I‘ve only been back in my home country for a year now, yet I often find myself looking back at the time I spent abroad like they were the good old days. Teaching abroad for me was never intended as a lifelong career move. I always knew I’d move back home eventually.
Even though I taught abroad for a relatively short period of time in my life - I spent two years in total teaching in South Korea and the UK - these two vastly different countries both became my home.
It was difficult coming to terms with the fact that that chapter of my life was finally closed. My time abroad, in so many ways, felt like home and there are so many things I miss now that I’m back in Canada.
Here are just a few of the things I miss most about living abroad:
The feeling of living like a local. Culturally, you might not think Canada and the UK are all that different, seeing as Canada was once a British colony. However, I encountered many differences - especially in terms of lifestyle. I wasn’t going abroad to recreate my life at home, so that didn’t faze me.
I made a conscious effort to immerse myself in new cultures. Wherever your teaching abroad journey takes you, I really encourage you to try living like a local. In England, this might be heading out for a 5pm pint at the pub. In Korea, it could mean singing your heart out at the Nora bang (Korean karaoke rooms). When you get home, these are the things you’ll miss most.
Finding an adventure around every corner. Working abroad is all about discovery - discovering things about yourself and discovering a new way of life. I relished the idea of facing new and exciting challenges and seeing how adaptable I became with each passing day.
The amazing travel opportunities. Living abroad makes you that much closer to the previously unattainable destinations you’ve dreamed of. Depending on where you’re based, flights in or out of the country can cost very little. What’s more, teaching is a flexible career with built-in regular holidays so it’s well worth making the most of any opportunities to travel. Every six weeks, I was on a plane to my next vacation spot. Traveling opportunities isn’t a luxury that many other jobs afford!
Getting to meet new people. Every now and then, I come across a letter from an old student or stumble upon a class photo. It’s natural to miss your students and coworkers that you spent every day with - I’ve always found this to be the hardest part about being a teacher. Year by year, students go on to the next class a little more prepared (thanks to you!) but it can still be tough emotionally.
Earning a great salary. In many cases, your international teaching gig turns out to be more financially lucrative than a teaching job in your home country. International programs offer competitive salaries with great benefits packages, including airfare reimbursement, accommodation allowances, health insurance coverage, bonuses and more. In some countries - particularly in the Middle East - your pay is even tax free! If you’re careful with your spending, you can save a decent portion of your salary for when you do return home.
If you find yourself feeling like I did when I got back home: missing your international friends and students, longing for the awesome vacation time and the excitement of discovering a new place, it's never too late to take the plunge and teach abroad another time. International teaching is not just a young person’s game. Many international benefits packages will even cover relocation expenses for spouses or dependents.
Think teaching abroad could be for you but not sure how to get started? Our friends at University of Toronto TEFL Online have created a free guide on what you need to know to prepare for teaching abroad in 2017.