How Teaching English as a Foreign Language Changed My Life
You work your whole life to become an overnight success. What Instagram doesn’t show is the hard work behind the scenes, the different avenues you took before you created the life you wanted. It’s easy to follow someone and want they have, but you should be willing to walk where they walked before you knew who they were. So, long before I made $1 million dollars from my blog, before I visited every country in the world, before we started our Mudita Adventures non-profit, I wanted to travel, but coming from a single-parent family in Ireland, I had no money to see the world. What could I do? So I googled and googled until I stumbled across Teaching English as a foreign language (or TEFL for short). In brief, it means that if English is your first language, you can be employed across the world to teach English to students in countries from Vietnam to Peru, from Thailand to Brazil (read my FAQ about Teaching English as a Foreign Language here). Perfect, this would give me the opportunity to make money, to travel, to see the world. All I needed to do was to figure how how to get qualified, and how to find a job.
If you want to learn about teaching English as a foreign language, then know that the first step is to get qualified, which means you have to take a TEFL qualification (CLICK HERE for TEFL.ie, these guys are one of Ireland’s biggest TEFL operators, but if you’re not from Ireland, don’t worry, you can still enrol, the courses are mostly online). Courses start from €139 so you don’t have to break the bank to start your new life, and 120 online hours of studying later, once you have your legal certification, you’re ready to hit the road. It’s your turn to change your life, and this is the best first step for anyone who is ready for adventure.
So How Did Teaching English as a Foreign Language Change My Life? Here are 8 ways!
I taught English in both Thailand (teaching English in Chiang Mai was an amazing experience for 14 months) and South Korea on summer and winter camps, over a period of 2 or 3 years. From there, I moved to Australia, then I started my blog, 197 countries later and I’m free. But step 1 was teaching English as a foreign language. So how did it set me up and change my life?
1) TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE ALLOWED ME TO TRAVEL
Someone people are born to teach, and to be honest with you guys, that wasn’t me. I dreamed of traveling, of wild adventures and foreign cultures. And teaching English gave me the platform to start experiencing all that, and more. My first job was in Thailand, and within 18 months I had been all over the country, but also to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Bangladesh, India, Nepal. All my travel dreams started to come true, and it was all down to TEFL.
2) IT GAVE ME ACCESS TO PEOPLE WHO WERE LIVING MY DREAM
Some people, both in my jobs in South Korea and Thailand, were long-term teachers, and they were great at it. But for me it was a means to an end. And suddenly, living this fun expat life, full of cheap flights and late nights, I started to meet people who were living my real dream. Online business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, people who were not just ‘allowed to travel’ as I was, but were making money, inspiring people, changing lives AS they traveled. I’ll be forever grateful to English teaching for opening my eyes to a whole new world.
3) IT ALLOWED ME TO LEARN A LANGUAGE
I’m a big believer that you should learn the language of the country you live in. So as soon as I moved to Chaing Mai, in 2007, all those years ago, I enrolled in a Thai course. It was intense, and, wowzer, are those tones ever difficult. But 10+ years on, my Thai is pretty decent, and it was all down to those building blocks in my Thai school every morning. It doesn’t matter how many expensive apps you buy, there’s no substitute for living in a country and learning the language, and TEFL gave me that chance.
4) I MADE FRIENDS FOR LIFE
I’m still in contact with so, so many of the people I met during my English teaching days. In fact, just last week I went to a guys house that I haven’t hung out with in over a decade! Being expats together, sharing crazy life experiences, builds a special bond. A bond that would take years in a normal lifestyle, so as you go on with your life, that bond is secure. And that’s a beautiful thing.
5) IT GAVE ME A POTENTIALLY HAPPY (LUCRATIVE) CAREER
Dipping my toe in the water, Thailand was a fun place to teach English as a foreign language, but not the best paid. I started chatting with people teaching in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China who were making $3k a month after tax, and saving up to $20k per year! That was crazy. And inspiring. This teaching stuff could really give you a chance to build a life, wow. More meetings still, suddenly I hear about jobs in Oman, Kuwait, Saudi, where people are making $5k per month, $6k, $7k tax-free, teaching English. This is a REAL career. Great.
6) IT GAVE ME A GREAT BACK-UP PLAN FOR LIFE
I was 22. Young, a little wild, and with no idea where my life would lead me. I always wanted to be my own boss, to make my mark in the world, I was determined to do just that. But many before me have tried, and failed, and I’m a realist. So, Johnny boy, I told myself, give it everything you’ve got. Chase your dreams. And with your TEFL, and your teaching experience behind you, the worst-case scenario is still a great scenario. I can come back, teach English again, and regroup. It was the back-up plan to end all back-up plans. A life of travel and adventure was pretty much secured.
7) IT TAUGHT ME PURPOSE
University is a wild ride, but despite what students will try to tell you, the focus isn’t on education. So I came out of university, slightly hungover, a little overweight, no corporate experience. What was next? Then TEFL came along, I taught English and suddenly I was energised with the reality that my actions can tangibly improve someone else’s circumstances. The more effort I put in, the more these people will learn. From there, who knows what the future holds. I had a job, but one with a purpose, one with tangible benefits for me and the ‘client’ so to speak. This was a vitally important life lesson for me.
8) I FELL IN LOVE WITH THAILAND, LITERALLY
It all started in March 2007. A one-way ticket from Dublin to Thailand. Never taught English before, never been to Asia before, never lived alone before, never had to set-up a new life from scratch before. Within 50 days I had friends, local bars, a gym, plans for travels, I had a boss, a school, a fun routine, and the future was rosy. Thailand was IT. I never lost that feeling. 13 years later, I’m writing this blog post in Thailand. I’ve been to every country on the planet, but I’m based here, in Thailand. My fiance is Thai. I’m buying land and building a house. My life is in Thailand. And TEFL, teaching English as a foreign language, gave me all that and more. Thank you TEFL.
TIME TO LET TEFL CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
If you’re convinced by now, then it’s time to change YOUR life! The first step I always recommend, as I mentioned, is to take a TEFL course (CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED). I wrote about the The best online TEFL course here, but in sort, it is TEFL.ie. Check it out, and change your life today. See you guys on the road.