The general idea when you set on a journey abroad, specifically to teach ESL, the perception is that you are giving up your career and life goals to enjoy a few years traveling. What most people don't know, is that this is not the case at all. It really depends on the individual and how they choose to spend those years. However, no matter what any book or resentful person tells you - traveling is an invaluable experience that will change your mind and attitude in ways that will shape your outlook and lust for life.
Since beginning my journey abroad almost 6 years ago, I have come to realize the benefits of traveling and living in another country. Of course in my post-abroad life, I might struggle to find a job for a little while and suffer from travel withdrawal, but the advantages far outweigh the bad. The person that I am now compared to the person I was prior to teaching in Korea, has been shaped by the things I've seen and experienced during my six years of teaching abroad. There is honestly no money or career advancement that will ever compare to the amazing things I have seen and the people I have met. The best part that I did all of this while still keeping my career and goals relevant. Below are the top 3 skills I have acquired from living and teaching abroad.
1. Social Skills
Moving abroad sounds glamorous, and yes it can be, but what most people don't realize is that it can be an isolating and lonely life. This is not to imply that you will be alone and have no friends, but the happiness and fulfillment you get from family and life-long friends is a different bond. The biggest challenge is facing this feeling and depending on yourself and your confidence in your ability to rely on yourself. These moments come in waves when living overseas, and no matter how strong of an individual you are, it can affect you. The greatest thing you will learn from these times is resilience, self-reliance, and self-dependence.
When living overseas you will meet people from all walks of life. Encountering these people from different countries and cultural backgrounds, teaches you so much about the world. It opens your eyes to a whole new perspective on the world, and you learn how to be respectful of others. This respect makes you pretty valuable to any corporate company who is seeking an open-minded and understanding individual who enjoys engaging with various types of people. Nowadays, I cannot even imagine working with just one type of nationality as look forward to learning about others traditions and holidays. This has been one of the coolest things about living in Korea. I have worked with so many different types of personalities and made so many different kinds of friends, that my ability to be confident and comfortable around just about any group, is a skill I value above most.
2. Teaching Skills
I am a firm believer that people don't ever have to be confined to one job their whole lives. In the global world we live in, having various skills and a set of unique experiences makes us stand out from the crowd. There are people who come to Korea as qualified teachers, but there are also those of us who jump on the crazy-train to attempt a job we only practiced for 120 hours at most. But, the coolest thing is that you will be shaped into a teacher and become just that.
Over the years, I have learned plenty of valuable teaching skills. Skills even teachers who just teach regular classes would learn from. Teaching children in a foreign language is not an easy job, especially when you have to manage a classroom and children’s behavior at the same time. It is very different to be dealing with children who speak your language and can understand everything that you say. Setting up rules and controlling a group of children who don't understand everything you say, is extremely hard.
Becoming a teacher, means you have to create classroom materials and lessons that the students are interested in. Then you have to entertain the students and keep them learning and focused - all in a foreign language! This will test your confidence in many ways. By the end of your journey you will be more outgoing, less nervous around groups of people, and have confidence in acting a little silly. For myself, these skills have become invaluable. It has helped me in my own career to be more confident and work easily alongside team members. Any fears you have of life, will subside substantially and you will learn to be more energetic, and hungry for life.
3. Life Skills
Living abroad means opening up your bank accounts, being aware of filing tax at the correct time, and following a countries rules and acceptable ways to live. Responsibility is one of the key skills you obtain while living overseas. There is no one telling you where to be, or how to do it, or when to do it. More often than not, Koreans expect foreign teachers to take care of their own matters, and to be aware of the laws their country finds acceptable. As a result, more often than you’d probably like, you will find yourself being 'left in the dark' about a lot of issues and personal matters.
For myself, at first this was difficult to deal with. I did however learn a valuable skill from it and that is, to always be aware and responsible for everything that happens in my life and not constantly ask the question, "why didn't you tell me?" Essentially I learned very quickly that there won't always be people around to tell you what judgment calls to make or what the right thing is to do in a certain situations. I learned how to do thing for myself and be responsible for my words and the actions that I take.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!