Just who will my colleagues abroad be?
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a career embraced by a diverse group of people. Don’t be shocked when you learn the backgrounds of your new coworkers!
Most EFL teachers are just like you and me. They’re interested (and interesting!), adventurous people who saw a great chance and jumped at a life abroad.
For example, not too long ago I had dinner with a Chicago attorney who had just attained his TEFL certification.
Besides lawyers, I’ve come across hotel managers, sports coaches, manual laborers, former soldiers, social workers, businesspeople, a factory manager, a ship’s pilot, reporters, therapists, salespeople, public school teachers, a petroleum engineer, and…well, those are only the ones I’ve asked! While it’s always interesting to find out what someone did before they chose to go into teaching abroad, I’ve ceased being surprised. There is just so much diversity of background among English teachers.
So, why are they teaching abroad?
There are thousands of reasons a person may switch careers and start teaching overseas, but the best one may be, simply, “why not?”
I occasionally overhear someone say that so-and-so has “run away” from their home country or “escaped [insert country’s name here].” I don’t like to think of it in those terms—in my experience it’s more likely that ESL teachers are running TO a new, interesting, exciting and fulfilling lifestyle. They are grabbing their dream of seeing the world and making the most out of life. The reasons they first come abroad are as diverse as the teachers themselves.
OK, but why do they stay abroad?
There are many reasons why someone would go abroad and why they would stay abroad. I think most people who live abroad long-term do it because they love it. They’ve fulfilled their personal and monetary goals and don’t feel pressured to “go home.” For myself, I recently retired abroad—not my plan originally, of course—and I love it!
I may be an exception, however, as most EFL teachers will find themselves pulled “home” eventually. But I’ve decided “home” is now a wonderful, tropical island which I may never move away from!
TED’s Tips™ #1: Take a few moments of self-reflection and explore what YOUR reasons are for wanting to teach English overseas. When you do this, though, don’t pressure yourself to come up with some cast-iron “heavy” reasons. Maybe you’ve just got good old-fashioned curiosity!
TED’s Tips™ #2: The next time you browse a forum where expats discuss life and work abroad, pose the question of what people did for a living before they transitioned to a new country. The answers and the diversity of people and careers may well surprise you!