I have been teaching in Tanzania, East Africa for four and a half years, and it has been an ADVENTURE to say the least! I applied, had a Skype interview, and got my plane ticket a month before I would fly across the world by myself. It not only was my first time living abroad, it was my first year teaching!
I truly believe that teaching abroad is one of the best ways to grow both personally and professionally. Traveling allows you to see things from a new perspective and learn from people around the world, and it gets you outside of your comfort zone! Today I’m going to share the top lessons I’ve learned while living and teaching abroad!
1. Be Flexible
I always thought of myself as a flexible and adaptive person but teaching abroad has stretched my muscles and made me even more flexible! You never know what will happen – maybe the power will go out right before you get to the copier and you can’t prep any of your lessons, or you go to the shop down the road to purchase something for a lesson but they don’t have it in stock and don’t know when they’ll have more, or it starts downpour raining during the dress rehearsal of your outdoor Christmas play. These are just three out of hundreds of situations I’ve had to be flexible in! Blessed are the flexible for they won’t get bent out of shape!
2. Be Creative
This lesson took time to take root. My first year in Tanzania I taught first grade. I found so many amazing, engaging, and creative lessons online to go along with what we were learning, but I could hardly do any of the because of the lack of resources we had. At first, I was really discouraged. We can’t just run to Walmart or Target and grab what we needed. We have a supply closet of a small amount of craft supplies people bring over in suitcases from America and the limited number of supplies we can get in town. So, I had to be creative! I have made eyedroppers out of Coke bottles, homemade playdough, cornstarch cloud crafts, and much more!
3. Be Courageous
Moving to Tanzania was SO exciting, but it was a bit scary too! I didn’t know anyone there and had only talked to my directors via a blurry Skype call one time! I had to take a leap of faith, leave all I loved and knew behind, and make this new place my home. But, the reward of doing that was so sweet! Tanzania really is my second home now – with friends who have become like family, a beautiful environment that I always love to return to, and an amazing school that I get to be a part of growing and teaching in. I’ve had to be courageous in the classroom too – teaching first grade, kindergarten, and fourth grade, with parents and students counting on me.
4. Be Willing to Learn
Oh man, have I learned a LOT!! Being open and willing to learn new things has so many great payoffs. I have learned how to have a conversation in Swahili (and order my produce at the market!), how to teach in an international school with so many cultures coming together, how to live with roommates, how to cook Tanzanian dishes like chapati (their flatbread), and I’ve learned how to love and serve people better.
I LOVE teaching abroad – and truly feel it is my “dream job” and calling. To anyone who has even considered teaching outside of their passport country, I say GO FOR IT! Yes, it will be hard. Yes, it will be scary. But I wouldn’t trade my experiences abroad for anything! They are what has made me who I am today!
Just like any teacher, I have my FAVORITE THINGS for my classroom. I wrote a blog post all about my Teacher Must-Haves for Teaching Abroad and would love to continue the conversation with you there!
Exploring and Loving the World through Teaching and Connection