In the spirit of new beginnings, and seen as we are approaching the eve of Chinese New Year at the time of writing, what better time to put pen to paper and reflect on the incredible journey I've had thus far and reflect on why I teach abroad.
It can be quite an exciting prospect to pack up shop, depart the shores of your homeland, and travel thousands of miles to the other side of the world to teach overseas. Naturally, you have all these preconceptions of what it might be like, but as grand and exciting as they may be, the experience itself will be far beyond the comprehension of your wildest imaginations. Nothing can prepare you for it; it will reveal parts of yourself that you never even knew existed. Indeed, it will change the direction of your life forever.
To illustrate the value of this incredible, life-changing experience that you may be soon embarking upon, is beyond my modest capabilities. Despite what you may read or hear from others, you'll never know for sure what lies on the other side of your comfort zone unless you take action on your curiosity. I'm afraid that you will just have to experience it for yourself. But if perhaps I were to try and entice you to move a little closer towards the departure gate, I think I could probably sum it up with one word: inspiration.
You might think that in taking the leap and travelling to the other side of the world, that you will be setting off on a noble adventure, allowing you to inspire young minds, and impart great knowledge and wisdom to your future students. I think it's fair to say that this is perhaps true for any aspiring educator starting out on their academic journey but you won't be the only one doing the inspiring.
One of the things I've learned in my experience of teaching abroad is that inspiration is a readily available source that exists all around us,if of course, we have the awareness to stop and take notice. And as for the process of imparting knowledge, this is very much a two-way street. You will constantly find yourself being inspired by your students, and you will soon come to realise that no matter what side of the teacher's desk you find yourself on, you never ever stop learning.
It might be that you find yourself in awe of the wondrous workings of a young child's mind, and how the sheer scope of their imaginations can at times knock you from your chair (quite literally). Or, it could perhaps be the high school student who tells you that despite the intense pressure from their parents to study medicine in university and get a ‘proper' job, they are going to pursue their dream of becoming an artist regardless. (The painting she gave me as a parting gift, hangs proudly on my wall to this day.) It may be the university student who strikes up a debate in a philosophy class with an older businessman while insisting that it is not money that matters most when choosing a career path, rather it's that you find what it is that you love to do.
I have to say that teaching is a truly rewarding experience; of the many positives that I could articulate to try and persuade you to teach overseas too, I have found it's the inspirational students that keep me here more than anything else. As I mentioned previously, inspiration is all around us; it's simply up to us whether we want to tap into it or not. In taking precious moments to reflect, I can but feel immense gratitude that I took that initial decision to act on my curiosity, and see what lay on the other side of my comfort zone. Not a day goes by where I don't feel inspired by my students; they are constantly teaching me new and interesting things, and revealing fresh and wonderful avenues of thinking. Your horizons will broaden, your life will indeed change, and you will constantly find yourself being inspired by those around you.
But please, don't take my word for it. Come and find out for yourself.