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Why Teach English Abroad?

Expand Your Horizons

By Troy Clarke

As a young lad growing up in rural Australia, I was fascinated by different cultures. I was curious about the different people I saw on television and read about in books. My small hometown was a very homogenous society, we had very little opportunity to experience anything but our own Anglo-Australian culture. Our own culture is great and unique, but I wanted to know more. This interest in people, culture and society eventually led me to study for a Bachelor of Arts in history. After graduation I worked various jobs and had various vacations abroad.

It was on one of these vacations, a ten-day trip to India when I had an epiphany. I was sitting on the balcony of my charming colonial five-star hotel enjoying a gin and tonic when it occurred to me. I had been in India for ten days and I had enjoyed seeing the magnificent historical sites, but I knew absolutely nothing about India. The hotel had provided me with a full-time driver and guide who had escorted me during the entirety of my trip. He handled my itinerary and acted as a translator for all my interactions with the local population, including shooing away those “pesky” touts. I ate most meals at the hotel or McDonald’s because my guide informed me that local food would almost certainly give me “Delhi belly”. I remember looking out from the balcony and watching the locals go about their everyday life, I wanted to know more.

Like most people, I could not afford to spend months touring a foreign country, and tourist visas are not usually available for such long periods of time. I remember thinking that there must be other alternatives. At the time I was working in the Melbourne CBD. It was during a lunchbreak when I was sitting at an outdoor café enjoying a warm chicken salad when I noticed that there was a really large number of ESL schools dotted around the place. It suddenly occurred to me that I could spend a year in a foreign country learning another language. I had always been interested in learning another language, but I had not really made a genuine effort to learn one.

The next decision to make was, what language to learn and where to learn it? Since childhood I had always had a keen interest in China and the far east. Chinese would be a useful language to learn, and the writing is fascinating. Not being a fan of authoritarian communist dictatorships, China was not for me, but there are alternatives. Taiwan, or The Republic of China was my choice. Taiwan is a free democratic country with the official language of Mandarin Chinese.  I had made my choice. After organizing the visa and school, I was on my way.

I chose to study at National Sun Yat-Sen University (NSYSU). It is a great place to learn Mandarin, and I ended up spending four years there. It was while I was a student at NSYSU I got my first ESL teaching position. I was approached by an individual and I began teaching at his school. I was very nervous at first but as time went on, I began to really enjoy it. Teaching ESL has allowed me to remain in Taiwan and has provided me with an income.

Since coming to Taiwan I have attended numerous weddings and funerals. I have experienced a myriad of Chinese festivals. I have eaten the full spectrum of Taiwanese cuisine. I have learned Mandarin. I have made lifelong friends, and I have experienced the local working environment. As a tourist, none of this would be possible. Teaching ESL can give you the opportunity to understand life and culture in a foreign land. Most people will not choose to spend the rest of their life overseas, but a year in another country can really open your eyes to how other societies really function. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try.

Read the next article in this series HERE.

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