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3 Reasons I Am Happy I Waited to Teach English Abroad

For those of you who loved the experience of studying abroad, or simply love to travel, teaching English abroad can be a great way to earn money while still satisfying your wanderlust. Bear in mind, though, that every contract and every country is different, which means that no one experience will be the same.

The fact remains, though, that teaching abroad is a popular option for young graduates in their early twenties (or older). People choose to teach abroad for a variety of reasons. Some countries (like South Korea) offer handsome benefits packages. Some, like me, just wanted to explore a potential career change.

While it’s common to find English teachers from a variety of age groups, many teachers are in their early twenties. By comparison, I waited until my late twenties to go abroad and teach. In retrospect, I’m glad I did. Here’s why.

3 Reasons I Am Happy I Waited to Teach English Abroad

1. When I Finally Chose to Leave, It Was Because I Wanted To, Not Because Everyone Else Was Doing It

People around me suggested teaching English abroad multiple times through multiple avenues: government sponsored teaching programs, and finding an English language school through the internet and applying online. However, at the time that I graduated, the idea of teaching English abroad wasn’t attractive to me. 

It is easy to give in to the pressure of social expectations. At the time, many of my classmates were signing contracts to teach in East Asia. I won’t deny the fact that I was jealous. They were traveling to exotic countries, and had a steady source of income, and I had no job, and therefore no steady source of income.

As uncomfortable as the feeling was, I am glad I waited because waiting allowed me to develop the desire to teach abroad organically. Developing an organic desire to teach English abroad meant that I was willing to do and consider things that I don’t think I would have been had I forced myself to go abroad and teach just to earn a steady income right out of university.

2. I Gained Experience First

This is not to say that teaching English isn’t legitimate work-it is. However, waiting to teach English allowed me to develop skills and gain experience that I could draw upon in my current career. I explored careers in various industries related to the communications field, which ultimately taught me what I liked and didn’t like about various facets of the industry.

In the years prior to my teaching career, I worked and volunteered with non-profits, learned to write social media copy, and honed my filmmaking and editing skills. I learned how to handle a multi-lingual customer service environment and how to deliver effective customer service. 

Gaining experience in other industries first before going into a teaching career allowed me to build transferable skills and build on experiences that I could use in the interview process. 

Having prior experience also helped me build my self-esteem because I know that regardless of when I choose to move on, I have another skill set to show employers rather than building my identity around my skill set as an English teacher.

3. Waiting Allowed Me To Make the Most Informed Decision Possible

Some people fare better if they just jump into an experience rather than weighing the pros and cons of a particular opportunity. I am someone who needs to weigh the pros and cons of a massive opportunity. 

For me, waiting to go abroad, in some aspects, wasn’t a choice; timing, and other commitments were also factors. However, I did take my time to try to make the most informed decision possible. 

I took my time and reached out to acquaintances and friends who had recently or were currently teaching English in different places around the world. Talking to these people allowed me to learn little things about each country, things these teachers wished they had known, and other important information.

That essential information included things like:

  • What questions you should ask in the job interview
  • The average salary per month I could expect to make
  • A realistic analysis of the cost of living in each respective city
  • What a typical teaching schedule in each respective country would look like

Of course, everyone places a different value on different pieces of information. I considered the above information vital, but as different people, we care about different things, particularly in the job hunt. Regardless, having this information allowed me to take my time to go through contracts and make the best decision for me at the time. 

Had I simply jumped into a contract immediately after college, I would have had to learn this information after signing the contract, which would have made my experience very different.

Teaching abroad is an unforgettable experience, regardless of whether or not you do it for a year or a decade. Everyone’s experience is unique, and I can’t pretend to speak for the rest of the expat community. However, I know that for me, gaining experience before choosing to teach abroad was one of the best decisions I made for myself, and a big reason why I have stayed abroad for as long as I have. 

I have made peace with the fact that I took so long to make my decision. Make the best decision for yourself in any situation. It doesn’t have to be choosing to sign a contract to teach English in a foreign country. Making the best decisions you can for yourself is one of the best things you can do prior to any transition in life.

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.