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

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

“What are your plans now?!”

Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida, Bali

Are you ready to take on that 9-5 job earning two weeks vacation once a year? Sitting at a cubicle, working tirelessly to pay off those student loans? Moving back home to the same surroundings and people you grew up with?

Now don’t get me wrong – 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?

What if you don’t even know who you are? 

Here are 10 reasons that convinced me why teaching abroad was FAR SUPERIOR to working a 9-5 straight out of college!

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

Great news! 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

Also, you don’t have to worry about not finding a teaching job – there are SO MANY positions available in all levels (preschool, primary school, high school, college, private classes, etc.).

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. Thousands of positions are readily available to native English speakers, making it easy for recent college graduates to secure teaching opportunities abroad.

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 will be easy. So you don’t necessarily need any prior experience teaching (although it definitely helps); all you need is to be a native English speaker and hold a bachelor’s degree.

Teaching English to primary students in Thailand

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) You’re essentially “paid” to travel!

Imagine coming home from work and then heading out to explore a new city at night, or flying to another 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 camping at a national park, bathing elephants at a sanctuary, or exploring ancient temples.

On top of your monthly salary, your school may even pay for accommodations (housing, a car, motorbike, etc.) or cover your airfare into the country. So in essence, your paycheck can be directly used towards traveling in your free time!

Typically, schools cover rent, leaving you with only utilities to pay. Although less common, schools that don’t provide housing or cover those expenses will help you find a place, and offer a higher monthly salary to leverage those expenses. 

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

4) Save LOTS of $$$ 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, to Vietnam, to Taiwan, and back to Thailand. Each flight costs about $60 USD on average! Compare that to an $800 roundtrip for a week-long vacation to one country alone.

While teaching abroad, you don’t have the stress of trying to squeeze everything in such 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) You can pay off student debt WHILE teaching abroad!

Who would’ve thought that recent college graduates can actually SAVE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING THE WORLD? Because most schools cover the cost of housing (or pay a slightly higher salary to offset rent), the bulk of your paycheck can be saved for traveling and paying off that lingering student debt. 

Now before you get too excited, it’s important to note that teachers’ salaries vary significantly around the world. Generally, teachers in Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia will be able to support themselves comfortably and travel, but they may not be able to save up a significant amount. Whereas teachers in South Korea can save between $10,000 to $15,000 USD annually (after expenses). Those in Japan, Vietnam, and China can save anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 USD annually. If saving money is one of your priorities, then placement is definitely a huge factor to take into consideration.

teaching English to primary students in Thailand

When I taught in Thailand, I was paid 30,000 baht monthly (plus 3,000 for rent) and after four months of teaching, I managed to save around $900 USD. So even though as a foreign teacher, you aren’t necessarily “rolling in the dough”, the time spent immersed in another culture and having the freedom to travel frequently drastically outweighs sitting at an office job for that 2-week vacation.

See also: Your Stress-Free Guide to Start Teaching English in Thailand

6) 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 of time – 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 taste of local cuisine, an appreciation for their celebrations/holidays, and insight into their day-to-day life.

teaching English to primary students in Thailand

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

Teaching abroad isn’t all fun and games – there’s A LOT of internal growth and self-reflection happening without 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

Developing a sense of cultural humility recognizes that your perspective on life or cultural norms isn’t “better” or superior to others. We all inherently assume our cultural upbringing (such as shaking hands when greeting one another, or wearing shoes in the house) is standard, which is why culture shock happens when we’re placed in a completely new environment. This internal struggle ultimately leads to adaptability and humility in recognizing that there is SO MUCH we can learn from other cultures around us (ex. Students’ high respect for teachers in Thailand).

You’ll likely stand out while living in a foreign country as a minority. This challenges you to reflect on your cultural lens (things that have shaped your worldview). Visiting a country for a few weeks time doesn’t allow you to undergo this deep self-reflection. No matter what path you go down after teaching abroad, this growth will serve you well in the long run.

8) An easy foot-in-the-door for future opportunities to work abroad

Curious about ex-pat life? 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 relatively easy. 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

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

Listing “teaching abroad” on your resume clearly stands 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. 

Think about it – your job requires teaching core subjects to students who don’t speak your native language. Plus, you’re expected to hold their attention for the duration of each lesson (trust me, this can be exhausting!). This definitely strengthens your leadership capabilities and communication skills! Employers, no matter what field you apply in, will be impressed with your ability to adapt to a completely new environment with language barriers and culture shock.

In addition to improving your skills, you’ll have countless personal experiences to rely on during an interview. Anecdotes of teaching abroad in Thailand or South Korea 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.

10) Create memories of a lifetime

Your time teaching abroad is precious and will leave a lasting impact on you and your students. Despite the challenging moments in the classroom, you’ll never forget those kids and will look back fondly on those days.

And one of the biggest perks, the chance to travel fresh out of college, is priceless. Not many are brave enough to drop everything to live in a new country and fully immerse in another culture. However, the relationships you create with locals, humility in learning from a new cultural perspective, and the freedom to country-hop, 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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  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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