’t require uniforms or side arms. Instead, what’s primarily required is an open mind.
This series of three articles is meant to help you explore some of the ways in which this combination of work and travel can affect your life personally, in your future endeavors as documented on your resumé and secondarily through your students’ experiences.
Types of Personal Enrichment
Personal enrichment is usually the furthest thing from a would-be teacher’s mind once she decides on a destination. Nor is the ability to teach or even an interest in education necessary. Instead, most people can sign on with a school holding only a bachelor’s degree in any subject, a valid passport and a visa with which to enter the foreign country of choice. You’ll also need to get your personal affairs in order, including obtaining a teach abroad insurance policyand visiting your doctor for necessary immunizations. Money, adventure and the relative proximity of exotic locales figure more prominently in many young college graduates’ minds.
First, Monetary Considerations
Many individuals, particularly those who teach in Asian countries where the cost of living is low, can save a considerable amount of money during a year’s contract time. Any time there’s a significant economic downturn in a given western country, an increase in its young men and women is easily projected, and these individuals can be seen each payday wiring money home.
If queried, they’d cite the ease of finding employment in their teaching country as compared to their home country. However, even if monetary considerations first led to their temporary emigration, they’re not above experiencing the country and the culture on a more personal level.
It’s difficult to recognize the many social ties that bind you to a community until you opt to leave, especially for a foreign country. Further, it’s impossible to recognize how much we rely on others and our shared culture and language. While the old cliché that expats are everywhere and will seek you out within days of your arrival, they’re still strangers—as is everyone you’ll meet. Schools may orient new teachers to the community, but you’re still the one who has toexplore the neighborhood on your own, find a desk lamp, buy something to eat or find an Internet café. Once you’ve experienced this type of self-reliance in one or more foreign countries, taking a wrong turn in downtown Milwaukee will no longer register on your scale of “What am I going to do?”
When you arrive overseas, it’s without most of your wardrobe, your styling car, your great apartment and all the enormously fabulous people who know and like you. In other words, suddenly people will like you—or not—for you, and not for any social cachet or attractive possessions they’d like to play with, too.
Likewise, the expats you meet will be evaluated with the same naked scrutiny. Who are you without all your stuff? You’ll learn the answer after a year teaching overseas.
A Wider Perspective
The cultural immersion that takes place when you move into a community to be a teacher or when you travel around a foreign country on your days off quickly impresses upon you that your expectations are tiny, limited, rigid little things. When brand new foods, words, courtesies, fashions and simple weirdness come your way, day by day, you learn to take more things in stride and widen your perspective.
In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss the influence that a year teaching abroad can have upon your future working career.
|Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing guest posts on social media and education. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.|
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