The mail function has been disabled by an administrator.

The Expectations and Realities of Teaching English Abroad

Pixabay CC0

As an English teacher abroad, you're there to teach—but you're also there to learn.

When I decided to volunteer abroad, English is always what I wanted to do—but I learned more than I ever expected.

Part 1: Costa Rica

I’m standing in front of a crowd of over 100 primary school children in Costa Rica, a microphone in one hand and a speech written in Spanish in the other. How did I end up here? I wonder.

Only five minutes ago, I was told they wanted me to introduce myself to the whole school and share my culture with the children. I was far from prepared; ironic really, as I went into this job believing that the key to teaching was to be prepared. But I was quickly learning that Costa Ricans tend to take each moment as it comes. Sometimes life throws unexpected things at us, and this was definitely one of them.

When I signed up to teach English abroad, I never imagined I would be speaking in front of a whole school especially in my second language, but sometimes the unexpected events are the most beautiful.

This was part of my first placement abroad in a primary school in Costa Rica. In comparison to what I knew in the UK, it was a school with basic facilities yet so full of life. I remember walking into my classes each day being greeted by 20 smiling children running to the door to give me a hug, screaming my name. I was so taken a back by the love and effect I was having on these children. Each day I would be gifted with notes, hair clips, marbles, teddy bears and the most random little things, but all so precious and a symbol of the endless love that these children have to give.

After three months of teaching, dancing, never-ending hugs, speeches and singing the Costa Rican national anthem every day I began to realize how special these children are—children who never seemed to lose their smiles.

Part 2: Argentina

My second teaching placement abroad was just as inspiring but completely different.

This time I was placed in a small town in the mountains of Argentina where I worked in an English institute. Here I taught people of all ages from young children through to adults, but again I could have never imagined the impact that teaching could have. Every lesson that I went into I was faced with an array of questions about me, my life, and my country—all things that to me don’t seem all that special. But through those conversation, it planted seeds of opportunity and created memories. 

Upon reflection of the precious moments, I have had as part of these jobs abroad, I still struggle to comprehend how a 20-year-old girl from England could have the impact I believe I did on others. But this has allowed me to learn something in life—it really is just the smallest things that have the biggest impact on our happiness.


Add this article to your reading list
Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Alisha Jayne

Alisha Jayne is a British university student who has volunteered in Costa Rica and Argentina. She has combined her love for Spanish and teaching on this journey through Latin America. Through the highs and lows, Alisha was inspired to start travel writing to motivate others and give a true perspective.

Join the Verge Community

Verge Magazine Membership

Join our community of savvy travellers and put nearly two decades of inspiring articles, authoritative information and expert advice to work for you.

Show me more > Login >


Travel Intelligence Bulletin


The latest openings overseas—direct to your inbox.

Subscriber Login


Travel with purpose; travel for good. Articles, resources and events for ethical and meaningful travel, volunteering, working and studying abroad.

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

Like what you see?

Follow us on social media