Published on:
December 8, 2016

by: Guest

The benefits of international work experience

So when it comes teaching abroad, what are the benefits of international work experience? What the institutions say vs. The realities of working internationally and the experience gained.

This week we spoke to Mike F.: an OC ambassador and former teacher in China. He has just returned from 6 months teaching and working at the forefront of the education system in Nicaragua, South America. Here Mike advises on the realities of a life teaching abroad and the perceived benefits to a CV vs. the realities of the skills and impact on a teacher’s future.

  1. You will learn to be adaptable.

“Correction: You will have to be adaptable, and initially you have also shown a degree of adaptability by gaining your job role and taking that huge step of moving to a country that may have completely different working practices to your own! To give an example – when teaching what I perceived to be Science at developing schools in Nicaragua, because of the developing education system in this fragile country – the curriculum was changed half way through my stay and I mainly ended up teaching health education to teenage boys, which turned out to be the most rewarding part of my trip! An open mind, a sense of humour, and a willingness to learn will enable you to adapt to any situation and show future employers how you have been able to adapt to the unadaptable and cope with the challenges and new situations presented with when working internationally!”

  1. You may have the chance to take on positions of high responsibility more quickly.

“Or, I might say: be prepared to take on positions of high responsibility, but be sure to take on any roles with a willingness to question your own culture and ingrained way of doing things – you may be surprised to find new methods and ways of working in a position of responsibility, when you initially envisioned taking your own philosophy and way of working all around the world. It is certainly true that in many countries, particularly when I was in China, positions of advice and responsibility when it comes to UK education systems and ways of teaching English are thrust upon you, so good communication skills and a willingness to train and teach other adults are a must. However, make sure you swot up on local customs of communication and respect between peers so you can be sure to manage with respect and a listening ear, and easily fit in to a culture’s methods of management. You will be surprised what you learn, and may well head back to the UK with some new business culture ideas and ideals that can really help your employers of the future innovate.”

  1. You will gain a global network of contacts for the future.

“Yes you certainly will. When living and working internationally, be kind to everyone, and you will get kindness in return. Remember, just as important as keeping in touch with that local government and business representative that you met at an institution meal or event, is talking regularly with your next door neighbour who keeps an eye on your property and occasionally brings you some food when you have had a hard week. You never know when people will turn up in the future. To share an anecdote – two local friends who I met in my first teaching role in Guangzhou recently got in contact as they had started jobs in Shanghai working on the promotions for sports car manufacturers – so I am currently booking a trip next year to drive a new Bugatti out Shenzhen! At the same time, the charities that I worked with in Nicaragua provide me with an unrivalled reference showing the work done nationally across a country in my 6 months, and there are not many people you will go up against in a job that can provide international references of how you specifically have benefited the international education community and informed future policy on a national scale. The work you do internationally is important, but the relationships that you make are truly priceless and long-lasting.”

Mike is now studying for a Master’s Degree at University College London (UCL) and also works part time as an English Teacher in East London, as well as continuing to act as an Ambassador for Opportunity China.


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