When many people consider teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) overseas, they often just think about the personal benefits they’ll gain as a result of working and living in a foreign country. While these benefits can be a huge advantage for your personal life, teaching English overseas can also be a smart career move.
I moved to Thailand to teach English more than a decade ago. Originally planning on staying for just a year, almost 11 years later and I still live in Bangkok. That’s because both the personal and professional benefits I gained from initially teaching English in Thailand, and then later moving on to other career opportunities that came my way, were so much more than I ever expected.
If you are considering teaching EFL overseas, here are just a few of the benefits, both personal and professional, that you can expect to gain.
Learn about a foreign culture – The first and, I think, main benefit you will get out of teaching English overseas is learning about a foreign culture. You’ll learn all about the history and customs of the country you’re in, as well as realize most cultures do things a completely different way than you are used to doing in the country you’ve always lived in.
Just a year after moving to Thailand, and I realized my outlook on life had completely changed as, being exposed to Thai culture, I realized there were other ways of doing things, and often better ways, that I had never thought of. You will probably find the same, particularly if you go out of your way to experience as much of the culture of the country you’re in as possible while you’re there.
Meet interesting people – While it sounds like a cliche, it’s actually true. Just a few months into living in your new country, and you’ll probably find your friends and associates are far more interesting people than some of the people you left back home. That’s because they are people who are out in the world going places and doing things, and with a huge number of fascinating experiences to talk about.
Even the people of the country you’re teaching in will be hugely fascinating, as they often think about things in a way you never would, and will end up teaching you even more than you ever teach them.
Although I have American friends in Thailand, most of my other friends are from about 30 different countries or are one of the literally hundreds of incredibly lovely Thais I now know.
Impact people’s lives – One of the things I loved about teaching English in Thailand was how easy it was to impact people’s lives. I’ve taught children who had never spoken to a westerner before, yet had them being able to have a simple conversation in English in just a few weeks.
I’ve taught college students who were terrified of learning English from a non-Thai as they thought I would think they were stupid because their English speaking skills were not particularly good. Fast-forward just a month, and the change in their self-confidence was enormous when they realized not only could they understand the foreigner (me!), but that I thought they were amazing because they spoke two languages, whereas I only spoke one.
It’s so easy to impact people’s lives in a positive way when you teach English overseas, and the rewards you will get just for that are immeasurable.
Learn new skills – In just the first year I taught English in Thailand, I learned so many new skills that have come in useful when it came to future career opportunities. Learning to speak Thai, learning patience the Thai way (which I never could before), and discovering how to communicate well with people whose English skills aren’t high have held me in good stead when it has come to future job opportunities.
For you, if you decide to move back to your home country after teaching overseas, you will often find companies are more interested in interviewing you as your resume has experience on it most other people’s don’t. It also makes you appear independent, adventurous and open-minded, and many employers are looking for that.
Get international work experience – Many corporations and organizations nowadays are looking for people who will be able to adapt to living overseas, as so many companies have global customers. When you have a resume that shows you worked overseas for a year or two, you will often be much higher up the candidate ladder when it comes to being hired for an international position. After all, you’ve already proven you can live abroad and adapt to life abroad, particularly if you are away from home two years or longer.
These are just some of the many benefits you will gain from teaching English overseas. Even though I have been living overseas for most of the last 11 years, I still find myself gaining new benefits as each year passes and realize my decision to move to Thailand to teach English was one of the best I ever made.
I honestly believe you will discover exactly the same thing.