I have been a teacher for 18 years and for most of that time I have worked as an international teacher. I trained in Ireland, but always thought my qualifications would be a pathway to work and live in different parts of the world.
After graduation I did some maternity leave posts and worked part time. However, like so many new teachers it was next to impossible to get a full time permanent contract, so I made the leap to become an international teacher. I have never regretted it. I spent 5 memorable years teaching in Asia: first in Korea and then Vietnam. Korea introduced me to the ‘hogwon’ experience and I learned not all English Language Schools are created equal. Although my personal experience teaching there wasn’t exactly what I was after, it did help me to better understand what type of overseas educational environment was best suited for me – one focused on education and its students rather than strictly on profits.
In Vietnam I decided to work first for an international school and then an Australian university with a campus in Saigon. I enjoyed both teaching experiences and I stayed in Vietnam for 5 years. During this time I began to understand what a positive and fulfilling experience working as an international teacher could be. Outside of the classroom, the food, the people, the climate and the opportunities for travel were all amazing. The opportunities for professional growth and development combined with the in class experience I gained as a young teacher in Vietnam helped set me up for the next stage in my teaching career.
Having married a Canadian, I moved to Toronto. Foreign trained teachers are rarely hired in Ontario, so I was very lucky to get a full time contract. Having been raised in Ireland, I considered myself an international teacher. I had to learn a new system and absorb a new curriculum. I also had to decipher a new bunch of acronyms – why do educators love them so much? On top of it all, I had to adapt to a culture that was very different from my own. At least I didn’t have to learn a new language (though I am not and never will be fluent in hockey talk). While working in a Canadian high school for 10 years, I was able to specialize in ESL for immigrants and foreign visa students. I continued to develop as a teacher and gain additional experience and qualifications in the world of ESL. However, the cold winters, long commutes and demands of an inner city school got me missing my “old” life in Southeast Asia.
Equipped with a few additional ESL qualifications, 15+ years of high school teaching experience and a clear understanding of what type of living and teaching experience I wanted, my husband and I decided to re-locate once again to Asia. Now that I am back, I get to travel a lot more: I have holidays about every 8-10 weeks. There are lots of discount airlines and so many places to explore. I am learning to speak Malay and cook local foods. My contract is secure and offers me great benefits. I work with like minded international teachers from around the world, forming new friendships and connections everyday. I teach English to students who really want to learn and the classroom is a safe and fun environment.
As an international teacher, I’m creating memories and experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This current assignment won’t last forever and I’m already researching and dreaming of my next stop as an international teacher. Perhaps it will be in China, Spain, or somewhere in South America? The possibilities are endless and that’s the beauty of being an international teacher.
Angela, International Teacher and Second Language Educator
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