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Teaching English Abroad: The Good, the Bad and Why it’ll Make You a Better Teacher

Teaching English Abroad: The Good, the Bad and Why it’ll Make You a Better Teacher | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As the influence of English grows and the language continues to develop as a lingua franca, the demand for English teachers worldwide is increasing. Equipped with a TESOL certificate, teaching English abroad is becoming easier and more accessible. Your English teaching endeavors may take place within your home country or may take you around the world to a completely unfamiliar region and culture.

Living and immersing yourself in a new country can be beautifully exhilarating and full of self-discovery. It can also come with adjustments and challenges. When it comes to teaching English, fully immersing yourself in the country you are in will certainly improve your influence and success as an English teacher.

The Beauty of Immersion

Immersing yourself in your new community when living abroad is the surest way to truly experience the country. It will lead to rich experiences and the opportunity to cultivate authentic friendships. As you befriend locals and get involved in community activities, you will uncover more of the cultural iceberg that lay hidden beneath the surface.

Immersion offers a glimpse into the everyday patterns of life and the different traditions, customs, social dynamics, and societal norms of a place. Fully investing in your community will allow you to create a network, and as your relationships develop and flourish, you will be able to find a home away from home. While it’s easy to fall in love with the beauty and charm of a place, it’s the people that will make that place feel special.

Traveling and exploring is a wonderful and exciting part of living in a new country. I encourage you to seek out different adventures and opportunities throughout the country and region you are in, but I also urge you to be intentional about familiarizing yourself with your local surroundings and community for a more meaningful experience.

The Challenges

Change pushes us to adapt and adjust, and this can come with growing pains. The transition to your new home abroad will vary based on your past experiences, comfort zone, and how different the environment and culture are from your own. If your English teaching abroad gig is limited to a short period, it may feel like a whirlwind, saturated with new experiences and information. Fully immersing yourself in your community may seem unrealistic as you frantically attempt to fit everything into your schedule and learn all that you can.

Even if creating deep bonds seems hard and unrealistic, retaining an optimistic mindset, being intentional with your interactions, and seeking out experiences on the local level will help. Never underestimate the impact and influence that can be made, even if time is limited. For a long-term teaching position, extended time living abroad poses its own challenges.

It can be tricky to strike a balance between retaining your everyday habits, values, and identity while trying to immerse and assimilate yourself. This is something that anyone who finds themselves in a different environment may experience, and it can be frustrating and confusing to navigate at times. It is of utmost importance that you show respect towards the culture and community you’re in, ensuring that nothing you do is perceived as harmful or insulting. Then, it is up to you to recognize your comfort zones and draw your own boundaries regarding lifestyle, beliefs, and actions.

Becoming a Better English Teacher

Showing an interest in and taking the time to understand the people and culture around you will allow you to gain respect within your community. This respect will go a long way, especially when it comes to teaching. Investing in your community will lead to having a network, and this will create a conducive environment for sharing your own culture, experiences and expanding your English teaching. Having connections with students outside of a formal setting will encourage them to use their language skills outside of the classroom.

Additionally, it is easy for many random English words, phrases, and cultural tidbits to surface naturally through shared experiences. As a teacher, gaining insight and knowledge into a country’s language and culture will help you see the differences between the English language. You will be able to present content in a more digestible manner once you can understand the thinking patterns and culture of the people you are teaching.


Teaching English abroad is not just limited to teaching English. It is an opportunity for cultural and language exchange, for you to simultaneously learn about another country, culture, and language while sharing your own. It is a chance to reflect upon and challenge your own views and beliefs and understand how your environment has shaped you. Being a foreigner teaching English can take on many different forms. To make the most of your adventure, I encourage you to discover the complex but beautiful process and experience of immersing yourself in the community you are in.

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