By Josh Butterworth
For those of us who have had the pleasure of teaching abroad, the benefits are clear. But for those who are unfamiliar, unaware, or skeptical – I’m here to set the record straight. Let me introduce myself first though, I’m Josh. I graduated with a degree in filmmaking back in 2018 and had no idea what to do with my life. That overwhelming fear of deciding what to do next, combined with a burning desire to see the world, led me to the possibility of teaching abroad. Shanghai, China, was first. And then Thailand. Now, I’m here, helping new teachers start their adventures just like I did.
So – what’s all the fuss about then?
Discover a New Way of Life
You could live your whole life without ever leaving your home country. And many people do, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I believe that travel is a privilege. And for those of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to explore the world – it should be seized and embraced for all the glory it possesses. To see and learn how people live their lives differently to us, is to grow and develop as a person. Starting with exploring new cuisines, then learning how people deal with love, life, and death. Cultures and people all experience and cope with what life throws at them differently. With all its ups, downs, and everything in-between. Those differences are what make us humans unique.
Teaching abroad gives you the chance to embed yourself into a new community, not as a tourist, but as a local. It allows you the time to create strong and genuine bonds. It provides you the ability to look around, learn, and discover. Your conclusions? I’m sure they will be the same as mine. People are no different. From London to the Middle East, China, Brazil, and beyond. But the beauty is in the detail. The subtle differences are what make humans so special, and this cannot be appreciated from just one country. I learned so much from the people of Thailand, and found China to be an incredibly fascinating and eye opening experience. My relationship with these countries, and the journey of discovery I had, could not have been achieved over a two week holiday. Only by living, working, and immersing myself was this possible.
Gain Confidence and Skills
Communication, time management, problem-solving, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and public speaking. These are all skills that employers value highly. And guess what? These are all skills that are developed and strengthened by teaching abroad. Not to mention the fact that employers prefer well-rounded, travelled, and brave applicants. And what could be braver than packing up and moving halfway across the world to teach? The point I am trying to make is that teaching abroad is far from a waste of time in regard to your career. It is absolutely not just a long holiday. It’s a big green tick on your CV that gives you something fantastic and interesting to discuss in future job interviews. People worry that they’re stalling their future career by choosing to teach abroad, I would argue that the opposite is the case, they are kickstarting it.
Arguably more significant than the working skills which develop whilst teaching abroad – is the confidence gained from living and thriving as an alien within another country. This of course begins with struggles, and grows through overcoming difficulties. Away from home comforts and people that speak the same language as you, in a completely new culture with strange food and a different way of life. Feelings of loneliness and culture shock do arise, they’re natural. But the sense of empowerment and confidence that come as negative feelings disappear, and are replaced by positive ones, is something that cannot be replicated. Teaching and living abroad, and doing so successfully, is one of the best things anyone can do to improve their confidence.
Make Friends That Last a Lifetime
At school and university, we are forced to spend time with new people. As we are learning about life, growing, and finding our identity – it is a great opportunity to make new friends, often ones that we keep for life. But once adulthood and real responsibilities kick in, this seems to become harder, and new genuine friends are few and far between. Teaching abroad is an exception to this. It recreates that exciting time at school and university, where we meet a lot of new and interesting people, often with the same motives as us. A desire to travel and a hunger to learn about the world. I personally made some brilliant friends during my time in China and Thailand, who are now scattered across the world. A great chance to travel and visit them? Sounds good to me.
Meeting fellow teachers is fantastic. But making friends with local people is a true honor. Often they are happy to share their culture, customs, and especially – their country’s food. Only by teaching abroad and settling in one place for more than a few weeks can you have the time needed to overcome language and cultural barriers, to build special relationships that you would simply not have access to otherwise. Of all the benefits that teaching abroad brings, meeting extraordinary people who you will never forget is arguably the best part of it all.
The cost of kickstarting a teaching adventure abroad is not to be dismissed. From visa costs to flights and more, it’s not exactly cheap to get where you want to go. That’s the truth. But – it’s an investment. The salaries of foreign teachers are often a lot higher than the national average, and in these countries, the cost of living is often quite low in comparison to others like the UK and US. This means that it’s very possible to save a large portion of your salary each month, providing you are careful with your spending. I can vouch for this myself, as on just under £800 a month in Thailand – I was able to save enough money to fly myself and my Thai street dog back to the UK (which wasn’t cheap), and buy a car when I got back.
Salaries in China are especially good, and the cost of living is still quite low, meaning large savings each month are achievable. This is also the case in Vietnam. But wherever you choose to go, you will be able to save. Earning back all the startup costs of teaching abroad comes after your first or second paycheck, and the rest are all green for you to do with as you please.
Enjoy Life While Deciding What’s Next
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s an easy question to answer as a child, but often becomes more difficult with each year that passes. Teaching abroad is a unique opportunity, that allows you invaluable time and puts a pause on any rush to answer. Time during which you can really live and experience, discover yourself and what you really want. All this whilst avoiding the cost of living crisis with crazy rental prices and £7 pints, grey days at a mind-numbing nine to five and living back home with mum and dad. Teaching abroad allows you to see the world – how other people live, eat, cry, laugh, love, and much more. You can discover what you really value and want from your life, all whilst exploring and having an adventure halfway across the world.
During my time as a teacher in China and more recently in Thailand, I loved my job most of the time. But I realised that it wasn’t for me long term. I was grateful every day that I could live my best life and have amazing experiences whilst not feeling the pressure of having to decide what was next. But I did decide. I decided that I wanted to help people have incredible adventures like I had. I want to give people the chance to see the world, gain confidence, grow invaluable skills, make friends, save money, and set them up for life. If I can do that as a job – then I’ll be happy. And I’ve got teaching abroad to thank for helping me find that. Where will teaching abroad lead you? Who knows, I know I’m excited to find out.
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.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the ‘Teaching Programs’ section to pick where you want to go.
See you soon!