Starting a TEFL career is not a solitary journey.
It feels deeply personal in the planning stage. After all, you are leaving your whole world behind. But once the plane lands you will not be alone. You will be part of a community of adventurous souls just like you. You will form lifelong friendships. And it will happen fast.
At the beginning of every school year, English language programs hire a group of new teachers. There is a lot to review; housing, visa issues, lesson planning materials, etc. And obviously that is easier to do in a group setting. But there is a psychological aspect to it as well. School administrators know that new teachers are spinning inside. New job jitters, culture shock; it is a lot to process. Being surrounded by a group of people who are going through the exact same thing really helps. It is a long exhale for everyone.
A lot of English Language programs provide housing for new teachers. It is helpful. It is hard enough to find a suitable apartment at home, let alone in a country where you don’t speak the language. It also means that you don’t get to pick your new housemates. Perhaps surprisingly, The Big Brother/Real World thing often works out brilliantly. You might meet life long friends and at worst you’ll get to know a group of people who would have remained on the fringes otherwise.
Finding Your People
Like minded people always find each other. In the TEFL world there are A LOT of like minded people. Every English teacher is someone’s crazy, world traveling, unpredictable friend. But, even within that unique community smaller groups form. You will find your people. And that is when the adventure gets bigger.
Weekends and Travel
It takes a few weeks to get settled but the itch to explore quickly takes hold. People start venturing out to the local bars and restaurants. Ideas are thrown out about weekend getaways. Everyone is already dreaming about those six weeks off between semesters. And nobody is planning anything alone. A few teachers are going to a concert in the park. All the teachers are going to the beach at the weekend. During the semester break teachers are spreading out around the world. And it is all happening amongst new friends in a far flung community.
The Speed of it All
Back home it takes a long time to get close to someone. You’ve got friends. They’ve got friends. Your lives are a labyrinth of things that have always been. A TEFL career will knock down those walls. The friendship clock resets. Suddenly, you’re the new kid in town, cruising around the neighborhood, seeing if anyone wants to play.
And the Future Becomes not IF but WHEN
Ask any TEFL veteran: there is something special about the first experience teaching English abroad. You’ll never be that nervous, that excited, that outside of yourself again. As you continue your TEFL career, you’ll continue making friends and seeing the world, but the magic of those early days is unique.
And parting isn’t as sad as you might think. As your new friends venture off to TEFL jobs around the world, it won’t be a question of if you see them, but when and where. They will always be the teachers you met during your magical first experience abroad, and the friends you can’t wait to see in your hopeful travel future.