Published 30th May 2021
Around here we often talk about getting qualified to teach English as a Foreign Language abroad, finding a TEFL job, and packing your bags to start your adventure teaching English abroad. But what happens when you’ve done all that and you’re ready to move on to something else? Look, even though we could happily spend our lives traipsing the globe teaching the first conditional, we know that teaching English abroad is not a forever dream for some of you. Rather, it’s a five- or ten-year plan – and that’s okay.
If this is the case, you might be wondering what your life could look like after teaching abroad.
A fresh start
First of all, we don’t want you to think of it as the end of your TEFL career. Instead, look at it as a new beginning. What awaits you back home (or wherever you decide to go next) is another brand-new adventure for you to enjoy. You will not be the same person as the one who left home to teach. You will have new skills, a new outlook on life, and, dare we say it, new friends.
If we’re honest, returning home is not always the easiest thing to do after being abroad for a while. Even if you have been keeping in touch with your friends and family regularly, you will still find yourself needing to re-integrate into your friendship circle when you come back. Your friends might not understand the experiences you’ve had, and they might not expect you to have changed – but change is inevitable! At the same time, your friends are likely to have gotten jobs, moved house, gotten married, had kids – so many life changes which also affect a person.
This stage of going back home is known as the re-entry or re-integration stage. If you’re familiar with culture shock, you’ll recognise it as one of the five stages of culture shock. Just like the other stages of culture shock, it doesn’t last forever, but it can be unsettling if you’re not expecting it.
Read more: Culture Shock
A new (improved) you
Living abroad changes you. Going abroad as a tourist or backpacker is one thing, but actually living and working in a foreign country for an extended amount of time is another thing entirely. From the moment you decide to buy that ticket, you are forced to become more responsible, more independent than you’ve ever been before. Nobody is going to find an apartment for you, go grocery shopping for you, wake you up for work every day. Everything from finding a job to setting up a phone line to opening a bank account is up to you to organise.
Besides life skills, teaching teaches you other skills too. By being a teacher, you are likely to be a very well-rounded employee. Trying to orchestrate 24 6-year olds who don’t speak your language to do an activity you want them to do teaches you serious people management skills. Marking fifty homework essays after a full day of teaching gives you stamina. Walking into a classroom and facing twelve strangers older than you and being expected to be cool, calm and collected gives you amazing public speaking practice. Juggling different classes and different levels and still being expected to remember names and curriculum details and learner specifics takes a lot of organisation and time management. Teaching gives you so many skills that would be appreciated in any number of other jobs.
Read more: Skills You’ll Pick Up Teaching English
A fork in the road
Some of us are born to be teachers. Some of us walk into our first EFL classroom and realise this is where we want to be for the rest of our working days. So that’s what we do. We teach. We teach abroad and then when we go home, we teach some more. Even if you live in an English-speaking country, chances are there are EFL learners looking for English teachers. This might be in a school or university, a language school, or private students. Many EFL teachers return home but they continue doing what they were doing abroad, be it in a classroom or online.
Others might still stay in the same field but they make a departure from the classroom. There are many other career options open to EFL teachers. With your experience in the EFL classroom, you have a very good idea of what goes on behind the scenes of an EFL school or an ELT book, so you can bring that knowledge to a number of different jobs. You might decide to get involved in materials development and writing, so you write coursebook materials or lesson plans for a publisher or sell them independently. You could get a job in the marketing department of an EFL school. If you wanted to still have contact with students and teachers you can become a Director of Studies.
Read more: What are the Next Steps in My TEFL Career?
Or you could choose to go into another field entirely. Maybe your experience teaching Business English made you realise you want to be in a more corporate context. Maybe teaching English abroad showed you how much you actually enjoy your previous job, so you decide to return there. Or maybe, being immersed in a foreign culture showed you that you want to be involved in international relations, or travel. Quite possibly, if you’ve learnt a foreign language you might choose to study that further and find work in translation. Or, if you loved the lifestyle that TEFL gave you but not so much the classroom, maybe you choose to become a digital nomad – and go back overseas again!
Back to school
Some TEFL teachers move abroad in between life stages. They have just graduated from high school and need a gap year (or five!) to decide what they really want to do with their lives. Being abroad and teaching helps them figure out which course of study is right for them, so when they go home they go back into a classroom but become a student again.
Some TEFL teachers choose to study further in Education or EFL and study for a teacher’s license or a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Education or EFL. After a few years of teaching, you might choose to do the Delta. These qualifications can be used to go back overseas and teach in better-paying jobs or more senior teaching positions.
Others may choose to do something completely different. Applying for tertiary education these days is competitive and your application needs to stand out in some way. Having some experience teaching English abroad is a great addition to any CV. All the skills you pick up by teaching abroad show your willingness to take chances, your flexibility when it comes to change, and your independence and sense of responsibility. Plus, you might have learnt a foreign language on your travels which is always a bonus!
So, what will your life look like after teaching English abroad? Who knows? But one thing we do know is that your life will be forever changed, in the best way possible!