Why You Should Teach English Abroad in a Less-Traveled Country

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China. Korea. Been there. Done that. While you might be guilty of “liking” every photo your friend posted while she was teaching in Chile or you may have laughed in delight at the cultural mishaps your friend experienced while teaching in the UAE, you probably also had a few realizations, such as: it’s called a “beaten” path for a reason, and you may have determined that the only thing you want “beaten” is your eggs.

Marrakech desert adventure 

Kill time on the weekends with desert adventures. Why not?!

Instead of having a cookie cutter teaching experience abroad, complete with excessive peace sign photos and stereotypical tourist site visits, consider these stats. There are 192 recognized countries in the world, but there are only six countries recognized as the Anglosphere. That leaves you with a short list of some 180 countries to choose from when looking for English teaching jobs abroad.

Instead of mimicking what you read about online or witness in your friend network, be bold and design your own experience. Here’s why teaching in an out-of-the-ordinary country is the ONLY way to go:

5 reasons to teach abroad off the beaten path

1. You're in demand

Ooh lala. The global demand for English teachers has never faded in the past two decades, thanks to globalization and the need for international communication and cross-cultural collaboration. More countries and more people have joined the race to learn English and stay ahead of their competitors. Even the English haters of yesteryear are finding themselves in a bind when it comes to communicating or conducting business with their friendly English speaking neighbors or foreign countries whom they don’t share a language with. 

English teachers are practically worshiped in many countries; culturally and historically, to teach is to be of the highest regard. You will enjoy the support of your colleagues and your eager students, who generally excited and motivated to learn a new and very popular language. 

By teaching English abroad in less traveled countries, you will not only make a difference in your life, but also in the learner’s life and livelihood.

Being the global language of choice, English teaching will continue to be in demand for quite a long time. In fact, it is safe to say that an English teaching profession or career has no expiry date, which is good to know in case you fall in love with your ESL job abroad and become a lifer!

Forget Vietnam! Why not try teaching English abroad off the beaten path in Laos?

2. There is less competition for ESL teaching jobs

Choosing to teach English abroad in a less traveled country puts the job market in your favor. Since fewer foreigners will be on their radar, you may have your pick of the lot when it comes to jobs, employers, and schools (and maybe even salaries!). In the same vein, your credentials will become secondary to your willingness to be there and teach English. Therefore, if you’re stressed about whether or not to earn a TEFL certification, choosing an unconventional destination, where it is rarely required, isn’t a bad solution (ehm, opportunity).

If the country you choose is relatively affluent, you may even be able to swing the school into paying you the big bucks to come teach English there. A simple case of supply and demand. Economics, baby!

3. You can be the discoverer of something new!

Seasoned travelers have all had their share of similar experiences abroad. That photo where they are exclaiming “The Leaning Tower of Pisa is falling on me, oh no!” or “Look how tiny I am in this great salt flat!” or “Wow, I am so poised and pensive as I gaze out over the {insert epic mountain range}.” You know you’ve seen these photos, and you may have even posed for one too.

BUT that stuff is all old news.

By going to an oft-skipped country, you will be one of the first in your circles to discover a place, so your experiences will be entirely unique and unlike any others. Your photos might cause some serious wanderlust. But, more importantly, your overall experience of teaching abroad might spark an interest or a curiosity about the world in others, which brings us to our next point.

4. You will inspire others

It takes a serious courage-stuffed-gut to be able to teach English abroad in a country less traveled. But, it is possible, and by you going out on a limb, you will inspire future travelers to follow in your lightly treaded footsteps. Having pluck and a daring, adventurous personality are attributes we rarely praise properly. 

student in thailand
Change lives: Yours, your students, your friends back home!

Expand your comfort zone, your flexibility, your ability to adapt to the new and unusual. Just remember to keep your comments to yourself when friends mention their “really challenging culture shock while teaching in England.”

5. You will learn to embrace new challenges

Living conditions in some parts of the world will be very different from home. Some days you will burst with joy at how wonderful life can be, and other days you will just be thankful you made it back home to the comfort of your pillow.

The challenges and obstacles that you’ll experience while teaching English will be some of the most fulfilling parts of your experience abroad.

As a person, you will become tougher, more open minded, and your self-confidence will improve. So don’t hold yourself back! No matter where you choose, even if you do find yourself in one of the more popular destinations, like Thailand or Costa Rica, you’re bound to have an incredible, life-changing experience teaching English abroad!

So, where should you go?

15 off the beaten path countries to teach English abroad

Surely you have already thought about the cuisine and the culture of Italy, the beaches and the nightlife of Spain, or the tropical Paradise that is Costa Rica. But have you considered any of these cool, far-flung and off the beaten path destinations with hot job markets for ESL teachers?

woman teaching at a board
What will YOU learn while teaching internationally?

  1. Myanmar

You can be sure that your experience of teaching abroad will exceed what’s written there. To begin with, you will have a very authentic cultural experience as a teacher in any of these destinations. You will be gleefully welcomed into the homes and lives of your students. 

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You will be surprised and deeply touched by the love and closeness that most people show you, especially in countries with more traditional, less Westernized cultures. Speaking of...

The cultures will be amazing

Indonesian woman with an offering for a Balinese holiday

Beautifully dressed woman, ready with offerings for a Balinese religious holiday

Photo Credit: Lindsay Jubeck

Not to knock on cultures that have permeated our everyday lives, but there is something remarkably special about learning the small nuances that make more obscure cultures unique. It is awe-inspiring to see the locals’ faces light up with pride when you take an interest in learning more about their culture.

Living in an environment so different than what you’re used to will be good fodder for reflecting on your personal values, beliefs, and cultures. Keeping your norms in check and functioning, surviving, and thriving despite the odds will be a lesson to add to your capabilities that you won’t soon forget.

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