If you are doing research on teaching English in Asia, you have probably heard mixed reviews about the experience. My previous post dealt with pitfalls and problems of teaching in Asia. To be fair to my past experience, I would like to present the benefits of teaching in Asia. If you manage to avoid the problems with it, Asia might change your life.
Here are the advantages.
Meet new, different people.
Live all over the world.
Teaching in Asia means that you get to experience other cultures, first hand. Living abroad is quite different from traveling. Living abroad means having a real, evolving relationship with a foreign culture and the people in it. You get to see things and experience things that travelers miss. You have real problems to solve and deep needs to meet in a very different social context. Its an experience you could never gain from a book.
Carl Jung said that when two personalities meet, its like mixing chemical elements. There is a reaction that leaves both elements changed. Spending time with people who are very different from you is kind of like this. Hanging out with people from different cultures will change you. Different assumptions about life, different ways of communication, and different ways of being will rub off on you. In essence, it will make you a well-rounded person.
For example, I am a very independent person. No one tells me what to do, and no one has since I was 15 or so. Living in Asia meant that I spent time around people who lived with their families until marriage, constantly asked their parents for advice or permission, and were constantly in contact with their partners. In many cases, these people expected me to have the same assumptions about relationships that they did. While it drove me nuts for a while, I came to appreciate Asian style obligation in relationships. I found that my local friends were wonderfully helpful and giving, and this has allowed me to be more giving in all of my relationships. I learned a lot from my experience and people around me benefit from it.
Living in another culture is difficult. You will have problems to face, from everyday issues like finding the grocery store to existential issues like understanding your place in the world. Living in Asia is a great opportunity to grow as a person. Your communication skills will be tested, your patience will grow, and your psychological flexibility will increase.
Spending time outside of your comfort zone is maybe the best way to grow as a person.
Learn valuable job skills.
Teaching can provide a valuable set of transferable job skills. Teachers must know how to communicate effectively, plan a presentation, deliver a speech, systematically evaluate performance, give feedback, and command the attention of a group of people. All of these skills are valuable in the proffesional world.
For example, when I enrolled in my MBA, I was shocked to find out how poor many of my classmates were at giving presentations. Most of my classmates were middle age, mid career managers, and they were terrible at speeches. These highly successful people would seek me out for group assignments because of the skills I acquired as a teacher.
Learn a language.
The best way to learn a language is through immersion. There is no substitute for having to use a second language every day. Constantly hearing the language, dealing with ambiguous situations, taking risks, and getting real-time feedback means your language skills will improve in ways that a classroom can not deliver on.
Avoid the path more traveled
Lots of people take the safe route in life. You probably know what I mean. They get a husband or wife, the right job, a house in the suburbs, kids, and then spend their leisure time trying to escape the boredom of their lives. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that.
On the other hand, I meet a lot of people in North America who feel stifled and disastified with modern life. Teaching in Asia is an easy way to avoid becoming one of these people, to avoid becoming an unhappy "success".
Teaching overseas means taking a few (manageable) risks and dealing with the unknown. It means taking the road less traveled. If you do it right, it is a call to adventure.