“Why would I teach English abroad? I don’t even want to be a teacher!”
To be fair, it’s a logical question. Yes, teaching english abroad is clearly an excellent opportunity for teachers, but what about the rest of us? Choosing to leave the country to teach probably sounds illogical to someone in medicine, business, law, or really anyone in any other field besides education. However, it turns out that teaching English abroad offers integral skills that can further any career. In an economy where–more and more– it is becoming necessary to differentiate yourself to employers, possessing these skills will fortify your arsenal.
#1 Learn a language
Although it isn’t necessary to know a foreign language to be an ESL teacher abroad, it is more than likely that you will return home having acquired proficiency in a new language. Knowing a language besides English opens up many doors and allows for increased performance in many fields. In the world of business, knowledge of another language is extremely helpful when it comes to expansion and understanding international markets. On paper or in person, knowing the language of those you are in business with demonstrates understanding and indicates respect. In the medical field, the benefits of knowing a language are concrete; sometimes a patient will not know English. Even if they do, having the ability to converse with a patient in her preferred language allows for a comfortable, trusting, and understanding atmosphere. In all fields, proficiency at another language differentiates you—you have a skill that most people will not.
#2 Cross-Cultural Understanding
The benefits of having a cross-cultural understanding are great. Like knowing another language, possessing sensitivity towards the nuances of another culture demonstrates respect and awareness. Being able to focalize on the perspective of someone outside of your own culture prevents misunderstanding and allows understanding of values and behaviors. Whether you are trying to understand the trends of an international market or meeting with foreign partners, being able to empathize with the unique viewpoint of a distinct culture will help you to communicate and understand clearly and considerately. Ultimately, developing a cross cultural understanding will enhance your awareness and broaden your perspective—skills necessary for upward movement in the working world.
#3 Communication and Problem Solving
Besides gaining the ability to communicate in other languages, you will substantially improve your communication skills back at home and in the workplace. Standing in front of a room of people and figuring out how best to explain something in a new language to them will solidify your public speaking and problem solving skills. The ability to effectively communicate is highly necessary in any job and is essential in leadership positions.
Teaching English abroad requires a substantial amount of independence. Whether you have it before you go or acquire it while abroad, by the time you return you will have a solid sense of independence. Teaching programs often leave much up to the teacher, so you will hone your sense of initiative. Besides the actual teaching job, moving to a new country and establishing yourself in an entirely new culture takes a pretty sturdy sense of self-reliance–chances are high that you will be completely alone when you arrive in your new country.
Although this thought is intimidating, the rewards reaped skill-wise are worth it. Independence is beneficial in any career; strongly independent people will be able to make difficult decisions more easily and stand out from those less able to demonstrate ability and initiative.
#5 Resourcefulness and Adaptability
Statistics show that you are essentially guaranteed to change careers more than once in a lifetime these days. Because of this, it is extremely important to be adaptable, resourceful, and versatile when it comes to your career. Having the ability to adjust quickly to new sectors, and, once within a job, to be sensitive towards rapid change and make quick decisions, can help establish one as a valuable asset to an employer in any field. Teaching English abroad will inevitably give you these skills; being a successful teacher requires a keen sense of resource, especially in underdeveloped countries, and living abroad hones adaptability.
Inside and outside of the classroom, teaching abroad is a superb idea for anyone looking to gain marketable skills to help any career path!
Madison Killen is a writer for Go Teach Abroad. Her favorite place to travel abroad is Germany (she loves meat and cheese). She is thinking about teaching English abroad in the future somewhere far outside of her comfort zone.