Updated: Jun 12, 2022
I am so excited to begin a new series on my blog, all about stories of teaching abroad. That’s right — it’s traveling teachers! I thought it would be the perfect way to commemorate one full year of being Meghan the Traveling Teacher myself, plus there are so many awesome people teaching around the globe whose stories should be told!
These stories will be interview style in order to give you all the info and inspiration you need to teach and travel yourself. I’ve received so many stories already from people who have taught abroad, whether for a few weeks, months, or years! I am starting off this series by talking about my own abroad teaching experience in China a few years ago. I am so excited to share this brand new series with you!
The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and, you guessed it, teach! Each interview features a different teacher, going to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students.
So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find opportunities? There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn more about it, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself!
If you plan to be a traveling teacher, a TESOL certification is going to be necessary. I got mine through International Open Academy for just $19! I highly recommend this as the first step in your traveling teacher journey.
Short Term Teaching Abroad Experience
What inspired you to teach abroad?
I love teaching my students here in the United States, and I also love helping people. I thought about teaching abroad full-time, but love the work I do here in the US. When I started my job in DC, I realized I only had a month off from work. I wanted to fit in traveling as well as doing something to help further my career. A teach abroad experience was the perfect way for me to get the best of both worlds.
How long did you teach, and where?
I have taught abroad twice. My first experience took place in Tianjin, China. I taught English and worked at a summer camp for three weeks in July. I taught again this past summer in Lusaka, Zambia, for one week.
Were any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?
For China, my flight, transportation, lodging, and lunches were all covered by the program. They even graciously offered to book my flight for the date of my choice. I paid my own way to Zambia and all the expenses. It was quite expensive and definitely a commitment. However, I simply paid the company, and they set everything up for me.
How did you find the program or opportunity to teach abroad?
I found both through a mutual friend. First was a special organization called Leadership Development International that runs international schools across China. Many programs for teaching in China exist, though, and my strongest suggestion is reaching out to someone you know (like me!) who has taught abroad in China to find out about the legitimacy of the program. The program I worked with in Zambia was through Family Legacy, which actually runs schools throughout Lusaka and is a non-profit here in the United States. They do fantastic work with orphans in Zambia!
Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching? Where did you go? What did you do?
I was able to do a lot of traveling while I was there! The program offered to cover the cost of my flight from the date and location of my choice. I chose to get there nine days early and was able to explore a lot of China with my friends. While teaching, I also had weekends to myself to travel to other places.
I visited Beijing, Shanghai, Tai Shan, Suzhou, and Xi’an all in one month, along with teaching. The workload felt manageable, and I did most of my traveling before the teaching experience. While in Zambia, I had less time to travel (mostly because of the cost) but was able to visit Victoria Falls, go on a safari, and experience Lusaka.
What were interactions with students like? (did you work with adults, kids, large groups, small groups, tutoring, and a significant language barrier?)
In China, I had two different groups of students. One group was in the morning that was an English immersion camp for children with little exposure to English. In the afternoon, I taught English to the same group of 6 students who were working on their English proficiency. Ages ranged from pre-k 3 to high school. I worked with 2nd and 3rd graders mostly. In Zambia, I was placed in a classroom all week-long with the same group of kids each day. It was full of hugs, smiles, and lots of hard work. Students were very quiet, eager to learn, and surprised by many of my teaching methods that were very different from Zambian teaching methods.
What was your favorite part of teaching abroad?
In China, my favorite part was how it stretched me to think about teaching differently. I often think of education within the context of my school in DC, my experience being the same day in and day out. Teaching in China gave me a new perspective on student struggles, needs, and childhood in general. I love being able to grow as a teacher and help people, no matter where I am. It was great to see myself and my students grow in such a different place.
In Zambia, I loved my interactions with kids the most and how much they learned in just one short week. I worked in a classroom where the students were 9 to 11 years old, and many could not read letter sounds. By the end of the week, many knew sounds and were beginning to read. What a wonderful thing to witness!
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
I would say you should research, research, research before you pick a teaching abroad program. I know people who have taught abroad and had terrible experiences. I’ve had great experiences teaching abroad because I have found both programs through friends or family. I knew the organizations well, I researched them, and got first-hand accounts. Talk with people in the program, who work for the program, and get first-hand information on them before committing!
I hope you enjoyed this first of many stories of teaching abroad! Want to contribute to the traveling teacher series? Connect with Meghan via the form at the bottom of this page to make a request!
Interested in more stories of short-term teaching experiences? Here are some others you might be interested in: