It all started with a Facebook ad and the click of a mouse, then 5 months later I’m boarding a plane to China embarking on a new adventure across the globe. Working and living abroad had long been on my bucket list, but it wasn’t quite on my radar at that time. However, the process of applying and getting hired happened so quickly that something told me it was the right thing to do.
My adventure took me to Shenzhen, China, a major city in the Guangdong province in the South. With a population of nearly 12 million people, I was surprised I didn’t already know about this city. It is a bustling, modern city in the South of China which is quickly becoming the new tech hub of China. Another huge job opportunity for expats is teaching.
Speaking English as a native language and holding an American passport already opens a lot of doors that I hadn’t previously realized. Most language schools require their foreign teachers to be native English speakers and a citizen of the US, UK or Australia. The need for English teachers varies by country, so the requirements tend to vary as well. Living abroad provides you with new challenges, but I think is those challenges that lead to greater growth in the long run. Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding if living abroad is right for you.
Is Expat Life Right For You?
How does it make me feel?
When thinking about moving someplace foreign, does it make you nervous? Excited? Tremble with fear? This is an important question to ask yourself. While you do want to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, the thought of a big move should not elicit fear. If you are feeling scared or anxious, maybe you should reevaluate and decide if this is the right move for you. Any gut feelings should not be ignored.
What kind of lifestyle are you looking for?
The world is a big place and, in it, there is the perfect fit for everyone. This can look different depending on who you are though. For some it is the hustle and bustle of a big city, for others it’s the quiet, slow pace of the countryside. If you are more of a city person, research which cities have what you are looking for, whether it’s restaurants, nightlife or cultural attractions. If you want to live in a more rural setting, what kind of landscape are you yearning for? Towering mountains? Rolling hills? Stretching coastlines? These are all things to consider and will help you to narrow down your choices.
It’s not just the physical landscape that you want to think about, but what your quality of life there as well. It’s very important to research cost of living to determine if you will be able to afford your desired lifestyle in your new home. Think about what your must-haves are and write those down. Then, write down a budget of what you currently make or what you can expect to make at a job in that location. This can help you have a concrete roadmap to lead you to the perfect fit.
What are you looking to gain from the experience?
People have different motivations for wanting to live in a different country, and I think it’s important to find out what that is for you before settling out. This can help you to decide which place will best suit your needs. Are you looking to immerse yourself in a new culture? Push yourself past your comfort zone? Save money? Make a difference in the world? You can certainly accomplish all of those and more. If you are in it more for the money, and there is no shame in that, then you should look to countries with a higher demand for teachers or a location that’s not highly desirable. In China, if you want to look into teaching in a smaller, tier-2 city then you can enjoy a better salary and lower cost of living as well.
In it for the cultural immersion? Then you definitely want to consider which culture interests you and choose a company that offers some cultural immersion as a part of their compensation package. A lot of schools and teaching placement companies will offer language classes and will have local staff to assist you with acclimating to a new country. This support can be really helpful when you’re far from home and feeling lost.
Are you willing to be uncomfortable?
A move of any kind is going to throw you out of your comfort zone, especially one overseas. You are not only changing your living quarters, but your job, your surroundings and pretty much everything you know. The culture might be completely different than your own, which can take some time to adjust to. Not everyone is up for the challenge of being uncomfortable. A lot of people like to stick to what they know and where they feel confident, which is perfectly understandable. However, this type of person might not do well in a new, foreign environment. Pushing outside of your comfort zone is not for everyone, but finding the joy in the discomfort is an important characteristic for someone who wants to live abroad.
Have you ever lived abroad? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!
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