Should I Quit My Job and Teach English Abroad? The Myths and the Reality of Leaving it All

When I asked my own mother this question over a year ago, the response was an expression of absolute horror and a vehement, “No! Are you crazy?” Chances are that if you are thinking of teaching English abroad, this idea has been received with similar anxiety by your own family and friends. So if you can’t get an unbiased answer from the people you know, how can you decide what’s best for you?

Ask someone who’s been through it.

Here’s my advice and the myths and reality that I have discovered from quitting my job and teaching abroad.

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  1. Myth: You’re throwing away a good job forever.

The market is terrible. What are you thinking? You’ll never get a good job again. Quitting looks awful on your resume.

A few of these statements probably sound familiar, but are they valid concerns?

You are quitting a job, and, yes, that will be on your resume for the rest of your life, but millions of people quit their jobs and get new ones every day. In fact, it’s common for the twenty-something crowd to hold a job for only a few of years before getting a new one. Just take a look at this article about millennials, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/ . It turns out it that job hopping isn’t necessarily a career killer.

Yes, there are risks involved with quitting a good job, but if you have another one lined up, even if it’s overseas, it will not look bad on your resume.

In fact if you were a good employee and if you quit your old job on good terms with your boss (i.e. quitting with advanced notice, not saying anything negative about the company before you left…) there’s a chance your current company may take you back someday. I received several emails about openings at my old teaching job after I left my U.S. school to teach abroad, and I know that if there is ever an opening that I’m interested in, they’ll accept me with open arms.

Truth: Quitting your job to teach abroad is not a professional death sentence.

  1. Myth: You’re just wasting a year (or more) of your life.

It seems like you’re just running away. What’s the point of all this? You’re just going to be wasting time.

Hurt family members and friends may say all kinds of negative things when you explain that you’re thinking of leaving, and in a lot of people’s minds TEFL jobs are not permanent, so they’re not a real job and therefore just a waste of time. If you’re thinking of teaching abroad, then you undoubtedly have your own reasons for doing so, but what do you say to those who think you’ll just be wasting your time.

Well, the experience, perspective, memories, and new friends you’ll gain are only a fraction of the benefits you’ll receive from teaching abroad. And as for the idea that TEFL teaching offers no permanent job security, just talk to the expats who’ve been doing this for ten years or more or talk to the management at one of the language schools.

Truth: Yes, for a lot of people English teaching is a temporary job, but it has life-long benefits.

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  1. Myth: You’ll lose all of your friends from back home

We’re going to miss you so much, but if I don’t see you every day then how are we going to stay friends.

This one hurts.

You can try to keep in touch with all of your friends from back home, and when I left the U.S. I was confident that I would keep all of my old friends. For the most part I did, but when you are away from home for a long time, people change. They get new friends, new hobbies, and new ideas. You will change after living abroad as well, and your friendships will never be the same. The good friendships, the strong friendships, will grow and change as your lives do, but as much as it hurts, some friendships will fade away.

Truth: You will lose some your friends from back home.

lonely cafe woman

  1. Myth: If you hate teaching abroad, you’ll regret this decision.

You’re current job is not that bad. Why not stick with what you know? If you hate teaching abroad, then you’re stuck in another country until your contract runs out. Why would you do that to yourself?

Yes, you might hate your job. You’re co-teachers might be awful. Maybe you can’t handle the culture shock. Maybe it turns out you aren’t cut out for teaching English.

But what if you don’t try? If this is something you’ve been thinking about for a while, then you know that nagging, “What if?,” is never going to away. The only way to know for sure if you’ll hate it or love it is to try it now while you can.

Truth: If you hate teaching abroad, yes, you’ll be stuck in a terrible job until your contract runs out or you quit (again), but at least you never have to wonder, “What if?”

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7 thoughts on “Should I Quit My Job and Teach English Abroad? The Myths and the Reality of Leaving it All

    1. It depends on a lot of factors, like what country you want to go to (some countries are desperate for teachers), where you’re originally from (it’s easier to get a job if you’re a native speaker or have a passport from an English speaking country, although it’s not impossible if you aren’t a native speaker), and what type of education you have (a CELTA or equivalent is a must in some countries). So in short, some times it’s easy to get a job teaching abroad and sometimes it isn’t. It just depends.

  1. Hey! I have been toying with this idea for a while now and I’m really on the brink of just doing it. I do have a full education degree and have been teaching for 5 years already. What advice do u guys have….like where do I start? how do I even find an agency….etc

    1. The best place to start is by getting some kind TEFL class. The best is the CELTA, but seeing as you’re already a teacher, it might not be totally necessary. I do recommend a class though (unless you’ve already been teaching EFL/ESL). And I don’t really recommend going with an agency, just look up jobs online (or through any friends/connections you may have) and apply in your own. Do plenty of research into the schools. With your degree you can probably get a great job.

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