Explore the world by teaching abroad

by Matthew Smith

The spring semester is here and it will be the last semester for many seniors and graduate students, such as myself. Yet with the still fragile economy, graduation nowadays creates a new problem: trying to find employment in a suspect job market. Although some students become unsure about what to do after graduation, there are still plenty of jobs available. The problem is graduates either don’t know where to look or are uncomfortable thinking outside the box, such as teaching abroad.

There are plenty of opportunities available for teaching English, from Mexico to China. Highly competitive programs, such as the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program and the Peace Corps, offer excellent benefits. The JET Program offers 3,360,000 per year (approximately US $32,700), plus paid vacation and health benefits. For the first year of participation, the Peace Corps, a volunteer program, offers full medical and health benefits, postponement of payment on student loans and even partial cancellation of Perkins loans. Even if landing a position in one of these programs is unattainable for some, there are still plenty of individual schools throughout the world looking for English teachers.

The requirements in most countries are reasonable, requiring only a bachelor’s degree in any subject and rarely asking for fluency in the country’s native language. Some countries even prefer teachers who lack fluency in the native language, because it forces the students to only speak English. Other countries require the Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate or three months of literacy training experience. Online courses for the TEFL are affordable, at roughly $220 for the 40-hour certificate or $346 for the more desirable 100-hour certificate.

Teaching English abroad is an excellent opportunity for new graduates. While the pay in most countries is not as high as most teaching jobs in the United States, the more affordable cost of living usually offsets the lower pay.

[quote]Besides, higher pay does not always lead to greater happiness.[/quote]

Teaching abroad offers a unique experience, especially for students such as myself who have not had the opportunity to study abroad. In fact, it’s a much better bargain than studying abroad. Many college students spend thousands of dollars to study abroad, but most who teach abroad have employers who will pay for visa and airfare fees. It provides graduates with an opportunity to get out and explore the world. One can pick up a new language and learn a lot through cultural exchange.

Teaching abroad is also an excellent resume builder. It offers an opportunity to gain valuable job experience, especially if you’re unable to obtain a job in your desired field. As an aspiring social studies teacher, my field is even narrower in opportunities than most teaching positions, which already lack opportunities because of poor funding. Given my lack of options I’ve decided I will try to teach English somewhere in Latin America to gain some experience in the classroom while exploring the opportunities that living abroad can provide.

Teaching English might not be everyone’s desired occupation, which is understandable. Fortunately, there are opportunities abroad covering fields such as scientific research, journalism, finance, international relations and even volunteer opportunities. Externships in these fields are also an excellent opportunity to try a new lifestyle in a foreign country.

Some may feel uncomfortable living farther away from home without the comfort of living somewhere where they’re comfortable with the language and customs. Stepping outside of a comfort zone is part of the real world. Such attachment to an accustomed habitat is similar to eating only pizza and not trying other Italian dishes such as pasta.  If you do like pasta, then there was once a time you experimented with it to see what it taste like. Working and living abroad is the same type of risk. In order to enjoy it, you have to try it at least once. There’s far more to lose by not experimenting with places previously unknown.

[quote]Teaching abroad is one of many opportunities to explore the world.[/quote] It can be an enriching experience for graduates deciding what to do after college. It may feel like a huge risk to some, but no one achieves anything without taking a risk at some point. Similar to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” taking the road less traveled can make all the difference.

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