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Teaching Overseas

Three Reasons Why You Should Teach Abroad

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Two young school teachers

Two young school teachers

Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images
I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. While attending the Westmount schools, I had the privilege of being taught by foreigners.

Mr. Woodward, my 8th grade geography teacher was an Australian. Mr. Tobaly, my 10th grade French teacher was a Moroccan. Mrs. Thomson, my high school orchestra teacher was a Scot. All three taught me about their cultures just by being themselves. As I recall, their standards were amazing. These were highly qualified, well educated people who just happened to love teaching.

How about you? You can be an ambassador for your country too. So, what's involved?

Teaching overseas really means teaching outside your native country. If you are an American, teaching in Canada comes close, but, no prize! You need to consider teaching in Bangladesh or Bulgaria to be able to say that you have taught overseas. In any case, why on earth would you ever want to leave to teach in a foreign country?

Consider these three reasons:

    Seeing how other people live
    Working in challenging conditions
    Gaining a global perspective
Seeing how other people live

We take so much for granted in North America. Our infrastructure for the most part is solid. Transportation, communications, and utilities generally work well. Our government is reasonably responsive. Our media is hyper active! But life certainly is different in other countries. The best way to truly experience life in another country is to reside there for more than a few days as a tourist. It's the only way you really can absorb the local culture. Learning how other people live and function on a daily basis promotes tolerance and understanding.

Working in challenging conditions

I lived in the Bahamas from 1990-1998. The Bahamas is only 100 miles off the Florida coast. Naturally I assumed that it would have first world amenities. Not so! The power and communications were unreliable. The roads were hazardous. Crime was endemic. And this was in Nassau, the country's capitol! Now jump over to education. You guessed it! Meager facilities and compensation were the norm. While there, I taught in three private schools, even started one from scratch. It was the experience of a life time. If I had the chance to do it again, I would do so without hesitation. Why? Because the inconveniences of living in a third world country are minor compared to the sense of accomplishment you feel contributing to a third world society.

Gaining a global perspective

Teaching overseas gave me the opportunity to do something which I would not have otherwise done. The experience shaped my thinking about foreign countries. It heightened my awareness of non-American points of view. It gave me increased tolerance and respect for the views and rights of non-Americans. It made me realize that Americans have more to offer besides military might and capitalism. It helped give me a global perspective on many important issues.

Conclusion

Be an educational ambassador for your country. Ordinary people like you and me interacting and living with residents of other countries can be a powerful force for understanding. The benefits are endless. You will feel needed and appreciated. You will make a difference. You will learn about a culture and society by actually immersing yourself in it. You will appreciate home so much more when you get back.

Teaching abroad is also an excellent way to gain a few years experience before settling down to do whatever it is your life's work will be.

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