Back in 2009, newly-qualified teachers were graduating in their droves, only to be greeted by a global financial crisis.
In Dublin, Ireland, I was one of those teachers.
Filled to the brim with enthusiasm, drive and passion to make an impact in my very own classroom, yet faced with the reality of unemployment and a serious lack of education funding in my home country.
Like many a young teacher faced with a problem, I searched for a solution.
That solution was discovering the worldwide demand for teachers as a result of the economic crash.
There was (and still is) a drive for countries, organizations and individuals to upskill in response to an economic downturn. I decided to explore this opportunity and to leave home for warmer shores.
Ten years later, I still haven’t returned.
Here are some of the reasons why teaching abroad (whether for a short or long period of time) is the best thing you can ever do as an educator:
Your bucket list will be never ending
During my four years teaching in Abu Dhabi, I was in the perfect geographic location to access some of the coolest places on Earth.
With the very generous holidays afforded to teachers, I was lucky enough to travel to Sri Lanka, Iceland, Oman, Zanzibar, Kazakhstan and even achieved a personal lifelong goal: visiting Nepal to see Mt. Everest in the flesh.
As a teacher abroad, you will have ample holidays to explore and visit new places. The bucket list opportunities really are endless.
Impromptu lesson while on my holidays walking in the Himalayas.
You’ll get out of that comfort zone
Living in another country and culture will test you and push you outside your safe zones. Not only will you grow as a person and learn an incredible amount about yourself - your strengths, weaknesses and limitations as an educator will also be revealed.
The education system that we all grew up with and now work within is not the same as other education systems across the globe. Other countries have very different, and sometimes opposite approaches to education. In the Republic of Georgia for example, students are given more opportunities to explore practical skills, as well as the academic side of things, which reflects the particular needs of their economy and society.
As a teacher, I learned a lot from this, and have brought elements with me from this experience. As part of this particular experience in Georgia, I also had to live with a host family, in a small town in the mountains. The challenges of living with a family who didn’t have much English, or electricity at times, served to build character and shifted my perspective on many previously-held ideas about the world.
Lifelong dream realized - trekking to Everest Base camp!
You’ll become more culturally aware
I think we can all agree that the current global political climate seems to be emphasizing our differences rather than promoting what’s great about our diversity of thought and culture. The best antidote to this, in my opinion? Having the opportunity to experience living and working among other cultures.
Over the course of my four years teaching in the public sector in the UAE, I was lucky to be able to challenge some of my own preconceived notions around life in the Middle East. Many things that I believed to be true, from the western perspective I was used to, were challenged.
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I worked exclusively with local, Emirati children and their families. As a result, I gained some unique insights (that as a tourist I might not have experienced) into how their culture operates. I experienced communities and kids that were exactly like the small towns and communities I had grown up within Europe. These interactions really drove home for me how similar we all really are the world over.
Through the nine countries I have been lucky to teach in so far (Australia, New Zealand, Georgia, Spain, Costa Rica, Indonesia, the UAE and Canada), I have also shared my own culture and background with the students and colleagues I’ve worked with.
As a result, there are students in far-reaching corners of the globe that now know all about Ireland and Irish music (and probably speak English with a strong Irish accent!) On the Island of Bali, there are a group of teenagers who now know how to do the Riverdance. Forget about curriculum, being able to dance like Michael Flatley is a seriously important life skill.
Bali, Indonesia: Connecting with local students through the magic of Riverdance!
You’ll become a better teacher than you ever thought possible
Needless to say, the valuable international experience you receive abroad will be in demand once you return home. Your experience with different curricula, different styles of leadership and approaches to education, will shine on your resume.
During my time teaching in the UAE, I was lucky to be given the opportunity to be a head teacher for a year. In Bali, I had the opportunity to write courses and curricula for local teachers. In Georgia, I helped to train local teachers. All of these experiences have propelled me forward in so many ways with my career in international education.
Simply put, now is an incredible time to teach internationally. Not only is there currently an acute shortage of teachers in many regions of the world, over the next four years estimates show that an additional 150,000 qualified teachers will be needed. It’s the only profession that I know of where the whole world is open for you to explore and where you can make a true impact.
I mean, who doesn’t want their legacy to be teaching 50 Indonesian kids to dance the Riverdance?
Psst: Before you go, have a read of our earlier post on where you can earn and save the most money teaching abroad this year!