Teaching English in Asia is a fantastic opportunity for adventure and a good way to gain teaching experience if that is your chosen career path. To fully appreciate your time and to experience life in Asia to the fullest, it’s important to try to completely immerse yourself in the culture and your teaching job.
1) Be realistic about where you might get placed.
If you’re going with a large company, you may not get any choice in which school you’re placed in. This is quite common if you choose to teach English in Thailand, but remember, if you do get put somewhere you didn’t particularly want to go, or somewhere you’ve never even heard of, don’t panic! It may not be what you expected but it’s likely you’ll end up falling in love with wherever you stay.
Travel in Asia is astoundingly cheap and it would be a shame not to make the most of your experience by seeing as much of the country you’re in as possible. Teaching English certainly isn’t one long holiday, but you should make time where possible to see the country you are living in. Use weekends to visit different regions and explore. In Thailand, for example, it’s possible to travel vast distances for very little and a five hour journey will only cost you a few dollars — get out there and see as much as you can!
3) Learn the language.
Even learning a little bit of the lingo is invaluable, especially in more remote areas where very little English is spoken. You can make your life so much easier by learning basic classroom instructions and being able to communicate with the kids. If you want to teach English in China, for example, many programs will even include lessons for you to learn local language!
4) Get to know the kids.
Although it might feel like a holiday sometimes, one very important aspect of your year in Asia is to try to gain more confidence as a teacher. Invest time and energy into getting to know the children you teach and helping them to learn.
This may well be the most rewarding part of your year, and you never know, you might end up staying for much longer than you planned to…
5) Be respectful of the local culture.
Respecting local customs by dressing and behaving correctly means you will gain the respect of local teachers and opens up the potential of friendship with them. It’s also just plain good manners. Don’t try to fight the local culture, instead be open minded and accepting of it.
6) Get involved in the school/local community.
Depending on which country you’re in, this shouldn’t be too hard as the locals tend to be warm and friendly, especially in Thailand. Getting to know the teachers in your school can lead to invitations to parties where you can meet new people, and even to wedding invitations! Being open to new experiences and friendships will allow you to experience even more of the local culture.
7) Make a network of fellow foreign teacher friends.
Whilst it’s a good idea to get to know the local teachers, making friends with other foreign teachers in the same situation as you can be helpful too. There will be times when you feel homesick, but having people around who are in the same boat makes it much easier. Meeting up with friends you made on the teaching course at weekends also provides a nice change from school life, and gives you the chance to have an in depth conversation in English too!
8) Eat local foods.
You might not have much choice in the matter, but part of immersing yourself fully in the experience of living somewhere new means eating like a local. Be adventurous and try new dishes.
Some teaching courses even offer cooking lessons as part of the deal, so you can learn how to make your favorite new dish and recreate it back home.
9) Be on the lookout for your next job.
Once you’ve been out there for a while and gained some experience, finding the next job will be so much easier. Depending on the length of your contract, some of which can be only a few months long, you can spend your first term at one school and then move on to new pastures .
Enjoy the adventure by meeting as many new people as possible, immersing yourself in the language and culture and gaining confidence as a teacher.
You may never want to come home!
This is a guest post from Robert, an avid traveler, writer and ESL teacher with experience teaching English in Asia. I strive to only publish quality content from paying contributors, and will not publish anything I don’t agree with or do not think you, my readers, will enjoy.