Do you dream of teaching in a foreign country? The thought of jetting off to live in a far flung destination is enough to make most of us a little nervous, but if your fears are seriously standing in the way of your dreams, you may feel as though they'll never become a reality.
However, with a little determination, a dash of perseverance and a pinch of grit, you can realise your dream. Here are some practical suggestions for overcoming those fears.
1. Do something scary at home
Whether it's a bungee jump, holding a spider, or facing another phobia, conquering a fear at home will help you to prove to yourself that you're capable of a lot more than you think. After the experience, you may realise that what you were frightened of wasn't quite as scary as you thought; and even if it was scary, you managed to do it anyway!
2. Get experience in local schools or English language centres
This is a great idea for plenty of reasons:
- You'll develop useful skills that you can use in the classroom later on
- You'll feel like you're making a step forward towards your goal, which is massively encouraging and empowering
- Working with students may inspire you so much that you feel more excited by, than scared of, the prospect of teaching
Working with students will also allow you to have a taster of the experiences you're likely to have as a teacher. You may be able to lead small groups, and even work your way up to leading the whole class in an activity. Being able to practice in this way will slowly build your confidence while you're in your home environment, making you feel more capable of using your skills abroad.
3. Visit your dream destination on vacation
If you can afford it, paying your ideal teaching location a short visit may be enough for you to fall in love with it. And once you've fallen in love, you'll be inspired to go back for a longer period – in fact, you will probably be so excited about the prospect that your fears will feel less powerful than they once did.
4. Read online TEFL reviews of your chosen country
If you can't afford the airfare or accommodation for a vacation, then blogs are the next best thing. Many TEFL teachers regularly update blogs about their experiences, and they're based in countries all over the world. A quick search online should be all it takes to find someone who has written about teaching in your chosen country.
TeacherAisling's blog features a range of beautiful photographs, while TeachingJack's enthusiasm for travelling and teaching is completely infectious. Once you've taken a look at a few blogs like these, you'll be so full of inspiration and excitement that there will be little room for your fears.
5. Talk to teachers using their TEFL abroad
Believe it or not, most people are pretty scared before they make the leap to teach abroad. Find TEFL forums online (like Dave's ESL Café), or send a message to your favourite blogger, to ask for advice and find out how other TEFL teachers overcame their fears. They'll be able to offer practical advice as well as encouragement – and they're living proof that it can be done!
6. Make lists
Sometimes, it helps to get everything down on paper so that you can work out what you're dealing with. Make lists of the following:
- Why you're scared. Identifying exactly what it is that you're frightened of will help you to face your fears, and take practical steps to overcoming them. Are you worried about speaking in front of large groups, or being away from your family? There are ways to deal with most problems like these; like practising speaking in front of friends, and then your local school; or figuring out an affordable way to keep in touch with folks back home.
- Times you've been brave. You may think that you're a wimp, but trust me – you aren't. You will have many examples of instances when you've been brave, and remembering these occasions will help you to realise your potential and feel more confident. If you find it hard to make this list, ask a friend or family member to help you.
- Reasons why you should go. This list will probably be rather long, but if you need some inspiration to get you started, check out this post by Jeremy at High Existence.
7. Just do it
The ideas above will go a long way, but won't necessarily leave you completely free of nerves. At some point, you will just have to bite the bullet and go for it. However, chances are that as soon as you step off that plane, you'll be so swept up in the adventure that your fears will have to take a backseat.
So, how should you go about starting your TEFL adventure?
- Get qualified. To teach English abroad, you'll need to do a TEFL certification course.
- Decide on where you'll teach. Research possible contenders first – EssentialTravel, our country guides and Lonely Planet are good places to start.
- Find a job. Your TEFL certification company may be able to help with this, and Dave's ESL Café has an excellent jobs board.
- Get out there! Take a deep breath, get over to your dream destination, and enjoy your adventure!
What advice would you offer apprehensive would-be teachers? Let me know in the comments. And if you know someone who might benefit from the ideas above, please feel free to share!