“What’s your plan after graduation?”
Admit it; it’s the question everyone dreads as they dress in their cap and gown, walk across the stage to shake their dean’s hand and receive their degree.
Like many soon-to-be graduates, I felt pressure to find a “real” job—one with a decent salary, good benefits and a promising career path. The pressure to pay back my college debt was looming, after all. It was time to buckle down and get serious.
Life in tech
I applied to everything I had the slightest interest in and took the first bite that came my way: working in customer support at a marketing software company. Did I know anything about the tech industry? Nope. Did I know anything about marketing? A little. Was I more focused on the office perks—young coworkers, free food, beer on tap and unlimited vacation? You bet. I knew the job wasn’t going to be glamorous, but I convinced myself the fun office environment made up for it.
Fast-forward six months into the job: I wanted out. I felt like I didn’t have purpose, and I didn’t want to live that way. Blame it on my impulse to move far away from the nine-to-five rut I was stuck in, but it was then when I began researching positions teaching abroad.
Teach abroad: Say what?
The idea of teaching and travelling had always been in the back of my mind, but I never had the courage to pursue it until I realized a corporate job wasn’t the right fit for me.
I never had the courage to pursue teaching English abroad until I realized a corporate job wasn’t the right fit for me.
In college, I was fortunate to take many wonderful classes in both the English and Languages and Linguistics Departments that sparked my interest in cultural education. Classes like global literature allowed me to read stories from authors across the globe; Spanish language courses sharpened my second language skills; TESOL methods and practices classes gave me real-world, practical knowledge I could bring into any classroom. I realized I had all the skills I needed to move halfway across the world and begin a new chapter.
A first-time teacher in China
My job search first led me to China because of their high-demand for native English-speaking teachers. The promise of hiking the Great Wall, seeing pandas and eating dumplings didn’t seem too bad either. Before I knew it, I was signing a year-long teaching contract, packing my bags, and boarding a 15-hour plane to Xi’an.
Every week in Xi’an, I taught 20 classes of 60 primary-aged students (yes, 60). Most days, I was lucky enough to have my students learn and remember their vocabulary. But, there were the rare, wonderful moments when my students and I connected, when I engaged them beyond the curriculum. It was in these moments when I felt like the classroom was exactly where I should be; it’s what inspired me to continue my teaching journey in Thailand.
And now, Thailand
This month, I’m re-packing my bags and moving to Korat, Thailand. There, I’ll be teaching primary-aged students in Plookpanya School. Though my bags will be lighter—full of summer clothes and sandals—my goal is the same: to open my mind, my eyes, and my heart to a culture different from my own. I now know that no amount of preparation can make me ready for the amazingly wonderful, yet incredibly challenging experience that is living and teaching abroad. But every moment is worth it—to change, to grow, to understand, to live.Add this article to your reading list