3 Things You Must Do Before Returning Home From Teaching Abroad
After 10 years teaching English in Korea, I’ve decided to return to Canada within the next year. It’s not without trepidation that I make this decision and truth be told, I’m kind of terrified. In order to make my transition as smooth as possible, I decided to survey 55 of my old friends, and random Internet strangers about their experiences with going home, post ESL teaching abroad in order to extract as much wisdom from them as possible and not make the same mistakes that they did. They had some awesome advice and I’m going to share you with you their recommendations for things to do, before you ever leave whatever country you’re teaching.
A Large Pool of Money: Get One!
Without fail, almost every single person in the survey mentioned the need to have a large pool of money when you return to your home country. You’ll need to buy things like a car or new clothes, put down deposits for housing, or pay for tuition if you're going back to school. However, by far the most important reason to have a large pool of money is that it may take months to find work—in some cases it took people 3-5 months to find something. It took a few people far longer—6+ months until they found something more suitable that didn't involve customer service or call centers for close to minimum wage.
“Have the finances available to ensure that any period of time searching for a job is financially viable.”
Think you Have Enough? Think Again!
It seems like the people that had significant amounts of money ($20,000+) were able to ease into their return home by spending some time adjusting to culture shock, visiting with family and friends, and taking the time to find a job that was suitable for them. They could look for something that they really wanted to do instead of what they were forced to do because of financial constraints. $20,000 could sustain a somewhat frugal person for at least a year, assuming no income coming in, but this worst case scenario was actually not the reality among the 55 respondents.
“Save your hard-earned money for your eventual return home. I wish I had saved more!”
Not surprisingly, those with $5,000 or less had an extremely difficult time returning home and seriously regretted not having more. They mentioned things like being forced to live with parents (which 6 people on the survey specifically advised not to do) or take jobs that they hated. They also didn't have the luxury of time to just enjoy being in their home countries because money was a huge issue and they felt like they were under the gun, as their bank account balance got smaller and smaller with each passing day. It's stressful enough to return home because of reverse culture shock without having this serious money situation to worry about as well. Avoid it if at all possible!
“It is crucial to have enough money saved up before making the move home. I spent thousands before earning my first paycheck.”
A Plan: Get One!
Having a large pool of money was the most popular answer for what will determine success in transitioning home, but having a plan was a close second. The people who were most successful did one or more of the following things before they ever left the country they were teaching in:
-had the qualifications necessary for a very specific job path at home (example: certified teacher, ecologist)
-had already applied for numerous jobs
-already had a job offer
-were accepted into an educational program
-had a place to live
-had at least one back-up plan
-researched the job market extensively in their home country
-saved a significant amount of money and knew how much they needed to get set-up, in many cases making a detailed budget
“It's important to have a detailed game plan upon your return concerning a timeline for you to complete certain important tasks such as transportation, housing, and job hunting.”
Plans take time, so it’s best to make the decision about whether or not you’re going to stay or return home early. 6 month is perhaps an ideal amount of time so you can get all your stuff together and even start applying for jobs while abroad.
Consider Location Carefully
It can be tempting to return to the place from which you left because you will likely have friends and family members to support you during your transition. Surprisingly, these people play a smaller role than you might think in going back home according the survey, so don't feel like need to make your decision about where to live based on these factors.
For example, someone who used to teach in Korea returned to her hometown—a small city in Ontario, Canada and is now very unhappy because it's not a great place to live. She's planning to go back abroad the first chance she gets. For myself, I'm from Edmonton and my parents still live there and while it is indeed tempting to go live in their basement for a few months to get my feet on more solid footing, it would be a serious mistake. I was never happy living there because of the weather and conservative views and I left the first chance I got after high-school. For me, I know that I need to live in a big city with a milder climate that's near the ocean so that leaves Victoria or Vancouver as my two choices. Of course, as a few people mentioned you really need to consider cost of living wherever you're moving so do a bit of research and see if you can afford it.
“I took a very low paying job as a manager of an English school in San Francisco (currently the most expensive US city) and had to leave after six months.”
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South Africa's Most Expensive Town to Rent Property In
The UK: The Cheapest Cities to Rent in—and the Most Expensive
Some Final Advice
Going home after teaching abroad can be pretty intimidating and scary and many people stay where they are, unhappy because of the fear that goes along with this big move. However, it really is possible especially if you have a large pool of money, a plan and have considered location choice carefully. Get organized and make it happen!
Photo Credit - Cliff: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/
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