There is no doubt that teaching English in a foreign country (especially for the first time) provides people with a wide range of opportunities for self-growth through new experiences. While these experiences are important within a teacher’s expatriate life, they still come with their fair share of challenges. These challenges are generally due to the new surroundings and way of life that teachers are introduced to. By being upfront with yourself about the reality of these challenges, you will be prepared to face any scenarios which may come your way that would otherwise throw you off. This will ensure that you are constantly growing and improving; not being discouraged with fear of failure or that challenges may be too large for you to overcome.
It is important to note that while we are addressing potential challenges in this blog, our aim is not to create anxiety within you for these challenges. Challenges affect different people differently! It’s always best to be honest with yourself from the get-go if you wish to be fully prepared and therefore able to provide top quality teaching!
To the average person, the experience of teaching abroad does seem like an immensely significant one that requires extensive planning and commitment. However, the overall experience is made up of multiple (smaller) experiences which all contribute to the adventure - especially when first arriving in your new destination! There are quite a few different spheres of life that will require your attention in order to function efficiently at home, at school, and within the community at large. While these areas may be something that you are already familiar with, being in a foreign environment can occasionally make the tasks a little more daunting the first time around. These tasks include but are not limited to:
While the above list may seem daunting at first, don’t hesitate to tackle any challenges which come your way. You may struggle with a landlord who is not fluent in English, a sim card that doesn’t access the internet as it should, getting lost on your way to work and being late. However, these types of situations are all part of the journey!
What is challenging today will be easy tomorrow, even if it is just ordering a coffee in the local language of your new city. You will settle into your new surroundings in no time! Just don’t do yourself a disservice by worrying too much. Here at Dux we also offer constant support to our teachers while under contract so if our teachers need assistance, they are able to contact us anytime.
While many teachers may claim to not feel it much while abroad, it is not uncommon for homesickness to set in reasonably quicker than expected. It may be due to your new surroundings and everything that comes with starting a new job. It’s daunting enough starting a new job in one’s home country - never mind a foreign country!
Homesickness may also last for either a few moments or for a day or two and ultimately differs from person to person. Always ensure that you remind yourself that the feelings will pass and that it's totally normal to have feelings of homesickness from time to time.
Overcoming homesickness is possible through making new, foreign friends at your school or language centre. It would be wise to plan fun holidays in neighbouring countries or cities with your new friends to keep active and busy and reduce feelings of homesickness. You should also make time to meet with your family and friends back home using virtual meeting platforms like Skype, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
The various differences in how foreign countries run their classes in schools and language centres are important to remember from the start of your teaching journey. There is no right or wrong way to do things; just different ways of doing things. While this is more of an opinion, it will benefit you to keep this in mind when facing a new culture as it will stop you from mentally labelling something as bad just because it is done differently in your home country.
Having your own opinion does not automatically deem it true. Yes, there may be aspects of your new surroundings that feel uncomfortable or are viewed as inappropriate in your home country. However, challenging the social and cultural norms of another country will only make your time abroad more negative. Your workplace may also have some inefficient staff members which could make things slightly more challenging for you. Always do your best to keep an open mind while still maintaining your professionalism throughout your teaching contract.
You may wish to clue yourself on foreign cultures so that you are more prepared when you arrive by doing ample internet research and contacting expats in those countries using Facebook community groups. These tools will give you valuable insight into what you can expect when you arrive in a foreign country with its own unique workplace structures and styles.
Some schools and language centres have demanding schedules where teachers could teach as much as 7 hours per day. This excludes the time needed for lesson plans, marking homework or writing reports. Besides the time at school, the teacher may also face the hours of travelling to and from work, preparing meals etc. It’s very easy for a teacher to become overwhelmed and feel like work is the only factor in their lives.
This may be a surprise but save yourself time by planning. Setlists of the tasks you need to achieve during the week and focus on the most difficult ones first. Don’t be afraid to ask your teaching assistant for support with classroom tasks and don’t forget to return the favour in kind.
Never leave tasks to the last minute as this always delays completion and pushes other tasks backwards leading to a buildup of unfinished tasks and thus, the feeling of being overwhelmed. A diary is a teacher’s best friend so be sure to use one every day.
Always ensure that you are getting enough sleep as weeks and months of not doing so will eventually catch up with you. Don’t forget to exercise as this improves energy levels. Lastly, make sure that you are eating well and getting all the nutrients that your body needs as this is the main contributor to your energy levels.
Your school may be new or has had an overall curriculum change. This would mean that the teacher is responsible for creating new content for students to learn from. Don’t panic! Google is filled with free resources which are downloadable and open source. But be sure to have a set curriculum plan and order of content taught so that you are not teaching subjects at random. Teaching is a flow! For example, teaching numbers 1-5 should be followed by 5-10 and not vice versa. Always remember to plan ahead!
Moving abroad is easiest when you know someone in the destination city which you are arriving in. For the majority of teachers, this is not the case. So how does one make friends while abroad? The simple answer is to get out and explore as much as possible. Go to events such as art exhibitions, concerts, plays etc., where you are likely to meet people. There are also many groups on Facebook for expatriates which often advertise events so be sure to join these before you arrive. Don’t get caught in the trap of only making friends with people who come from the same country as you… This is your opportunity to meet new people and understand new cultures so befriend people who are different and celebrate each other’s differences.
In this blog, we have discussed various challenges which you may find presenting themselves when first moving abroad to teach. Regardless of the challenges, the most important thing to remember is to persevere regardless of how anxious you may feel at times. Moving abroad and teaching is a daunting but rewarding experience, so make the most of it! We hope that this blog has served as a guide to support you on your journey.
From all of us at Dux,