You’ve had your leaving do, your suitcase is packed, you’ve checked your passport about 5billion times. You are officially, absolutely, ready… ready for new adventures, ready for new challenges, ready to teach English abroad!
To ensure you’ll have the most amazing time out there, don’t bury your head in the sand. At i-to-i we’ve put together some top tips on getting the most out of your teaching abroad experience!
1) Keep An Open Mind
It’s easy to think that the whole world is now a homogenised chain of McDonalds and Starbucks from Beijing to Buenos Aires. It’s not, foreign countries are just: foreign. During my time in China I came across things that seemed strange (ballroom dancing in city squares), uncomfortable (total strangers approaching me to practice their English) and just plain wrong (chicken feet, eww). Unless you’re teaching in your home country, you will too.
So, to stop you going barmy and barricading yourself inside the nearest bastion of Western culture (usually a McDonalds), it’s important to keep an open mind. Remember that you’re there to experience an entirely new culture and way of doing things, not to impose your beliefs on your new home.
2) Do Some TEFL Training
The demand for English teachers all across the world is huge, so it is certainly possible to find a TEFL job in many countries without needing any qualifications. This is what I did, and let’s just say it didn’t have a happy ending for both me, or my students.
You might be able to speak English, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are able to teach it. For example, are you up to speed with your grammar? Would you know how to teach it? I didn’t! A TEFL course gives you a really good grip on all the classroom essentials such as controlling your class, planning your lessons and corrected your students errors – so you’ll be a lot better prepared for life in the classroom. Plus with a TEFL qualification, you can usually earn more money and find jobs at more reputable schools.
3) Never Turn Down An Invitation
You’re going to be the new, exotic, cool kid in town, so you’ll probably be inundated with invitations for everything from karaoke to weddings. When you first arrive in-country you might suffer from a bit of a culture shock and you might just want to lock yourself in your room and speak to your family and friends on Skype. As tempting as that is, though, don’t do it. Get yourself out there, yes it may be really scary (e.g. going to a party on your own in a city you don’t know), but the locals will go out of their way to make you feel welcome so just enjoy yourself and make the most of it.
4) Go With The Flow
Life as an English teacher is amazing, but it can also be infuriating. Timetables change, contracts change, expectations change, you can have the world promised in your contract, only to turn up to find a tiny apartment with dodgy plumbing. That’s a worst case scenario, and many teachers don’t have any mishaps at all. But, it’s important to have low expectations before you arrive and go with the flow once you do get in-country. Don’t stress over the little things, and if things get really irritating, skip to number five.
5) Speak Up!
Your school has invested a lot of money in hiring you and they’ll been keen to keep you happy so you finish your contract. They’re not mind readers though, so if you’re ever unhappy with anything, from your accommodation to your hours, say something ASAP (and not just to your mum, she can’t do anything about it… your school can).
And if there’s a problem that can’t be resolved to your satisfaction, remember that TEFL jobs are like fish… there are plenty more in the sea.
What’s your advice for making the most of your TEFL adventure?