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Study, work or teach?

Posted: 20th September 2018 09:18

What to do on a year abroad?

For many students heading abroad is probably one of the most exciting experiences of their lives as it is a chance to meet new people, learn new things, and, excuse the cliché, ‘discover yourself’. Whether you’re going abroad for your gap year or as a requirement as part of your studies, there are so many different options out there for you to choose from, aside from just travelling. Before heading out on your adventure, it really is worth spending some time weighing up the pros and cons of each option so that you choose what is best for you and your individual goals. To make things that little bit easier we’ve looked at the advantages and disadvantages of studying, working and teaching abroad to help the decision making process that little bit easier.



Meet New People

Studying abroad will give you the opportunity to meet people your own age from all over the world in a dynamic international environment. You can both share your culture and learn about others and have an experience that you would never have by staying in your own country. Meeting new people who have a different world view to you will give you the chance to see things from a different perspective, challenge your thought process and even open your mind to new ways of thinking.

Language Skills

If you want to pick up a new language or improve an existing one, studying abroad is arguably your best option. With so many specific language schools offering intensive courses, if you couldn’t speak a word of another language before heading off, you’ll have a good possibility of coming back with better fluency. Plus, if you’re having lessons in another language you’ll be forced to think in that language and before you know it you’ll soon be dreaming in another language.

Student Life

Being a student also often means you’ll benefit from all of the advantages of having student status; reduced or free entry to attractions, specific student nights where you can meet other students and discounts for things such as gym membership and fashion brands. As a student, you’ll also probably have more free time on your hands, giving you a great opportunity to explore the country you are living in.



Let’s face it when it comes to being a student no matter where you are in the world, money woes are always going to linger. To study abroad you’ll either need to have the necessary means before you leave or have some form of money supply throughout the duration of your studies to survive, whether it is from loans and savings, a part time job or the bank of mum and dad – studying abroad is not the cheapest of experiences.


In an ever more competitive world, just studying abroad may not give you the edge you need when applying to jobs. Yes, through studying abroad you will gain a multitude of invaluable skills but if you’re up against candidates who have perhaps completed a work placement away, your study experience may not make you stand out as much.


Not exclusively for studying abroad, but living away from home can be a tough time for even the most confident and outgoing among us. Unless you are studying full time, studying abroad can often mean spending a lot of time alone and without your usual support network around you, this can be a difficult aspect of living away. Culture shock and homesickness are very much downsides to any experience away from home.



Boosting up the CV

The job market is so competitive now, making it more important than ever to have a CV that boasts a host of impressive skills to give you the edge over the other candidates. An easy way to gain tonnes of transferable skills is through doing a work placement abroad, plus you’ll develop a specific set of skills for the industry you are working in.


What’s that old saying, ‘it’s not what you know. It’s who you know’, and making contacts and actively networking in the early stages of your career will certainly stand you in good stead for the future. Working abroad is a good way to build up an international network of professionals who may be able to offer you opportunities in the future, plus having a good reference from an overseas company will look fantastic on your next job application.


Through choosing to work abroad you are very much throwing yourself in at the deep end as you immerse yourself in a new working environment. There’s no point in being a shrinking violet, you’ll have to put yourself out there, communicate effectively with your employees and go out of your comfort zone. Although at first it may be difficult, and you probably will encounter a few stumbling blocks but at the end of your experience, you’ll have gained a new found confidence.


Dead-end work experience

A risk of doing a work placement is that when you arrive at your place of work, your duties may not suit your skill set – let’s face it you haven’t moved abroad to be making coffee for a year. On the other hand, you may find that you have too much responsibility and this in turn can lead to you feeling uncomfortable and stressed. Before confirming a work placement, ask your employee to outline your duties so you know exactly what to expect.

Unpaid or low pay

Unfortunately not all work experiences abroad present you with the possibility of being able to earn a decent wage. While internships are a great way to earn valuable experience in a company, more often than not they are unpaid or very low paid so you can end up expending more than what you earn. Also, look out for companies that ‘promise to find your dream work placement’ but it’s you that will have to fork out a hefty fee for the privilege.      

Little Free Time

A work placement is exactly what it says in the title: Work. If you want a fun experience abroad where you have lots of free time to explore and opportunities to go out, perhaps a work placement isn’t the best option for you. Bear in mind that the work ethic and working hours in other countries may be different to what you expected. And if this is your first experience of full time work, it might be a shock to the system.




Once you have your TEFL qualification, you are free to teach pretty much anywhere in the world in a whole range of institutions. Whether you want to teach English to disadvantaged children in a school in Brazil or help adults with their communication skills in Tokyo, there really is great flexibility with doing a TEFL. TEFL contracts also tend to vary in length, so if you can decide for how long you want to teach.  


One of the easiest and most popular ways to travel and earn money at the same time is by teaching English abroad. Wages very much depend on which country you are working in and for what company you are working for, but there is potential to earn a decent amount of money. In some instances, you may find that even though you may be paid little or nothing, other necessities such as accommodation and food are provided.

A TEFL is for Life

If you fancy yourself as a teacher but you’re not quite sure if it’s the career path for you, a TEFL can be a good temporary option to help you decide if it is your true vocation in life or something that you prefer to just delve into every so often. The best thing about a TEFL qualification is that once you have it, you have it, and it is something that you can keep going back to whatever stage in your life.

Too many providers

One Google search of TEFL and you’ll be overwhelmed with all the different providers trying to sell you the best course. Some courses can be spread over a several weeks and include hands-on teaching experience in a classroom, others are completely based online and some offer a combination of both. Deciding which one to do ultimately depends on your personal preference, but you should dedicate a good amount of time to researching the best course for you.  

English, English, English

If you’re looking to move abroad to improve your existing language skills or learn a new language from scratch, choosing to teach English may be rather counterproductive as you will be required to speak and plan lessons in English rather than the target language. That’s not to say that there will be no opportunity to learn another language, just that it will probably require more effort from your part to immerse yourself in the target culture.

Initial Cost

You can’t avoid the initial cost of a TEFL course, if you’re serious about doing one then you’re going to have to fork out the cash. It is also worth remembering that providers spend money on advertising so that you choose them, now while some may offer attractive discounts you really need to do your research on what they offer and how much support they give to their students when finding a job – just because it is the cheaper option doesn’t mean that it is the better one.

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