In late 2013, my husband and I began exploring our options for living abroad. We understood that getting hired abroad would be challenging, considering the fierce competition and our lack of local language skills in Europe and the Middle East. We also decided that attending grad school in Europe wasn’t an option for us at the time because we needed to pay of debt and gain more professional experience in our relative fields…not to mention that I already had a master’s degree and couldn’t justify leaving the labor force to get a second one.
OUR MOTIVATION FOR MOVING ABROAD
By some twist of fate, I came across the idea of teaching English abroad around the same time we became antsy about staying put in our current living situation. I had heard about teaching English abroad a decade prior, but never considered it a ‘professional’ opportunity’. I thought it was what 22 year olds did so they could travel, instead of putting their college degree to use. While many do choose to teach English abroad as a means to pay for travel, after a lot of research, I realized that it could also be the stepping stone we needed to get from where we were to where we wanted to be.
We initially started our search to live abroad because our lives in Indiana were not in alignment with our global life ingredients. My husband and I found less and less career satisfaction as each day passed and came to the harsh realization that, as we were nearing 30, our window of opportunity to live abroad together, without kids, would soon be closed. We were also in the terrible situation of watching my childhood friend battle breast cancer, one which she lost a few weeks after we left for our jobs teaching English in Turkey.
PERCEIVED BENEFITS OF TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD
As I already mentioned, there were many reasons we wanted to live abroad, but there were two reasons which ultimately led to us signing our contracts:
- Financial Stability – we did the math and found that we could continue paying off debt and saving the same amount of money per month with the job offer we got.
- Professional Development – Teaching English abroad aligned well with my previous work history in adult education and international education. As long as I was teaching English to adults, not children, I could justify this career break on my resume and during job interviews. For my husband, who wanted to transition into another field of work, working in a professional environment with adults was one way he could continue to develop skills which could be used in a variety of career trajectories he was considering. Specifically, he wanted to further develop his knowledge of the Middle East, and so, living in Turkey would contribute to that.
ACTUAL BENEFITS OF TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD
Instead of using teaching English abroad as an escape from an unfulfilling situation; we used it strategically. It was a path towards career freedom and happiness. Our experience in Turkey impacted our careers, finances and marriage. Working together had so many benefits which strengthened our already solid foundation.
We were also able to use our time abroad to think about and act strategically on our careers. For my husband, he was able to establish a professional network in Turkey. One outcome of networking was an opportunity to teach English to Turkish diplomats prior to their deployment to Turkish Embassies around the world. Likewise, he was able to reflect on his career aspirations, which led to his enrollment in a master’s program in our current place of residence, Sweden.
I took advantage of our generous vacation policy to attend a research seminar in Milan where I networked with professionals in my field. One person I met in Milan led me to the PhD program I’m currently a part of in the Netherlands. I also launched and grew Longing to Travel in the months before and just after arriving in Turkey, which is still the only resource for advice on professional development while abroad.
In short, while the actual job of teaching English was enjoyable and financially sustainable, it was the unanticipated things, like having the time to figure out what we wanted in our personal and professional lives, which were the real benefits of teaching English abroad.
If you want more help navigating this process, or simply want to talk to a real person about your questions, contact me for a TEFL consultation.