By: Noa Ben Haim
Who doesn’t love traveling? Seeing exciting places, sipping local beers, experiencing new cultures, tastes, music, and meeting a ton of people (other travelers as well as locals) wherever you go… what’s not to like? But working and traveling by and large don’t go together; not every job will allow you to just get up and leave for months, and the ones that will — will probably also make you kiss your paychecks goodbye until you get back.
But there’s an alternative: taking your job with you! And in this case it’s convenient, not very time consuming, and doesn’t really feel like a job anyway. Sounds good, right? I’ll be honest… it’s actually great! Plus, even though it’s all-too-easy these days to find budget-friendly hostels and means of transportation, it’s nice to keep getting paid while traveling.
I started teaching English as a foreign language last December, about two weeks after completing the International TEFL Academy’s Online TEFL course. It’s internationally accredited, which means that once you’re certified, you can get an English teaching job basically anywhere (at an online company or at a language school in whichever country you dream of), and if you choose to teach online, you can work from home or from wherever you want so long as there’s reliable Wifi and some quiet space… so practically anywhere.
The main difference, to me, between teaching from home and while traveling around Europe is that when I’m home, I get up pretty early to teach (since my students are in China and there’s a 12 hour difference between the East Coast and China during the summer, and 13 during the winter), whereas in Europe, evening in China is the middle of the day. Over the past few months I went to Oxford, Cambridge, London, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Dublin (and, though outside of Europe, Tel Aviv and other places in Israel), and I was teaching in each of these places.
My students are from all over China, five to eighteen years old, of all levels. Teaching beginners is a bit of a challenge, of course, if you don’t speak their language (like myself), but there are creative ways around that too. Some of my students are so advanced you’d think they’re American (some spent a few years in the US for instance), and I teach them some history (of slavery), which is a great place to tell them how important diversity is, how terrible racism is, and that sort of stuff.
I have a Chinese classmate who said recently (as a response to the professor’s question, “Why did you choose this class?”) something like: “This class is about race and it’s not something you can study in China.” I loved my job before that; don’t get me wrong, but I’ve loved it even more since. It’s not like I’m doing something amazing, or changing life orders in China; and I only have so many students. But that’s how you start, I guess. One kid at a time. One important piece of knowledge, one crucial piece of advice about judgement, about right and wrong, about morals, about values. It goes a long way. Wait, we were talking about teaching English! That’s satisfying too, even if in smaller ways… watching their satisfied, proud, smiling faces when they pronounce a word right after a 20 minute struggle, or when they remember that grammar rule they keep forgetting. And you did it. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Your students get attached to you at some point (and you to them! Well, most of them, anyway), and if they’re little, they’ll paint stuff for you and sing “happy birthday” for you because of course they’ll remember when your birthday is. And at the end of the day, if your students like you, they’re going to learn English, and maybe not only English. They’ll care about what you say; they’ll want to impress you; they might even see you as some sort of a role model. Bottom line, it’s a perfect part-time job for a few years while you study, or travel, or do other great stuff. It’s flexible (as you make your own schedule); it pays well; it’s usually fun, and it’s fulfilling. That last point is my point really. What else can we ask for?
Noa Ben Haim lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She is in her final year of her Bachelor's degree at Harvard, where she studies history and focuses on American slavery.