Packing up and moving across the world to live and teach is a major commitment. When a teach abroad candidate makes the choice to sign their contract and solidify their plan, they take a lot into consideration. One of the key pieces in this decision-making process is whether or not they think their experience abroad will be valuable to them upon returning home.
Licensed teachers tend to wonder whether or not hiring schools at home will see international teaching experience as a bonus, while ESL instructors are more likely to be concerned with whether or not their overseas English teaching position will benefit them in career paths beyond the education sector.
This question is especially important for recent college graduates who are considering teaching English abroad. They want to know if taking a year to go teach in China or Japan or Korea is going to halt their personal professional growth. Fortunately for them, teaching English abroad is a phenomenal way to exhibit their sense of adventure, broaden their knowledge of foreign cultures, and gain international work experience. These college grads who do end up at the helm of overseas ESL classrooms don’t all stay in education, though. Since they aren’t teachers, their professional journeys upon coming home can include just about any type of work; the only similarity they share is their career is made better with the addition of valuable international work experience.
The following is a story from James, the man in charge over at JimmyESL. James taught English in Japan for several years and is now seeing the benefits in his everyday life at home in the United States.
Teaching English in Japan: 2007 – 2011
I had wanted to travel and live abroad for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been naturally drawn to the unknown, including other cultures, ways of life, languages and perspectives. I knew from an early age that, as an adult, I would do whatever I could to see the world. While there is still much of the globe to explore, I was fortunate to have had the chance to teach in Japan from 2007 to 2011. In the years leading up to my arrival in Japan, I heard countless stories of fellow westerners who had taught there. I knew from the start that I was destined to teach in Japan. In fact, I never really even entertained the idea of going anywhere else. But that is just me. Wherever you end up, remember to enjoy your time and turn it into a positive experience.
In 2006, I was a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I had a comfortable position as a graduate assistant and was on track to go on for a PhD in political science. However, I was bored and knew that what I really wanted to do was live abroad – not in ten years or when I retired and could afford to, but at that very moment in my life. It was during that time that I began to seriously consider teaching and living in Japan. I scoured the Internet for as much information I could find and talked to as many experienced ESL teachers as I could. Nobody really had to sell me on the idea as I was determined to get there one way or another.
In the beginning of 2007, I applied for a teaching position in Japan. It was with a large, English conversation school. I was hired and arrived in Sapporo, Japan in June of that year. I taught at at this school in Sapporo for one year before moving on to a smaller English school the following year. Living and working in Sapporo was an incredible experience. To this day, it remains one of my favorite cities in the world. After two year and a half years of teaching in Sapporo, I took a job as an ALT (assistant language teacher) in a junior high school in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa was quite different than Sapporo in so many ways. Nonetheless, it was also an amazing time. During my four years in Japan, I met heaps of interesting characters, taught at both private and public schools, saw a good deal of the country and learned the language. Going to Japan was one of the best decisions that I ever made, but in 2011, I decided it was time to return home.
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Teaching ESL in Washington, DC: 2011 – 2015
Upon returning to the United States, I joined a few friends of mine in Washington, DC, who had moved there while I’d been teaching in Japan. Rather than finding a job in government, I decided to keep doing what I had been doing – teaching. Because I had earned a TEFL certificate while living in Japan, I was able to find a full-time job teaching at a private English language school in downtown DC.
Teaching ESL in America was quite different than teaching in Japan. In DC, I was a teacher in an academic track program. In other words, most of my students were on pace to enter an American four-year University, graduate school or medical school. The best part of teaching for the International Language Institute in Washington, DC, besides the fantastic group of teachers I worked with, was the diversity of the student body. In Japan, all of my students were Japanese, but in the US, I had students from all parts of Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and even parts of Europe. What I remember most is having vibrant and enthusiastic classes of 15 to 20 students from all parts of the globe. This was an interesting dynamic to witness and it without a double allowed me to grow as a teacher.
JimmyESL and web development: 2014 – present
I loved teaching and I still work occasionally as a part-time instructor of political science. However, in 2014, after seven years of teaching, I decided to follow a different path. It was at that time I decided to start JimmyESL.com, a blog dedicated to providing accurate information about teaching English abroad. At the time, I had no web experience or knowledge. After a couple of hours searching on Google, I discovered a wonderful web platform called WordPress. From the moment I first used WordPress, I was hooked and it is the platform I used to build JimmyESL. While I initially wanted to create a blog that would provide real information about teaching English abroad, I began to learn more and more about web development, including WordPress. As my skills began to develop, so did JimmyESL. It took a while to get it established, but today I can say that it is a known and growing blog within the TEFL industry. During the process of creating JimmyESL, I learned enough about WordPress and web management that I was able to land my first full-time job as a web manager in 2015. I have since moved on from that job and the job after. Today, in addition to managing JimmyESL, I manage and build WordPress websites.
My ESL experience somehow translated brilliantly into web development, as TEFL formed the knowledge base for my blog and kickstarted my post-ESL online career.
Looking back over the time between first teaching in Japan and now, I can confidently say that it has been a positive experience and I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities to travel, meets tons of interesting people and grow as a person.