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Cultural Adjustments When Teaching Abroad

Today’s Guest Blog is written by Erika Phyall, who currently works in community relations for University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s programs. USC Rossier Online provides individuals the opportunity to become a teacher and individuals can also earn a MAT online degree. Outside of work Erika enjoys networking, DIY projects, and spending time with her two dogs.

Teaching abroad is an adventure. The first step off the plane is filled with excitement, a little apprehension and, sometimes, a lot of jet lag. Some teachers experience culture shock in different forms, ranging from mild irritability to longing homesickness. But wherever you find yourself teaching, there are ways that you can ensure your experience is rich and rewarding. Here are a few tips:

Be Open Minded:

One of the greatest benefits of teaching abroad is being exposed to different ideas and ways of life. Living and teaching in a foreign country involves new food, languages, transportation and social norms. At first, all of these changes can be overwhelming, but remember that it’s normal to feel that way at the start. As you begin to learn more about the new culture, your perspective will change and expand. In time, you will grow to embrace the changes you encounter. Being open to your surroundings will allow you to see the beauty there and the beauty in change.

Be Adventurous

Teaching abroad offers you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and soak up your time abroad. This might mean trying a new delicacy or planning a trip to tour the countryside or a nearby city. Stepping into a new classroom where the students may not speak English will definitely be an adventure in teaching! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; you will learn from them and become a stronger, more diverse teacher. It may seem difficult or frightening at first, but seeking out new adventures will help you enjoy and embrace your time abroad and reduce the symptoms of culture shock.


One way to make the most of your time abroad is to integrate with your new surroundings. Often, learning the language is a great way to make friends and become more aware of your environment. Language exchange classes can allow you to absorb a new culture with others in similar circumstances. Enjoying your hobbies or finding new ones is a way to incorporate your new life with your past experiences. Seek out people or organizations that are involved in areas you want to explore. Your teaching agency, fellow teachers and community members are all great resources to finding out how you can get more involved and stop feeling like a tourist!

Create a Support Network

Building a support network helps teachers to be successful while working abroad. It is important to have people that you can rely when you are lonely or having trouble adjusting. Finding regularly scheduled times during the week when you can communicate with friends and family back home is helpful, especially if there are many time zones between you. Skype, instant messenger and other social media tools are great, affordable means for staying in touch. Building a support network where you are working is also important. Many expat forums and websites can be found online and offer opportunities to meet with other teachers working abroad and share experiences, tips and fun times.

Stay Positive

Teaching abroad will always present new challenges, so remember to stay positive. It can be easy to misread situations or people when you are teaching in a foreign country. By staying positive, you can minimize frustration and be open to learning the most you can. In the end, this is an adventure of a lifetime that you will carry with you the rest of your life. Positivity will help you define that adventure and prepare you for even bigger journeys ahead.

Interested in earning an Online Master’s degree with the USC Rossier School of Education? Click here to request more information.

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