Guest Post: Reducing Negative Experiences while Teaching Abroad – Framing the Correct Mindset

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May 22, 2013 by k. liz

After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to Seoul, South Korea where he lived and taught for three years. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master’s degree.

The mind is the most powerful tool humans carry. With it we have been able to construct massive skyscrapers, solve complex mathematical problems, reach a compromise with foreign nations to avert war peacefully, and teach ourselves information we had no knowledge of prior. Now consider teaching English abroad. It’s not a whole lot different from going to college for the first time besides possibly running into the situation in which you find very few English speakers. But, as with anything, it’s all about your mind and how you frame your own experiences. If you get bitter about your situation, perhaps relishing for all those amenities at home and the luxurious options you had at home, you’re going to have a bad time. On the other hand if you take everything in like a breath of fresh air and understand there is no way around being uncomfortable, you will have a much greater appreciation of your time teaching English abroad.

Don’t Compare or Contrast

The United States is not emblematic of the rest of the world. Not every middle class family owns a luxury SUV, not everyone has the ability to go to the cinema whenever they please, and utilities like hot water, electricity, and garbage disposal are not always a certainty. So don’t expect all these amenities while living and teaching abroad. You’re in a different area of the world so don’t expect it to be your nice comfortable cul-de-sac nestled in suburbia.

There is no such thing as a “Foreigner”

You may have different color skin, speak a different language, and have varying thoughts about which economic system most benefits the poor, but people are still people. We each have one life to live, why not make your life impactful on theirs’ and in a positive way? If you aren’t motivated by this, watch “Where the Hell is Matt 2012” on YouTube. People aren’t as different as we like to make them out to be, after all, you’re one of them.

Don’t Judge

The worst thing someone can do is judge. You not only come off as being unfriendly to others but being judgmental and obstinate to other cultures take you down the path of being a social recluse in another country. Accept everyone for their similarities and differences.

Squeeze it

The experience you have now will stick with you throughout your life. Why not accept the good with the bad, bad with the good, all those strange people, all those euphoric highs and debilitating lows, and treat them all the same? What no one can ever take away from you is your story, and only you are able to write a happy ending, even if you fall down along the way.

Teaching English abroad is what you make of it. If you have the wrong approach before even setting off the plane you won’t enjoy it and will begin counting the days down before they even begin. But the world is bigger than the room you sleep in. It seems obvious, but you’ll soon gain a new perspective on everything. I guarantee it.


This is a guest post. Please keep in mind that while I am posting this on my blog, it does not necessarily reflect my positions or beliefs 100%. If you are interested in guest posting on my blog, please contact me at klizbarker(at)yahoo(dot)com.


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