Spending time abroad can be an impressive plaudit on any CV. With schemes like JET and hundreds of other helpful agencies whisking native English speaking graduates eastwards to nurture future Asian bilingual workforces, getting a paid placement can be as easy as filling in an online bio.
GI Advertising team member Umar, who is shortly heading off to Singapore to teach geography, explained to us that there were serveal motivations for his decision.
“I decided to take up this opportunity because in my experience, at school and university, teaching seemed to come naturally to me as I seem to have the appropriate qualities. For example, I’m quite patient, explain things clearly and enjoy coming up with creative ways to teach others. I also get along with young people quite well!
I cannot wait to go at such an exciting time in Asia’s development
Although I don’t plan to become a teacher in the future , I believed that the opportunity to teach in Singapore for a year would be a fantastic experience as I would be actively engaging and influencing the next generation of people growing up in one of the leaders of the rapidly developing Asian emerging markets. Singapore also has one of the best educational systems in the world (I think it was ranked 5th just in front of the UK in a recent BBC news article). I also intend to travel all around the region during my time off…I cannot wait to go at such an exciting time in Asia’s development.”
Teaching in Asia, you’ll gain unique cultural insights
However it’s not always that simple. After all, it takes a certain degree of motivation and courage to move across the world. From linguistic challenges to vast cultural differences, teaching in Asian can bring with it a wealth of issues that are difficult to anticipate. Some will enjoy luxurious surroundings in metropolitan settings like Tokyo, where anything goes. End up in a conservative area of Vietnam or a rural Korean village, and it’ll be a very different sort of year. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. Teaching in Asia, you’ll gain unique cultural insights, maybe pick up some language, and experience things you never imagined. Perhaps you’ll meet fascinating people who will become lifelong friends.The key is to really do your research and plan ahead.
The key is to really do your research and plan ahead
And if, like most graduates, you really do want to use the year to help your future prospects, then there are some important point to remember. With this in mind, AGI has prepared this special guide for those thinking of fleeing the UK for lucrative Asian shores:
1) Embrace cultural differences.Yes, sometimes it’s nice to get a taste of home, especially if you’re located somewhere with less than stellar cheese or chocolate options. But don’t become a slave to your local ethnic food store (aka McDonald’s), throw yourself into trying as many of the foods in your new country as possible. If nothing else, you’ll save a huge amount of cash, and when trendy new Asian foods inevitably appear in your home town in years to come, you’ll have the smug satisfaction of having already tried it. Like, five years ago, in downtown Seoul.
2) Work on learning the local lingo– you never know when it might come in handy. What if you end up getting an interview with a Japanese company having done JET, and then can’t even muster up a ‘Nice o meet you’? At the same time be realistic. One year spent in a foreign country doesn’t mean you’ll come home translator standard. Of course, it may make you a superb languagecourse candidate, but remember, translators train , and often live, in their country of choice for years. Though you may be relatively fluent, but if your goal is to pick up a career language, be prepared for the hard work to continue when you get back home.
3) Conversely, don’t expect your Asian language skills to always be an asset. Maybe you already know Chinese or Japanese, and an ESL job in Asia is a jumping point for you to really use it. Just don’t expect to be allowed to speak it at work. Remember, you were hired as an English teacher. In some Korean schools, use of anything but English in classes is forbidden. Similarly, your colleagues may want to use you as their English teacher too. Yes, out of hours you can get all the practice you want, but don’t but disappointed if office hours call for monolingualism.
3) Sometimes a gap year alone isn’t enough to impress employers. What did you do while living abroad that really makes you special? You may have opportunities to gain responsibilities and skills you wouldn’t have even at an internship. Grab them. And make sure you put it all on your CV. At the end of the day, hanging round the staff room between classes sounds a lot less impressive than taking responsibility for foreign teacher lesson planning and inter-cultural liaison.
4) Tap into Asian expat job markets. So maybe that editorial internship never materialised at home. But how many native speakers of English are there in Seoul? Overall, there will be much less competition for English language jobs in areas like publishing and theatre, just keep an eye out. And obviously make sure extra work you do fits with your visa terms. Nothing puts the kibosh on a gap year like an unexpected deportation!
5) Plan your post-grad before you go. The reason we say this? Having no clear plan when you go home is scary. So scary in fact, it can make some people procrastinate about going home. If ESL abroad isn’t your dream job, then don’t get stuck in it. The lifestyle is amazing, but do you really want to find yourself five years down the line scrabbling for your first job in the UK, with nothing but half a decade of singing the alphabet song to Chinese kindergartners, and expert knowledge of Beijing happy hours to your name, while your peers are shimmying up the career ladder? Keep your time abroad sweet, short, and if you don’t mean for it to be long time, really commit to coming home when you intend to.
6) Lastly, have fun! Never in your life will there be so much potential for travel, adventure, and really easy living. Embrace it, enjoy it, but know when to get back to reality, before your Asian teaching dream becomes a bit of a nightmare.