What’s it Like to Teach Abroad?

May 13, 2015

If a life abroad seems a little like a pipe dream, it’s time to get your head out of the clouds. Read some of the words of people who actually live lives abroad as they share what drove them there, the challenges that they faced and the benefits that they have received from their experience. Meet four expats who took the plunge to teach abroad and how they felt about their journey.

This is Claire, and her inherent curiosity led her to Thailand to teach English for a 5 month semester. Having just graduated from an American college with no idea what to do with her degree, she followed her instinct to travel and found a way to live within another interesting culture. Despite her fears of sacrificing career development and long-term financial planning, Claire moved to Thailand, ultimately bolstering her future career opportunities. With dreams of one day working for an organization like the UN, she found that her experiences in Thailand could make her a suitable candidate for the job.

“Working as a teacher is a tough job and I will show potential employers that I have patience, empathy, and problem-solving skills.”

She believes that her experiences abroad have also trained her to be fiercely independent, a better communicator and more globally informed. After recently receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Germany, Claire plans to use the skills she has learned in Thailand and apply them to her new classes in Berlin.

“My motto is “never stop being curious.” Ever. So I’ll be traveling in various contexts for the rest of my days!”


Meet Amy, a New Zealand native who left her home in Auckland to teach ESL in China for over 1 year. Being a generally impulsive person at heart, she decided to leave home in order to immerse herself in another culture that she otherwise would have never been able to experience. Her struggle with leaving friends, family and comforts of home was combated by her self-growth and new opportunities. The time spent in China helped Amy’s confidence, her relationships with people and to realize how adaptable she was in unknown situations. Living overseas offered her more freedom, more choices and skills that she incorporates into her life today.

“ I use it to show employers that I am fearless. I use it to strike up conversation at the Chinese supermarket in Auckland. I use it to inspire myself to see more of the world and create genuine friendships with super cool people.”


Fintan graduated from his university in England with little idea where he wanted to head with his career. After hearing about teaching English abroad, he felt that the travel and financial opportunities along with his interest in teaching, would be the perfect fit for his current situation. Intimidated by the thought of traveling so far away by himself, and worried that he had wasted his time and money on a CELTA certification course if it didn’t work out, he left England to teach in China. After 15 months and counting, Fintan has found that his experience has heightened his confidence, allowed him to become more outgoing and friendly and forced him to look at the world with a less biased and western-centric perspective. Not only has teaching in China made it more feasible for him to travel, but he believes it has increased his chances for a teaching career back in the UK.

“ I think it’s important to try to make the most of your youth. I want to be able to look back on my life one day and think that I took some risks, had some adventures, did some dumb shit, met some cool people, and generally had fun while I was young enough to avoid any major responsibilities, like raising kids or paying off a mortgage.”



Meet Shelby, an American English teacher who has been living abroad in China and Taiwan since 2012. With an interest in education and a college career spent partially studying Chinese, she strategically made the decision to teach in a Chinese speaking country. Being a planner, Shelby spent months weighing out her choices to make the most logical decision for her career. Although she struggled with the idea of leaving her close group of friends and being forced to make new ones, the experience taught her about the perspectives of others and even led her to meet one of the most important people currently in her life, her boyfriend whom was previously her co-worker. She recognizes that her life abroad has offered her significantly better opportunities than if she would have stayed in the U.S.

“I’m able to save more than I was ever able to at home all while taking advantage of extensive vacation time. A week off means a quick and affordable trip to Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, or within the country. A week off work at home, however, would never feasibly offer those types of opportunities.”

Shelby’s time spent in China has also changed her views and her career path. She has now taken up a Master’s program in global sustainability and renewable energy while she teaches in Taiwan. Her first person encounters with environmental damage and lack of awareness has changed her beliefs and will affect her actions for years to come.

“My ecological footprint has been cut more than in half since moving to Asia. Seeing people live happily on less makes you rethink wants versus needs, and helps to realign your values. When I finally do move back to the Western Hemisphere, I’ll be bringing back an entirely new lifestyle and way of looking at water, food, energy, and products.”

Despite their fears, concerns and worries, all four of these individuals left everything they knew and loved for a life abroad. They knew in their hearts that although the choice was terrifying, the places were unfamiliar and the culture was foreign, the opportunities they would find would benefit their lives more than staying at home. They are brave and they are special, but you are too. If you are looking for something different or something better, don’t let your fears hold you back from taking the leap into the unknown.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply