Teaching in Asia can be fun, profitable, and life-changing. Some people decide to live in Asia forever after getting a taste of the Orient, but many of us will eventually have to come home. Whether it is familial obligations, homesickness, better opportunities, changes in government, or whatever the case may be, most of us will likely be taking a trip back home.
What will we do when we get home? We have been teaching English for a year or maybe longer, but we come from English-speaking countries where this is nothing special. How will we get jobs? How will we readjust ourselves to Western life?
Recently, I returned to the United States and let me tell you, the job market is not as easy as it was back in China. I have things to take care of on the homefront though, so I cannot just pack my bags and return to the land of opportunity that is the Middle Kingdom. Before you find yourself in this situation, you will want to take some steps to make sure that your transition back into life it home runs smoothly.
Learn the Language of Your Host Country
Learning Chinese or Japanese might seem counter-intuitive if you are planning to go back to an English-speaking country, but knowledge of languages can be helpful. Firstly, you may be able to put yourself into a position where you can teach or tutor the language to students wanting to learn. Next, it will allow to take on translation work, including online gigs that might be found on freelancing websites such as Upwork. Finally, learning the language can show future employers that you are disciplined, and didn't just spend a year in Asia goofing off like many foreigners do. You never know, you might just end up in a department responsible for communicating with an Asian country!
Get into Teaching
Teaching in Asia might not be the same as teaching in a Western school, but it can still help to build good classroom experience. This is especially the case if you were teaching in an actual elementary or secondary school rather than an English language institution. Having teaching experience in Asia can pad your resume when applying for jobs in the educational field.
One thing that you must keep in mind, however, is that most Western countries will require credentials to become a full-fledged teacher, which means more time and money invested. A major upside to teaching English in an Asian country, you will find, is the relatively low barrier of entry. This is something that I certainly miss having returned to the States.
Leverage Soft Skills
If teaching is not your career of choice, then your time spent in Asia might not be relevant to your resume. However, there are many skills that one can develop in the ESL classroom that can transfer to other industries.
Presentations, for instance, are common in various occupations, and standing in front of a class teaching lessons will naturally develop one's public speaking abilities. Being able to plan and create backup plans is also a critical skill in nearly every field.
If you work for an English mil that focuses on recruiting students, you may also gain some marketing and sales experience. Just remember that it likely will not be as easy back home because you will not have the exotic foreigner factor on your side.
Work on Developing Hard Skills
You may find yourself with lots of time on your hands in Asia, especially if you are lucky enough to work for a university. Seeing the sights and hitting the clubs are fun indeed, but you also have a future that will creep up on you before you know it! Once your year or however long you will be teaching is up, you are going to want to be more skilled than when you started.
For this reason, you will want to begin developing marketable skills that can earn you a job beyond teaching English. There is a wealth of free information that can be accessed online, and major certifications can earned in most major Asian cities. Taking just a little bit of time out on your days off can pay off big time when it is time to go home.
Save Your Money
Instead of splurging on drinks every weekend, save a portion of your income for your return. You never know how long you will have to wait before you get a job, and life in the West isn't getting any cheaper. Unfortunately, exchange rates and transfer fees may eat into your savings, so you will want to have some financial power for your return home.
Paying off any student loans that you may have will also help your credit score back home. Foreigners often use their time in Asia to pay off student loans, taking advantage of lower costs of living to lead frugal lives, putting their savings towards killing their debt. Be advised that certain countries like Japan and Hong Kong might be even more expensive than where you come from though!
Having some connections in your host country is great while you are living there, but they can still serve a purpose for when you return home. Online tutoring can garner a bit of side income that can keep you afloat if you are between jobs. If your aspirations are higher, you may even be able to engage in international business, such as importing and exporting goods.
Some of us may make Asia our permanent home, but most of us will eventually put it behind us as an experience in our youth, and return to our homelands. Life back home does not have to be a drag, however, and following the advice in this article can help you to hit the ground running once you are back. Remember that preparation and leveraging all of the skills and connections that you make will cause your transition to be much smoother. Just don't succumb to reverse culture shock!