It occurred to me that some people may go to teach abroad and assume that just because they are in another country that amazing things are going to happen to them. In some cases this may be true, if you lie low and don’t do much, it will probably still be a great experience. Of course this is the “easiest” path, stay in your comfort zone and let time pass you by. But that’s not the kind of person you are, that’s not why you’ve chosen to teach abroad, is it? Depending on which country and city you’re teaching in, this will be more relevant to some of you than others. Some of you lucky people will get placed in cities where you are one of very few foreigners, which will make following these steps easy. Others will end up in huge metropolises with McDonalds on every corner and an operator service that will send you text messages in the language of your choice. I write this more for the ladder situation. For those of you preparing to go abroad, put these items on your to-do list and if you’re already abroad maybe you need a reminder of why you’re there.
- Learn the language. You don’t need to be fluent and if you’re only planning on staying for a year you probably won’t be. If one your goals is to experience the culture, knowing the basics will give you the confidence to get out there and explore. You have lots of options for learning, 1 – 3 week intensive courses are a great way to get the basics fast, a good school might cost you some money but you will come out of it with enough knowledge to continue learning on your own. Many private teachers are available and if you get 2 or 3 friends together you can split the cost. Some schools will provide free lessons and of course you can always use on-line language software.
- Eat the food. Going by alone will probably involve some trial and error but that’s part of the fun. Better yet, go to lunch with the locals from your school, they’ll tell you all the best stuff to order. On top of this being of being a great way to really immerse yourself in the culture, it will probably save you a lot of money versus eating a western restaurants. This leads me to the next topic…
- Save some money. This isn’t possible everywhere or with every job, but once you’ve figured out what your cost of living is, create a budget and stick to it. I found it easier to stick to a budget overseas than it was at home. Less temptations I suppose. Even if it’s only $200/month over a year, that’s $2,400 that you will have to travel or get set up back home. It will feel really good to have some extra coin in your pocket when you need it. Not to mention it’s a great habit for the rest of your life.
- Travel. Got to get out of that comfort zone, once you’ve settle in to your job and neighborhood you may start to forget about all the exciting adventures that are waiting for you just hours away. Depending on your work schedule you may need to figure out how to make the most of your 2 and 3 day weekends, and trust me you can do a lot. A lot of you probably have your days off during the week which is all the better, you can go almost anywhere without having to fight the crowds. If you followed step 1, using your local language skills will save you a lot of money in transportation.
- Spend time with the locals. Naturally we all want to buddy up with people that we can relate to, and this is a good thing. But don’t forget to spend time with the people that can teach you the most about what life is like in their country. Ask a lot of questions, most people love to talk about themselves so give them a chance. Find out what is important to them and why things are the way they are.
Now I’m going to print this out and hang it on my wall as reminder to practice what I preach!
Have a great day!
Founder and director of operations at Teaching Nomad