Teach Abroad - Photo by Carrie Kellenberger

Teaching Abroad



Every year thousands of people move away from their homelands to live and teach in foreign countries around the world. Why teach abroad? Hands down, it is the best way to broaden your horizons. There’s no better way to see the world, try different things, make money, learn about culture and live an entirely different lifestyle most people only dream about. Plus, there’s no shortage to the number of interesting and available jobs here in Asia. My teaching career started off in China, but within months, I was also singing professionally, doing radio work, book editing, television programs, commercials and modeling.

In some countries, like Taiwan, the pay is quite good and living expenses are low. In other countries, such as China, the pay might not be so high, but the benefits are awesome and travel is cheap. You’ll have plenty of time to take advantage of it. Either way, you can’t lose. An overwhelming number of people I meet here are able to use the market as a platform for their own passions and interests. Writers, artists and musicians often move to other countries to work. Being a writer, photographer and musician and living in Asia has really given me and my work an edge that I might not have had in Canada. I have found that settling into a new place and meeting new people has sparked creative ideas and offered inspiration that was otherwise unavailable back home.

You might stay for a year to see what it’s all about and decide it’s not for you, but I guarantee that you’ll see and learn and grow more in that year than at any other time of your life. Maybe you’ll end up staying longer, once your love affair with Asia has taken root.  Then, your travels and experiences will start taking you further and further away from home. Whatever your reason for working abroad, your experience teaching away from home will change your life forever.

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Teaching and living abroad can be the most incredible experience of your life or it can be the worst, depending on how you deal with the difficulties of living and working in a foreign country. Adjusting to a new country and a new culture can be trying, especially when we aren’t willing to adapt or be accepting of a culture that is completely different to our own. This can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, isolation and complaining.

The best way to start getting yourself accustomed to an exotic culture is to get involved. Get to know your new culture. Go out and experience life. Make new friends. Live. Wonder. Explore. I love going somewhere quiet, like a park, and watching how everyone interacts. I also get great pleasure out of walking. I love putting on my headphones and walking for hours. I like the feeling of being lost in a great sea of humanity. There’s no better way to be completely on level to observe, grow and learn firsthand. I never once made an excuse for myself to stay at home and watch TV.

Observe what you really like about your new culture. Don’t focus on the negatives. We all make comparisons. Comparing your new home to back home is only natural. Don’t get into the habit of looking at everything in a negative light.

It’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with culture shock. Everyone gets it and everyone deals with it differently. The stress of starting a new job, living in a new country, trying to make new friends, navigating unfamiliar terrain and an inability to speak the language can all lead to culture shock. Everyday tasks such as using the phone, taking the bus or grocery shopping can become frustrating and difficult.

Some people will admit they are suffering from it, others might not even realize they are going through it and some will flat out deny they are having any problems at all. It’s how we deal with culture shock that allows us to let ourselves go and immerse ourselves in a foreign culture.

Read on to learn more  techniques for getting through those “I hate living abroad” days…


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  1. Teach the answer to a question to the entire class and have them repeat it out loud before you ask the same question person to person. After the pattern is established, you can change your question a little to get the student to change their answer. Repetitionis the best teacher.
  2. Find your favorite buzz words that you like to use in everyday conversation , even slang or idioms, and use them over and over in every class. After awhile your students will understand the meaning and begin using the phrase. Two simple examples are: “How’s it going?” or “What’s up?”
  3. Music, music, music. I often write the lyrics on the board if it’s a short song. I rarely use handouts with the lyrics written. Having the students write the lyrics reinforces their spelling and helps them with phonetics.
  4. Have at least 2-3 new vocabulary wordsthat aren’t part of your lesson and write them on the board. Use the new words throughout your class and see if the students can figure out the meaning. Make it into a game by having them guess the meaning or repeat the phrases you used the word in. This reinforces their listening skills.
  5. Always be prepared for class. Students know when you are not prepared and will quickly lose interest.
  6. Ask students in the first few advanced classes what subjects and topics they want to talk about or study. You will be surprised by their answers. You will always be safe with the following topics: pop culture, sports, music of all kinds, environment, solar system, travel, geography and western holidays.
  7. Save your lesson plans. It’s good to repeat a lesson after a while. You can even update it or add new words and ideas.
  8. After you teach a lesson, take a few minutes to jot down what worked and what didn’t work. This lets you know how to revise your lesson the next time you teach it.
  9. Have fun in your classes. Make them light and interesting. Avoid answering political questions. Religious questions are always asked at some point. You can make your own decision about how to answer. It’s alright to state your faith but it’s not alright to try and convert or get your students to believe the same.
  10. Remember to switch it up. It’s easy to get into a safe routine. Remember that your students are not growing if you are not growing as a teacher. Try to introduce a new game or teaching approach every once in a while. It can get awfully boring in the classroom for you and your students if you constantly use the same games and activities every class.
  11. Remember that there are tons of resources on the Internet. If you want to learn how to teach english overseas, don’t be afraid to ask for help and suggestions.


Teaching vocabulary can be a challenge for new teachers. Most are quick to assume that once a new word has been taught, it has also been learned and will be remembered.

Most new teachers don’t realize vocabulary needs to be continuously recycled. Students will likely forget vocabulary if they don’t encounter these words on a regular basis.

Here are three useful strategies for recycling vocabulary:


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  1. Review. I know it’s boring, but it’s absolutely essential to language learning. Don’t bother to learn new words if you aren’t going to review. It’s a waste of time if you aren’t committed to reviewing your material.
  2. Listen. The more you listen, the more you’ll remember.
  3. Use your new vocabulary or lose it! Concentrate on a few new words each day and try to use them in different sentences. I encourage my students to take a few extra minutes at the end of class to write a couple of sentences to help them remember the vocabulary. Use new vocabulary in conversation and writing. The more you use it, the easier it is to remember.
  4. Learn how to paraphrase. Try describing a word with other words. I always give my students reasons for paraphrasing by giving them extra words to describe with. I encourage them to make notes in their textbooks by paraphrasing with synonyms and antonyms. Use sentences to describe your meaning.
  5. Record something in English and repeat, repeat, repeat. Don’t just record your English class. Record a song or use an interesting podcast to challenge yourself. Keep repeating it until you can repeat it at the same speed as the native speaker. The more you repeat, the more fluent you will sound. You don’t realize how many mistakes you make until you listen to a recording of yourself.
  6. Practice linking words and expressions. Use contractions and weakened forms whenever you can.
  7. Read, read, read. Read something you’ll enjoy. Books, magazines and newspapers aren’t your only source for reading. English is everywhere. Learn a song or poem. Try a menu, a recipe or learn some funny jokes.
  8. Read aloud. There’s no better way to practice and it will help you pick out mistakes.
  9. Flashcards. They really do work! Make flashcards for eight to ten new vocabulary words once a week. Tape them to your wall and practice making a new sentence with them each day.
  10. Recycle your vocabulary. Review, review, review! Don’t assume you’ve learned it after you think you’ve perfected it. Practice makes perfect.


Some helpful links for teaching in Taiwan.

Teaching English and Living in Taiwan, otherwise known as Tealit, is one of THE go-to sites on working in Taiwan. This is where you’ll find everything from apartments for rent, jobs, and general merchandise for sale to language exchange partners, nightlife, and everything else you need to know about living and working in Taiwan.

Reach To Teach The premier and most reputable free teacher placement service in Taiwan.

Dave’s ESL Cafe The ESL Bible for anyone thinking of living and teaching in Asia.

MYU Language Teacher Finder Whether you’re a teacher looking for students or a student looking for a teacher, this is where you should start your search.

Bloggers In Taiwan A roundup of English bloggers in Taiwan.


Would you like to see your link included on this page? Please contact Carrie@MySeveralWorlds.com for details on how to get your site listed.


A Canadian expat that has been living abroad in Asia since 2003, Carrie began her career with Reach To Teach Recruiting in 2006 as an ESL teacher in Taiwan. Today, she and her husband are co-owners of Reach To Teach. In her free time, Carrie works as a freelance travel writer and photographer, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. She writes about her personal travel adventures on Travel Asia – My Several Worlds. Follow Carrie on Google+ or on Twitter @globetrotteri.

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6 responses to “TEACH AND TRAVEL”

  1. Jeff Zimmer

    Hi Carrie. Was looking at your website and thought who better to give me some info on living in Taiwan and teaching English. I have a TEFL certificate as well as 2 college diplomas. I live in Ottawa,Ont. Canada and am looking to move to a warmer climate :) Can you point me in the right direction to start please? Thanks. Good articles by the way!

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  3. Mary Jo

    Lots of excellent advice. Teaching abroad has been one of the most exciting things i’ve done. I can’t recommend it enough. So many amazing opportunities out there!

  4. Climbing Out Of Poverty Ç A Pair of Panties and Boxers

    [...] opportunity to teach and travel abroad was all due to the Fudan Foreign Students Volunteering Association. It was hands down the [...]

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