Now several months have passed since you graduated college. All your classmates and friends are applying for jobs and starting their careers, but you're still searching.
So whether you're feeling trapped by the American Dream, or you're panicking because you haven't found a job for next year, consider teaching abroad.
Slowly but surely, the questions start creeping in. "Did I pick the right major?" "Do I have enough internships?" "Is this what I really want to do with the rest of my life?" "Where DO I see myself in five years?!" How do I know? That was me two years ago.
Do You Really, Truly, Honestly Want that 9-5 Yet?
I thought I had it all figured out. I would graduate and start a career in International Education. I'd get a job at an amazing company in Washington DC, helping Americans study abroad in "non-traditional locations". I'd decorate a cute apartment, work the 9-5 and save up for the inevitable costs of being an adult.
As a chronic overachiever, I've had the "American Dream" beaten into me since birth. I always studied hard and worked harder. I would overload myself with internships and activities to get into the best college and find the perfect job. But when everyone was applying for jobs and accepting graduate school offers, I couldn't help but feel trapped. My worst fear was getting my dream job.
I was so afraid that I would find an amazing job with a fantastic company and never leave. I was so worried that I would never see the world. I didn't want to spend all my hard-earned money decorating an apartment and buying a car. I wanted to explore Tibet, backpack Southeast Asia, and experience expat life in China.
So that's precisely what I did.
With no job to quit, no lease to break, no boyfriend to dump, and no children to raise, I literally had nothing holding me back.
So whether you're feeling trapped by the American Dream, or you're panicking because you haven't found a job for next year, relax, and instead look towards teaching abroad. As someone who did exactly this, here are my reasons why:
You'll Have More Independence in Work and Life
Contrary to what everyone tells you growing up, most people don't have an amazing job immediately after graduation. Many recent graduates get jobs as receptionists or waitresses while they apply for graduate school or search for other jobs. Inherently, your lack of job experience puts you at the bottom of the food chain. Teaching, on the other hand, allows you to immediately take charge of a classroom and in many ways be more of your own boss than you would elsewhere.
Furthermore, you'll be more independent financially. Lots of people move back home for a few months, and rely on their parents to help them through the first year. It's actually pretty rare for anyone to be on-track to their "dream job" immediately after graduation.
Teaching abroad as a salaried professional, you'll be able to immediately support yourself post-graduation. I was proud to be living on my own, debt free, paying for everything myself. It felt good to have a job with a salary. It was a feeling of accomplishment I'd never felt before.
If you're having trouble securing a job that will support you, consider teaching abroad. Many programs will give you free housing and discounted meals in addition to a full salary.
How Much Will You Make Teaching Abroad?
Read one of the following teach abroad salary guides to find out:
Not to mention, teacher salaries are normally more than enough to afford a comfortable living in your host country -- meaning you won't be counting coupons every month while you wait for your next paycheck. You'll also have extra money you can put towards paying off those student loans before they accumulate too much interest.
See the World While You're Still Young
As a young twenty-something with no real commitments, now is the perfect time to see the world! The older you get, the harder it becomes to leave everything behind. Slowly, the commitments and excuses accumulate until suddenly you wake up and you're married with kids and a mortgage.
There will never be a perfect time to move abroad. There will always be something holding you back, whether it's family and friends, a relationship or maybe even furniture and car you don't know what to do with. If living abroad is something you've always dreamed of doing, now is as easy as it will ever be.
I have met so many older travelers who have quit their 9-5 jobs to travel the world. A common theme among all these older backpackers is that they wished they took the time to travel the world when they were young. These people followed the beaten path and realized ten years down the road that they were missing something. I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "You're so smart! I wish I would have been brave enough to live abroad in my twenties!" Learn from them.
Experience a Culture Through Immersion
Living, studying and working in China for the last few years has really helped me understand Chinese culture. I have many deep friendships with Chinese people. I understand Chinese jokes and pop culture. I know all of the different regional cuisines. I’ve traveled literally everywhere there is to go in China. I've developed a home away from home in a country that's so vastly different.
It's impossible to truly explore a country with just two weeks paid vacation. You can try and learn a few words of the language, and be friendly with the locals, but there’s no way to fully understand and appreciate a culture when you're only there for a few weeks.
Teaching abroad is the perfect opportunity to really explore and immerse yourself in a culture. You'll have a full year to make real friendships, eat local delicacies, travel to remote locations and soak up the intricacies of life.
Learn (or Perfect) a New Language
Teaching abroad for the year is a perfect opportunity to study a new language (whether it's a personal or professional goal of yours).
There will never be a perfect time to move abroad. There will always be something holding you back.
Immersion is the best way to pick up a language quickly, so be sure to take the opportunity to learn as much as you can. A second language is such a valuable skill in today's globalizing world, picking up some of the local language is one of the best investments you can make for yourself.
In your spare time, consider taking a language class. You can also ask your local co-workers to practice with you and teach you local phrases. Make jokes with your students in their language so they feel less intimidated by English. There are countless opportunities to practice when you're living abroad for a year.
The Work is Meaningful
I think we've all heard the stereotypes about the typical internship or entry level position. Whether it's grabbing coffee, filing papers, or answering phones, most first jobs out of college aren't very meaningful. Straight out of college with no work experience, teaching abroad will give you a much higher level of independence and job satisfaction than most entry level positions or post-graduation internships.
As a teacher abroad, you'll have the ability to make an impact on the lives of your students. Not only will you help them learn English, you'll also introduce them to a new culture and worldview. Seeing a student learn and grow is much more meaningful than completing a spreadsheet or scanning a pile of documents.
You'll Become a Better Person
Teaching abroad in China for a year has definitely made me a better person. Moving to a new country by myself was difficult, but it made me a much stronger and more self-reliant. Before I taught abroad I was the kind of girl who was afraid to stay in a hostel dorm by myself. Now I backpack Asia on my own for weeks at a time!
I used to pride myself on how culturally open-minded I am. I didn't think I could experience culture shock, and I thought I'd have no problems working for a Chinese school. Teaching abroad has taught me that there's always more to learn and new ways to grow. To be honest, it really put my ego in check.
Teaching abroad will help you become more open-minded. You'll learn to be patient and understanding of cultural differences. You'll have to adapt to a new business culture and lifestyle. While difficult at first, these changes will only make you a better person.
It Gives You Professional Experience You Can Apply to Any Field
So many of my friends back home saw my year teaching abroad as a fun gap year. They were all expecting me to come home at the end of my contract and get a "real job". News flash! Teaching is a real job. What's more, teaching abroad will actually help your career -- even if you don't plan on working in education long term.
Once you get me talking about China, it becomes obvious how much I know and understand the culture. I’ve even gotten a few not-so-joking job offers from people back home who work with China. China is such an enigma, understanding Chinese culture is one of the most valuable skills you can have in today’s job market.
Whatever country you choose, teaching abroad will give you countless valuable skills, for example:
- Incredible public speaking
- Strong leadership qualities
- Receptive to new and different ideas
- Respectful of other cultures and ways of life
- Independent and responsible
- Conversational in a foreign language
- Able to explain complex concepts simply
- Strong organizational skills
Now is the perfect time: Just Go!
While it may seem like all your friends are getting amazing job offers every time you look at your Facebook newsfeed, the reality is that no recent graduate has everything figured out. Don't be too worried about not having the perfect job lined up right after graduation. You're young!
Take this opportunity to do something you've always wanted to do. Whether you ultimately decide to head to Latin America, Asia, Europe, or any number of countries in between, embrace your time as a new grad and go teach abroad.Photo Credit: WorldTeach, Richelle Galmam, and Vivian Bi.