Living Abroad is Not for Everyone?

A reader recently commented – and copied part of a previous post – and also asked a good question . . .

[My only regrets about living the TEFL life abroad were…]  “That I waited until I was 37 to do it! Had I known, I would have gone as soon as I graduated from university in 1976.  I don’t dislike America, it’s just that it is all too familiar. I had already spent 37 years there and there is too much to see, too many places to experience and enjoy.”

The reader then wrote:

What you wrote is exactly how i feel right now today. I am 37 and was thinking these exact same thoughts. Thank you.

Question – why do you say living overseas is not for everyone?

Over on my first ever TEFL-type website I wrote a checklist of questions about whether heading abroad is a good idea for an individual.

Let’s revisit that idea.  From a positive perspective the question might be:

Is Teaching English Overseas appropriate for me?

It might be.  Only you can decide if a career in TEFL – teaching English overseas – is the right path for your life at this time.

What are the things to consider?

Do you have a family that you are responsible for?  How would they feel about moving overseas and living in a foreign land?

Do you have a spouse?  How would s/he feel about giving up their job?  Will she be able to find work overseas?  Is she interested in teaching English also?

Do you have children?  How will you educate them while overseas?  How might they feel about giving up their friends?

Do you have debts that must be paid while you are overseas?

Are there special medical issues for you or your family that must be considered?

Do you have the financial reserves to return to your home country and re-establish yourself if things don’t work out?

Have you ever taught before – do you have any reason to believe that you might enjoy teaching English?

Have you ever traveled or lived overseas before?  Did you enjoy it?

Would you find the daily problems of living and working overseas frustrating – or a refreshing challenge?

This list is only a beginning – as individual as each person is – so are the questions that need to be answered in making this decision.

What qualities are needed to succeed?

My observation has been that people who succeed in TEFL overseas have the following characteristics and knowledge:

  • They have reasonable expectations about their new occupation and what it can and cannot provide for them
  • They understand that their new country is not like their home country – solutions to problems that work at home often don’t work overseas
  • They realize that problems they had at home will probably also exist overseas
  • They know they will have good days and bad days – just like back home – and don’t blame the bads days on their job or new country.
  • They know they may experience good bosses, bad bosses, good jobs and bad jobs – just like back home
  • They are flexible people who can roll with surprises and “punches” – they are resilient and can bounce back from a bad situation
  • They are willing to work under different cultural expectations, willing to follow different cultural work rules
  • They are not generally moody or depressed
  • They view their success as a personal challenge
  • They spend a considerable amount of time researching their move – before they move.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Give yourself some honest answers about the questions and then you will know if you are ready and appropriate for the challenges of living and working in another culture.

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