Is Being A Teacher Abroad Worth It?
This is very much a question for the individual to answer. It completely depends on a variety of factors according to your own circumstances and what you want for your future.
I’ll outline some advantages and disadvantages:
If you work in an international school that provides accommodation or an allowance, you’re already saving money. The salaries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are often excellent but check before you sign on the line. Most international schools offering a benefits package will offer a good salary, but it’s hard to rank the best-paying schools because the standard of living across the world varies so much. Living in Thailand can’t be compared with living in Switzerland. Where the salaries aren’t as good, might be African and Asian local schools. You can volunteer in these but you won’t be able to save. This includes charities and NGO schools.
As well as the top salaries in many international schools, they often offer a benefits package to sponsored staff. They should pay for your visa and all associated paperwork with entering the country. They also pay for your flights and medical insurance for the duration of your stay as long as you’re working in the school. Housing or a housing allowance is usually provided. Standards vary a lot! You could get a house for yourself or you could be sharing with three other people. I also worked in a school in Vietnam which provided a gym membership and free taxis seven days a week. (Check you are sponsored otherwise you’ll get nothing apart from the salary and you might not get help to enter the country legally).
Whether you’re in Europe, The Americas, The Middle East or Asia, the travel opportunities are immense! Make the most of travelling within the country and further afield during your school holidays. If you’re in The Middle East, it’s much cheaper to go east towards Asia than to go west back to Europe so get those flights booked!
I noticed that the people you meet are very interesting and have got lots of great travel stories to talk about. It’s fair to say that people who’ve never left your hometown apart from two weeks a year in Tenerife aren’t going to be as worldly as people who’ve lived in five other countries. Get out there and make some great international friends for life.
It’s true that it’s a massive step to move abroad, it’s not like a holiday. You might have a partner who has work commitments and can’t join you or refuses to go. Maybe your parents are against you going. It’s also true that you can’t get home easily if there’s a family emergency, it might take several hours to return at the earliest. The good news is the homesickness you might feel at the beginning doesn’t last. Everyone there is looking to make friends.
This is fear of the unknown and is quite understandable. It’s hard to find out about working in these schools that are so far away, and you might wonder if you’re making a mistake. What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t make friends and I’m miserable in a strange place? What if I don’t like the food? There are so many unknowns and often it’s down to taking a chance.
In other countries, you may not be able to get all of the snacks and the brands you’re used to at home. However, many supermarkets abroad have an ‘international foods’ section which may stock what you’re looking for. You can take snacks and any other home comforts in your luggage with you and you’ll also likely be returning home in the holidays to restock.
This is a sad fact about living in expat communities. You find the teachers in schools often do their two year contract and leave. This varies, as some stay if the school and lifestyle suit them. The longest I stayed in a school was three years. This means there is a turnover of staff every year and you might lose your best friend. You will make new friends though.
In my opinion, teaching abroad is very much worth it for the reasons stated above. However, whether to take the plunge depends on the individual, taking into account your personal situation, family and financial situation and career plans.