9 Reasons Why Teaching Abroad is Better Than a 9-5 After College

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Kylie

So you’ve crossed the stage, received your diploma, and turned your tassel. University has officially come to an end and everyone asks you …

“What are your plans now?”

Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida, Bali

Some people are ready to begin their careers, but what if that’s not you? Maybe you don’t feel ready to start an “adult job”. Perhaps you don’t even know your dreams, goals, or passions.

Here are 10 reasons that convinced me why teaching abroad was superior to entering the workforce straight out of college!

All photos were uploaded with permission

1) If you can speak English, you can teach abroad (plus, foreign teachers are in high demand)

If you’re a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree, you can apply for teaching opportunities abroad. Especially if you’re fresh out of college and aren’t sure what you want to do with your degree, teaching abroad is perfect. As long as you have a bachelor’s degree, you can teach any subject whether it’s English (the most common), science, math, or art. 

Teaching English to primary students in Thailand

And because of the high turnover (most foreign teachers will only work for a year or two) and increasing value in learning English, the job market is massive.

2) Teaching abroad doesn’t demand unrealistic requirements

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, some schools require a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate, but they’re easy to obtain and last a lifetime. As long as you have one of those certificates, securing teaching jobs abroad is easy.

Click here to compare TEFL and TESOL certificates and see which one is right for you. In my experience, TEFL seems to be the most common certificate requirement.

3) In essence, you’re “paid” to travel!

Imagine coming home from work and then venturing out to explore the city at night, or heading to a neighboring country for a quick weekend getaway. That’s what work-life balance looks like when teaching abroad. As a foreign teacher, you have numerous opportunities to see new places and experience new things, whether it’s wandering around a national park, observing elephants at a sanctuary, or exploring temples.

Visiting temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Schools typically cover rent when teaching through a program, leaving you with only utilities to pay. Because of this, your paycheck can be directly used towards traveling in your free time.

Remember, your priority is teaching, but what other jobs offer recent college graduates the chance to live abroad and travel the world?

4) Save $$$ on traveling in the long run

Country hopping is MUCH cheaper when you’re living abroad. During my semester break, I traveled from Thailand to Bali, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Each flight cost about $60 USD on average. Compare that to a $1500 roundtrip for a week-long vacation to one country alone.

While teaching abroad, you don’t have to stress over squeezing everything into a limited amount of time. You can easily fly back during your next holiday or semester break. So instead of rushing to see and do everything like a typical tourist, you’re able to travel at your own pace.

5) See the world in a new light apart from tourists

Teaching abroad provides an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in a completely new culture for an extended period – something the average traveler can never fully experience. 

Living in tight-knit communities, creating relationships with locals, and allowing your students to share their lifestyle with you – there’s no way you can experience this from a week’s stay in a hostel. Immersing yourself in a new country gives you an in-depth look at a new lifestyle.

teaching English to primary students in Thailand

6) Teaching abroad lets you experience deep self-reflection and growth

There’s A LOT of internal growth and self-reflection happening without you even realizing it. You’re forced to learn how to navigate life alone in a foreign country with language barriers and culture shock. You’re faced with moments of self-doubt and loneliness. But above all, teaching abroad sheds a lot of light on developing cultural humility

Visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand

This challenges you to reflect on the things that have shaped your worldview. Visiting a country briefly doesn’t allow you to undergo this kind of self-reflection.

7) A foot in the door for future opportunities to work abroad

Teaching abroad gives you a foot in the door to continue work and life abroad. By already having work experience and presently living abroad, scoring another job is much easier than applying from your home country. This gives employers a sense of security, knowing you’ll be around for some time and have already adjusted to living in their country. Foreign employers would much rather choose someone already in their country as opposed to someone still living in their home country.

teaching English to elementary students in Thailand

8) Stand out from other applicants when applying to jobs back home

Listing “teaching abroad” on your resume makes you stand out amongst the rest of your competition when applying for jobs back home. Adaptability, clear communication, and collaboration are just a few strengths that come with teaching abroad. 

You’ll have countless personal experiences to rely on during a job interview. Anecdotes of teaching abroad in Thailand will be much more memorable than someone sharing a customer interaction from a past job experience. You’ll appear open-minded and adaptable to change just by sharing stories of your life abroad.

9) Create memories of a lifetime

Despite the challenging moments in the classroom, you’ll never forget life overseas as a young adult.

Not many are brave enough to leave their comfort zone and live in a new country fully immersed in a new culture and lifestyle. The relationships you create within your community, humility in learning from a new cultural perspective, and the ease of traveling, outweigh any job you’ll get straight out of college.

teaching English to primary students in Thailand

So now when someone asks, “What are your plans after college?”, will it include teaching abroad? 

Check out my other resources on teaching abroad:

Your Stress-Free Guide to Start Teaching English in Thailand
Cultural Differences in the Thai Classroom
Day in the Life of a Teacher in Thailand
Celebrating Teachers’ Day in Thailand (Wai Kru Day)

Recommended programs to teach abroad

JET Program USA (Japan)
CIEE – The program I used to teach in Thailand
EPIK (Korea)
International TEFL and TESOL Training
International TEFL Academy

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24 Comments

  1. August 15, 2020 / 8:50 am

    What a great experience – it’s something I definitely wish I’d done when I was younger.

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:03 pm

      It was amazing! I’m already looking at teaching abroad again 🙂

  2. August 15, 2020 / 8:54 am

    Great insights here! Teaching abroad can be a great way to travel and gain some life experience after college. I did my TEFL in Chiang Mai and although I’m yet to use it, it’s a great skill to have under your belt.

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:03 pm

      I agree!! 🙂

  3. August 15, 2020 / 9:04 am

    I think that teaching abroad is a wonderful way to travel and immerse yourself in a new country. I would certainly recommend it.

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:04 pm

      Yes! Even if you aren’t a recent college grad, it’s still well worth it 🙂

  4. August 15, 2020 / 11:02 am

    Teaching abroad sounds like a great experience!

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:04 pm

      It really is 🙂 I’m hoping to do it again!

  5. Julie
    August 15, 2020 / 4:39 pm

    Great post. I’m not quite your demographic 🙂 but my oldest is about to graduate college and I couldn’t agree with you more! I sent her this post. Really good advice – thanks!

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:05 pm

      I graduated a few years back, but definitely wish I had done this right out of college! Even still, it was well worth the experience! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  6. August 15, 2020 / 6:41 pm

    Teaching abroad is something that crosses my mind often – the biggest thing holding me back was the cost to get there and not speaking another language, so it was eye opening to read those aren’t necessary! If I don’t get in to a PhD program, I really think I’ll do this. I’m just sad I missed it for this year!

    • August 15, 2020 / 9:10 pm

      Ultimately it depends on the program/country you choose – my program didn’t cover airline fees, but several others do. I also didn’t know any Thai when I arrived, but you pick up on the language over time 🙂 YES! I hope you get into your Ph.D. program, but if not I totally encourage you to try teaching!

  7. August 15, 2020 / 9:42 pm

    I wish I would have taken advantage of teaching abroad after I graduated from college. I really regret not doing it. This is a great post and so helpful for new graduates to figure out if this is something they want to do.

    • August 16, 2020 / 8:33 pm

      It’s never too late to try it out! 🙂 and thank you! I wish I had done this straight out of college! (I taught 2 years after graduating)

  8. Kelli
    August 15, 2020 / 10:52 pm

    I know so many people who have taught abroad and they all love it. Thanks for sharing!

  9. August 15, 2020 / 11:12 pm

    LOVE this post – I’ve had the chance to teach at summer camps during university breaks and loved my experience. Working a 9 to 5 now and very tempted to do something like this again.

  10. August 16, 2020 / 2:54 am

    I completely agree that teaching abroad is an incredible opportunity to travel and learn about other places / cultures in a way that is very different than just vacationing somewhere. I also agree with a lot your points, but my experience was definitely a bit different. I taught in Guatemala City for a year in 2010, and straight out of college I didn’t have much money to travel around. I got to do a bit of traveling while there, but not much because I couldn’t really afford it. But, this sparked my desire to continue working internationally, and has really shaped aspects of who I am today. One other point I will add is to think about the age group of learners you want to work with. I ended up loving my younger kids, but past 4th grade was not my cup of tea.

    • August 16, 2020 / 8:20 pm

      That’s so cool you got to teach in Guatemala City! I totally feel you in that aspect – I had to really learn how to budget travel when I lived in Thailand. I love that teaching sparked your desire to continue pursuing international work. And that’s a really great point! I loved working with the little ones, but found teaching the older kids much more challenging.

  11. August 16, 2020 / 5:23 am

    I’ve been heavily considering this for a while! Loved reading your perspective on it and this just might be the motivation to make that leap, thank you!

    • August 16, 2020 / 8:22 pm

      Yes!! I totally encourage you to try it out! 🙂 I’m thinking about going back to teach as well

  12. August 16, 2020 / 3:24 pm

    Teaching abroad was my plan in 1990, then I met my husband. 30 years and 3 children later, this is still a bucket list item for me.

    My eldest just graduated and is starting Teacher’s College. I planted that seed in her head since she was a child.

    I’m really hoping she teaches in Korea on day.

    Sending her this post for inspiration.

    • August 16, 2020 / 8:31 pm

      You can totally do it! I’ve seen others in the same boat teach abroad 🙂 And aaah I hope she does too! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • August 23, 2020 / 7:48 am

      Thank you so much! 🙂

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