Most students in education programs find that their schedules are very cut and dry. Most education programs are requirement-heavy and also involve quite a bit of preparation for state and national licensing exams. Unfortunately, this detracts many education majors from attempting a study abroad program – it is just too difficult to fit it all in. However, if you plan ahead and try to be a little creative with the programs you have in mind, there are plenty of ways you can use a study abroad program to your advantage. In fact, this sort of experience can, in many ways, provide a leg up on the competition when it comes time to find jobs or apply to graduate work. Here are few ways you can use your study abroad experience to work toward a teaching career:
1. Apply for an education-specific abroad program.
The best way to make an abroad experience work for your teaching program is to choose a study abroad program that is specifically tailored to education majors. There are plenty of abroad programs that center on education and even provide opportunities for learning and teaching within the local community. You can also select a program that offers some of the courses you will need to complete your teaching degree, even if that program is not specifically education-based. Even simple basics can help, such as language or humanities requirements.
2. Volunteer at a local school.
No matter where you choose to study abroad, there will always be opportunities to immerse yourself in the local education system. You can volunteer at a grade school, high school, college, after-school program or even a day care. Taking the time to give to others is a great way to learn, and it will also present incredible opportunities to prepare as a future teacher. This sort of experience can also be included in master’s applications and job resumes for many years to come.
3. Prepare for the TOEFL.
If you are interested in teaching English as a foreign language at some point in your career, this is one of the best opportunities to prepare yourself. Because you will be speaking a different language during your abroad experience, you will have a first-hand account of the trials and tribulations of students struggling to study in a second language. Preparing for the TOEFL takes a major time commitment, so getting some of that out of the way during downtime in your program is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, and you will have the life experience to truly understand what the test is all about.
4. Make side money as an English tutor.
You may not be able to find courses to attend or ways to volunteer your time in an academic context, but you can always peddle your services to locals who may need some help. Advertising yourself as an English tutor is an excellent way to make some side money and get some great teaching experience. This is something that can most definitely be included in a job resume or graduate application, and taking that kind of initiative could be very impressive to recruiters.
5. Talk to local teachers and administrators.
Instead of assuming that you are on your own in a foreign country, try to remember that there are similar professionals doing the same thing you want to do. The only difference is they probably speak a difference language. However, if you’re an English speaker, there is also a good chance that some of these professionals may speak English as well. If you can find someone willing to speak with you about the profession, this is an excellent opportunity to take a peek inside the lives of teachers in different cultures.
Jillian Terry is a writer and researcher for www.teachingdegree.org. She prides herself in helping students find the best paths to their desired teaching degree and welcomes questions and comments.