Deciding to spend a year teaching English in France after I graduated from college was almost a no-brainer for me. I had studied in Paris for one semester as a junior, but felt I hadn’t had enough time to fully adapt to the culture.
Living and teaching abroad proved to be drastically different from that semester and was more challenging than I anticipated, but I wouldn’t trade that year for anything. If you love travel and languages, are interested in teaching, or want to do something outside of your comfort zone before finding a full-time job, here’s why you should consider teaching English or volunteering in another country.
You’ll have some time to think about your career path. You have your entire life ahead of you to sit at a desk, and while teaching or volunteering abroad shouldn’t be a way to escape from the real world, why not take the opportunity to do something different before entering the corporate world?
I knew I wanted to try teaching, but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue it as a career. The assistantship program was perfect for me because it was only a year-long commitment, allowing me to discover whether or not I loved teaching. Plus, it looks great on my resume. It provided the skills and credentials I needed to find a part-time teaching position and French translation gigs after I returned to the States.
You can learn another language. I majored in French, so one of my chief motivations for going back to France, in addition to teaching, was to continue learning French and ultimately become fluent. Many teaching assistantship programs don’t require you to have any previous experience with the language, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn a language, there is no better place to go than the country of origin.
Teaching abroad provides unparalleled opportunities to travel. When I talk about my year in France, many people tell me how much they wished they had done something like that because travel opportunities become more limited once you start working full-time. I was able to spend Christmas in Strasbourg, revisit Paris, and visit my friend in Switzerland!
You’ll become more independent and confident than you ever thought possible. Living by myself in a small southern French town was completely different from my study abroad experience, during which I had the cushion of American friends in my program and the excitement of Paris. At times, I was lonely and frustrated living alone in a quiet town, but after I completed that year, I felt like I could accomplish anything.
Studying, volunteering, and teaching abroad all provide great opportunities to continue learning and to broaden your horizons. I don’t teach anymore, but I learned lifelong skills I can apply to any job, and I still stay in touch with some of the students and friends I made while living there.
Photo credit: Flickr