By Hamish Wills
I’ll start as I mean to go on: I believe the benefits of teaching abroad are countless. Not only does the teacher benefit from immersion in a different culture, but the students also profit from a native speaker delivering their lessons which improves their accents as well as their confidence in the target language. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
In my case, teaching in China provides a great opportunity for me to improve my Mandarin, from talking with colleagues to asking for directions in the street. Beyond breaking the language barrier, living in a country as different from the west as China enables you to really achieve a fuller understanding of the culture and the psyche of the local people. This was one thing I found very hard to fully comprehend from a classroom in my own country.
The main benefits in my view of teaching abroad are the opportunity to learn or improve a new language, to be surrounded by a new culture, and last but not least a rare chance to interact with the people from that country. This is particularly important in a country such as China, where many of its citizens are yet to have left their own country, and which just a generation ago was closed to the outside world. By working as a teacher, I am able to break down barriers and engage with students who have never met a Westerner.
I would encourage anyone interested in understanding a new language or culture to teach abroad in that particular country. It may be difficult at first but the benefits will far outnumber the inconveniences. You should remind yourself of this if ever you have second thoughts after arriving.
I found the single most significant personal change after having taught abroad was a new perspective on my own country that would not have been possible had I not embarked on teaching positions abroad. I am also really grateful for the like-minded people I’ve met whilst abroad. I believe they will remain life-long friends.