I never saw myself as a teacher whilst I was at school. In fact, after seeing the way that students treat teachers in England, I said to myself that I absolutely, definitely, would never ever attempt to teach kids in my life. Yet shortly after finishing university I found myself teaching a few maths classes in the UK to high school students, before taking the odd class or two whilst volunteering in Uganda. Next thing I knew, I was teaching English full time in South Korea for a whole year. Then I taught in Turkey and Poland (briefly) before heading back to South Korea for a second time.
How did it happen that I accidentally fell into teaching as a career? In short, because teaching English is a wonderfully accessible way to see new parts of the world. And it turned out to be quite lucrative at times – ‘how much money can I earn teaching English?‘ you ask. Plenty enough to have a good life…
One of the main reasons people cite for not exploring the world is lack of finance. This is quite understandable as even the cheapest accommodation and the really budget airline tickets really do add up. When teaching English however, you are actually getting paid for being in a place (unless you are volunteering), allowing you to support yourself whilst seeing the world. Salaries and benefits vary from country to country, but I chose to teach in South Korea largely due to the fact that in addition to the 2.3 million won I earned every month, I also received free accommodation, free flights, and a one month salary bonus upon completion of my one year contract. Not only was I able to afford to live in South Korea, I was also able to go out for dinner multiple nights a week and go on trips at the weekend. [This article explains more about the potential for earning and saving in different countries around the world.]
Whilst I love the freedom of going on extended trips without an end date, I also appreciate the stability that having a job offers – especially after six years of balancing work, travel, and visa applications.
Visiting new places and having new experiences is great. I have been exploring the world for many of the past six years because of this, but you do miss out on getting a real feel for a place and being able to call it your home. During a teaching contract, which typically lasts a year, you really get to know the place you live in, come into regular contact with the locals around you, and have a deeper connection with the place that you live in. I don’t think that this is a better or worse experience than visiting a place for a short time, but it does give you greater insight into a place and gives you a happy sense of belonging, rather than always wandering about (as I have often done).
During my time in Korea I was able to feel a greater understanding and deeper appreciation for the country, but it was still able to surprise me on a daily basis. South Korea has a very different culture from the UK and it was exciting to stumble upon various curiosities on a regular basis.
I often rock up in a place with little more than my backpack and a tiny sum of money. This is something I am used to and something that I deal with, but the thought of turning up in a foreign land – where you know nobody and can’t speak the language – with no backup plan can be quite daunting for most people. If you teach, it is in the interest of your employer to make life as comfortable for you as possible. They want a happy teacher who is going to stick around for the duration of their contract. For this reason they will often help you with visas, accommodation, and getting settled in, and you may even be able to sort out most things before you even arrive.
When I arrived in South Korea for my first teaching contract, my life was literally ready and waiting, and all I had to do was step into place. For most people it is rare to find such security when heading to live in a new part of the world outside of teaching.
Teachers are a fun lot, and many of my best friends from the past few years have been my fellow teachers. Every fellow teacher is someone who has decided to live outside their homeland and started in a similar situation to how you (or I) start. The teaching community often has a zest for trying new experiences and making the most of their time overseas, and this inevitably leads to lifelong memories for which I am very grateful.
Teaching allows you the opportunity to build confidence in a classroom environment which can then be taken into new career paths, or if you so choose, taken further down the teaching route. My public speaking and ability to solve problems on the spot has definitely improved, regardless of whether I ever teach again, and for that I am grateful.
Visit Nearby Countries
Many teachers choose to explore the country they teach in on weekends, as well as neighbouring countries at the end of their contract. You may have travelled across the world to teach wherever you find yourself and after a year of working and with many like-minded teachers around you, it is a great time to have a little adventure.
Teaching full time in Korea was often great fun. How often can you say that your job is fun? I genuinely loved many of my classes and the interactions I had with the children will stay with me always – especially the younger kids, who I thought were absolutely nuts (in the best possible way).
Teaching For Me
Teaching has been a big part of my life and something that I am incredibly grateful for. It helped me develop as a person and it allowed me to see new parts of the world. I have taught in multiple different countries and for the time being, have moved away from teaching, but know that it will always be there if I ever need it again. As such, I have recommend many friends (and even brothers) to give it a go, and would say to you that you too can do the same if you so wish. Across this site you will find lots of information about teaching English abroad and I hope that it will be of use to you.
Teaching For You
If teaching English abroad is something that would be of interest to you, now is a great time to get involved as global demand for English teachers is incredibly high. You can read my guide to teaching English overseas and apply for jobs worldwide using ONTESOLs free job assistance services. Good luck – I hope you love it and that it does for you what it did for me.