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Life After Teaching Abroad: 5 Ways to Transition

Teaching abroad with a class

So you just finished up a contract teaching English abroad, but now what? Maybe you went abroad for some adventure, a change of scene. Maybe you went because the economy wasn’t working in your favor. Whatever the reason, now's the time to move onto your next stage in life. With the possibility of reverse culture shock dragging you down, this can be no easy task.

One surefire way to stay ahead of the game and avoid succumbing to reverse culture shock is to continue down a path with an international focus. Being proactive about your new everyday activities can lessen the sting of moving back. Whether you choose to enter the work force or start volunteering in your spare time, there are a number of ways to keep your experience alive in your life after teaching abroad.

You are now equipped with a wide range of skills and experiences that can be a great asset to your future. Consider pursuing one of these five ways to transition after teaching English abroad.

1. Teach at an International School

If you are a qualified teacher and want to put your skills to good use, become an international teacher. This is different than teaching English abroad because you will be working at a school with an international curriculum teaching what you specialize in, such as math, music, or even grade three in an elementary school. The top international schools require a valid teaching certificate and a couple of years experience, so you need to be prepared.

Landing an international teaching job, however, is no easy task, but there are plenty of experts out there ready to help you find the job of your dreams. The best thing to do is get hooked up with a recruiter like ISS or SEARCH and network, network, network. They also sponsor some of the biggest job fairs in the international world.

Many schools offer a professional development budget, attractive settling in bonuses, and paid flights home, so it is a great way to see the world and continue with a career you love. You may want to consider taking a job in a place that wasn’t your first choice. Once you are in the international circles, it is much easier to change jobs after your contract is up. The longer you are in, the better your chances are for getting both the school and location that tops your list.

2. Become a Teacher in the United States

Teach in the US

If you don’t have the teaching credentials just yet but still have a passion for teaching, there are programs in areas around the United States where you can gain experience and a teaching certificate at the same time. Teach Now provides all the information you could need about how to find an alternative route to teacher certification.

If working in the classroom pulls on your heartstrings, and you enjoy working with kids in need, then Teach for America (TFA) may be for you. TFA recruits people from all backgrounds and experience levels. It’s a fantastic way to further your professional abilities even more in the areas of organization, facing challenges, and building leadership skills.

TFA requires a two year commitment and though you can preference your location assignment, know that this gig often places teachers in under serviced school communities around the US. Two years of service will look great on a resume and serve as a good complement to your former teaching abroad experiences. For recent college grads, you can also look into deferring school payments or checking out loan forgiveness opportunities.

3. Make a Career of Teaching English Abroad

If you're constantly day dreaming of your life in a foreign country, you may opt to head back overseas for a teach abroad victory lap. If you're feeling ultra-adventurous, you might consider checking out a new country or continent this time around. What's more, your options aren't limited to the some 175+ countries you can teach abroad in. There are other ways to make a career of teaching English abroad, including moving into teacher training or ESL/EFL publishing.

If you really loved where you taught English abroad, then you can also consider starting your international teaching career there. Your former employer could connect you with a local school or other job opportunities, allowing you to gain even more diverse experience.

Many international companies also hire people to teach English if you are looking to jump into the corporate world. There are plenty of people who make a life teaching English in different locations whether it is in the classroom or as a private tutor too. Or you can choose a different continent completely and spend your life traveling the world. Native English speakers are in demand all over the world. The world is your oyster, take advantage of it!

Try out the jungle.

4. Hit the Books and Go Back to School

Going abroad opens up new ways of thinking about the world, and it may even open up new possibilities for a career. Most English teaching jobs allow for saving money, so why not put that money to good use and invest in your educational future. Student loans always get deferred while you are in school, so that’s a huge bonus too.

There are so many interdisciplinary and internationally minded graduate school programs where you could extend the base of international skills that you have gained abroad. You could even choose to attend a university in another country and beef up your language skills. If you are interested in taking your TESOL certification to the next level, check out financial aid opportunities for schools with graduate programs in language acquisition. The possibilities are truly endless!

5. Get Involved with a Nonprofit or Volunteer Organization

Depending on where you taught English, you may have been given some first hand insight about the needs around the world (and how a lot of basic ones are not being met). There are a multitude of organizations who are looking for employees just like you, individuals who are able to work in diverse, multicultural environments and are looking to give back in meaningful ways. Maybe you had a memorable elephant encounter in Thailand or became fast friends with an elderly man in China.

If helping the world really speaks to you, then perhaps a career with a nonprofit humanitarian or conservation organization is the perfect route for you. You could be a grant writer for a small conservation organization or a volunteer coordinator for a nonprofit focused on education or hunger eradication. English teaching skills are transferrable, so combining your passions is the perfect formula.

It’s not easy to come back home once you have been immersed in another culture for so long, but your international adventure doesn’t have to be over. Though the transition may take days, weeks, or months, switching your focus to some of the above suggestions will help you connect your experience abroad with your life back home.

In fact, you can use the skills you gained to develop a meaningful career in any country. Whichever path you may take when you return from teaching English abroad, be confident in knowing that you now have an important skill set that can take you in any direction you choose.

Stay ahead of the game and avoid succumbing to reverse culture shock is to continue down a path with an international focus. Being proactive about your new everyday activities can lessen the sting of moving back.

Photo Credits: nmhschool, CEA, and paulappleton.

Erin Dowd

Erin is a New Jersey native who has spent time on 6 of 7 of the world's continents, some of which as a volunteer in both Tanzania and Honduras. Learn more about her travel adventures at Dowd Travels, Amster Dowd, or on Twitter @eedowd27 and Google+.