First, let's do the pro's.
- You get to live in and experience another culture first-hand. Living in another country is totally different from just traveling to one. You really get an in-depth look when you live there for an extended period.
- If you want to be a teacher at home, you get good experience for your resume. Even if you don't want to be a teacher at home, living and working in another country can benefit your resume in other ways for other careers. For example, you may be able to add the language skills you've acquired, or talk about how teaching children made you more responsible.
- You learn to adapt and be flexible. Sometimes, especially if you're living in a country where you don't speak the language well (or at all), things don't go the way you planned very often. You learn how to let things roll off your back without getting so upset.
- If you like children, little kids learning English as a second language is super adorable.
- You often get to travel to surrounding countries on vacation. European countries especially are tiny compared to the United States. I can be in multiple other countries in just a couple hours.
- In some places, you will get paid a lot for not doing very much. While my salary in France is not that much overall (roughly 800 euros a month or around $1050), considering I only work 12 hours/3 days a week I think it's pretty good. In Korea, there are all sorts of incentives for teaching there, like that they will pay your round-trip flight, give you a free apartment, and give you a month's salary bonus at the end. Plus, at minimum you'll get the equivalent of $1600 a month, and in Korea, that goes a long way as it's much cheaper than Europe and on par with/a bit cheaper than the US.
- Sometimes your school and co-workers are amazing and really help you to adjust to your new surroundings. My professeur référent here in France, Flo, is absolutely amazing with this. She is so nice and helpful.
Now for the con's.
- If you don't like kids that much, it can be hell. I don't hate kids (no matter what some of my friends may tell you) but I greatly prefer working with older kids. I just don't have the ability to deal with 20 screaming 6-year-old's. In France, this isn't a problem because I work with middle schoolers, and my youngest students are 11. In Korea, I worked with 6-11 year olds, and hated teaching 1st and 2nd grade in particular. Especially because my co-teacher wasn't very accommodating about actually "Co"teaching with me, being left alone in a classroom full of non-English-speaking 6 and 7 year old whose language you don't speak either is terrifying. At that point, it's just glorified babysitting, trying to make sure they don't hit each other and make each other cry, and that they don't throw things across the room or run around and scream bloody murder.
- You are a long way from home! Even if you are dying to travel, like I was, being away from home for months at a time can be trying. Especially during the holidays! Homesickness and culture shock can exacerbate the situation. It's only natural to miss your friends and family back home. If you've never spent a Christmas away from home before, it can be sad and depressing your first time. Your best bet is probably to get together with other English teachers you've met abroad and have your own holiday celebration so you don't get lonely.
- Getting around in a country where you don't speak the language is hard. Especially if you go to a country with a completely different alphabet/writing system! Then you can't even try and fudge your way through the meanings. Even if you are trying to learn the language, it can be hard to practice it in daily life. For example, in Korea most people aren't used to hearing their language butchered (like we are with English) and they are unlikely to understand a word you say at first. In these situations, becoming a good mime helps.
- Sometimes your school and co-workers aren't very inviting and never speak to you, and/or speak about you in their language as if you weren't there and couldn't hear them saying your name. They may be reluctant to help you in situations in which you need a translator, like setting up a bank account. (Yes, this happened to me in Korea. I'll leave it at that.)
So that's about it! What do you think? Are there any other pro's and con's you can think of? Leave a comment!