5 Things to Know About Teaching English Abroad

April 13, 2016

ISEP student Dantae H. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a Spanish language and literature major from Roanoke College, and is currently studying abroad at Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio in Spain. 

Many people decide to pursue a teaching career abroad after graduating college to gain experience and assimilate into a different culture. Teaching abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I encourage people to take advantage of it. This semester, I have been teaching at Colegio Montfort in Loeches in Madrid. Here are some tips from what I’ve learned!

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Photo from Dantae’s Instagram

1. If you are thinking about teaching English abroad, go for it

It can be terrifying thinking about moving to a different country and working as a teacher, but that only lasts so long. At first it may seem like a far-fetched idea to begin such a hefty journey. However, if you are a teacher or future teacher, getting experience in your field (especially with teaching English as a second language), will help build character and expose you to international schools systems that may not have been familiar to you.

2. It is okay to not know everything, so don’t worry

English is one of the hardest languages to learn, so if there are grammar questions posed by your students that you aren’t able to answer, it’s okay. Try your best to answer the question. Don’t get embarrassed for not knowing something in the moment, just make sure to check back in with your students another time. In fact, the most important part of being a teacher is following up with your students, which shows them that you are connected with them and care about their well being.

3. You can become a local celebrity just by simply being the new English teacher

Transitioning into a new teaching environment is very challenging, but even more so dantaewhen you become a spectacle for the entire student body. Take this with caution, as it can become overwhelming but you just have to know how to handle it. As a teacher, you can use this to your advantage to communicate with your students and become more well rounded in the classroom.


4. Be prepared to get lost in translation with some students

This is very important to note because some of my students use words from Spanish that are similar in English, though they do not mean the same thing. For example, one of my students said to me in class, “Miss Dantae, I am constipated.” As I looked at him with confusion, I realized he was using “constipado” in Spanish, which means you are coughing or congested. These false cognates can be challenging for students but with quick correction and explanation, they will learn from their mistakes.

5. You can impact the lives of your students by just being present

Some schools in Madrid, like where I work, are bilingual schools and most students are required to take English. They might despise the class because it’s required. It’s up to you to show the students how important it is to know another language, and all the possibilities that can come from knowing a second language. At the end of the day, they will see the bigger picture and the benefits that comes from knowing another language thoroughly.

Remember the words of Nelson Mandela,  "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.“

Follow along with Dantae on Instagram @picante as she explores Spain.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.

Want to see more? Check out all of your study abroad options on the ISEP website.


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