It’s human nature to make uninformed assumptions about others. And whether this is right or wrong – we all do it. You may already have some ideas about people who choose to teach abroad. And depending on if those ideas align with how you see yourself, or not, will inevitably influence your decisions. But if you are considering teaching abroad, and wondering if it’s for you, I can assure you that it is. Let me explain why.

The overriding message that I want to portray in this article – is that anyone and everyone can enjoy the wonders of the world as a teacher. During my time as a one in China and Thailand, then subsequently working for Impact Teaching, I’ve met every type of person under the sun. But people tend to generalise TEFL teachers into one category, and assume they’re all the same. They are not. Let me go through five common misconceptions that people have, and explain why they need to rethink them. Maybe you too.


“You must want to be a teacher long-term”

Just because you choose teaching as a way to travel the world and live like a local – does not mean you want to teach forever. In fact, I would say that the majority of teachers I have asked, openly reject the idea of teaching as their long-term plan. And I’ve asked a few. This was the case for me as well. There are of course some that see teaching abroad as a path into either teaching in their home country, or continuing to travel as an ESL teacher. And that’s brilliant. But most view teaching as the best way to earn money whilst experiencing a new culture, cuisine, and way of life.

What other job can you get straight out of university that allows you to live halfway across the world in a country of your choice, have a great quality of life, meet amazing people, and create lifelong memories? There aren’t many. So if you don’t view teaching as your long-term career path, no problem. But it’s also ok to view it simply as a vessel for world adventures, that you just so happened to get paid for too.


“You’ve got to have perfect spelling and grammar”

As I write this, spell check is on and working hard. Speaking from personal experience as someone who has never been particularly assured in their grammar or spelling – I can confidently say that it did not cause me any issues as an English teacher abroad. I’ve heard this echoed by numerous people in the same position too. It’s not absurd to assume that you need perfect grammar and spelling to teach English, but being a TEFL teacher is far more than that. And the majority of the battle is already won just by being a native speaker.

Usually, students learn the core of grammar and spelling with their main teachers. And as a foreign teacher, your role is slightly different. Your most important objective is to deliver fun and engaging lessons that get students excited about English. Your second is to improve their pronunciation, which naturally happens as they listen to and practice with you. Of course, having a base level understanding of grammar and spelling makes life easier. But you can learn as you go, and only create lessons that you feel comfortable teaching. If you never made the spelling bee team at school, it’s fine. You can still be a great teacher and enjoy all the other fantastic things that come with it.


“You have to be an extrovert and super confident”

It’s not easy to stand up in front of a classroom packed with chatty excitable students for the first time. So I’d forgive you for thinking that it requires you to be an uber confident performer who doesn’t doubt their ability one bit. The reality is far from that. I have seen shy and quiet people make incredible teachers, who go from success to success. And even the most confident person is nervous when they step into the classroom on their first day, but just like anything, it becomes easier with time.

As I have already mentioned, for the majority – teaching is a vehicle that allows people to go where they want to go, and live a different way of life. And whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, that motivation is the same. Many people who choose to teach abroad are not the loudest voice in the room. Many may even come across as shy or nervous. But the beauty of teaching, that I have felt first hand, and witnessed in many others – is the growth in confidence that it brings. It’s not just about being the loudest or the funniest, teaching and living abroad can successfully develop a deeper and more important level of self-confidence, that truly can be lifechanging. If you are a confident person, great, you’ll be brilliant. But if you class yourself as introvert, or not a confident person, then I recommend teaching abroad even more passionately. As it is one of the best and most exciting ways to develop a positive self-view that can set you up for the rest of your life.


“You must not care about your future career”

Some people have a tendency to confuse teaching abroad with a long holiday. Just because you’re living in an amazing place and are surrounded by wonderful people – does not mean that the job allowing you to be there doesn’t require commitment, hard work, tenacity, and a host of other skills. Teaching develops communication, time management, problem-solving, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and public speaking. To name but a few. So the argument that it’s just dossing around in a different country could not be further from the truth. All of the skills I mentioned above are gold dust on a CV. And employers generally prefer people with life experience, who have travelled, and have done interesting things. If teaching is not your long-term plan, which we’ve established is the case for the majority, then it’s at least a fantastic way to develop priceless skills whilst having an amazing time.

If you are lucky enough to know what career you want, and providing it isn’t teaching, then some might suggest that not getting started on it is careless. But I would disagree. That career will still be there after teaching. But once you’ve started it, heading halfway across the world even for a holiday is difficult, let alone to live for six months or a year. Teaching abroad is a truly incredible opportunity that I am passionate everyone should have. Whether you have no idea what you want to do long-term, or are completely clear on your future path, teaching is the best thing to do for anyone who cares about improving their future career.


“You’ve got to be rich and have plenty of disposable income”

Full disclosure – the costs of getting started on a teaching adventure are not cheap. But the saving potential once begun is great. It’s a common misconception that you have to be rich to teach abroad. This is simply not true. Although the process can be costly, it’s definitely manageable and can be achieved through saving. I can vouch for this myself. I worked two jobs whilst saving up to go to Shanghai, and was lucky enough to get some support from my parents. But I was able to pay them back after only a few pay checks. This is because in most countries, native English-speaking teachers get paid a lot more than the national average. This means it’s possible to save a significant portion of your salary each month. And you can be confident that the daunting start-up costs of teaching abroad will be earnt back within a few pay checks, and then the rest is green.

So although you do need some money to become a teacher abroad, you do not need to be rich. It’s important to view the costs as an investment. Not only financial, but for your career, life experiences, happiness, and future. Teaching abroad brings endless opportunity and should be available to everyone. Here at Impact Teaching, we make sure everything is legal and safe so that no money is wasted. We are highly motivated to support people in every way possible, and advise them throughout the whole process, especially when it comes to keeping costs down. Do not be deterred by the initial expenses, reach out to us and we can discuss how to achieve your goals together, and as cheaply as possible.


I hope this article has been an eye-opening insight into what people who teach abroad are really like – they are everyone. They are me. They are you. All of us have what it takes to make a real difference to students’ lives around the world. As well as our own. It’s an opportunity that everyone can and should have. Regardless of how good their spelling is, what career they want, how much money they have, and if they’re confident or not.



Here at Impact Teaching, Arnold and I are passionate about making the start of your teaching abroad journey as easy and enjoyable as it can be. We have over 18 years’ experience – and currently have placements in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Poland, and Hungary. With more incoming. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and find out how we can help you start you teaching adventure.


Let us know by emailing me, Josh, at:

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See you soon!