The alarm rings, maybe at about 7am. Wearily and mechanically you get up and make that first coffee of the day, willing it to shake you out of your zombie-like stupor and provide you with a semblance of enthusiasm for what lies ahead. About half an hour after peeling yourself from the bed that you so wish that you had crawled into about three hours earlier the night before, you’re on the road. It’s dark and wet, just as it was the morning before. And it’s rush hour; a journey that would take fifteen minutes an hour from now instead takes closer to forty, leaving you ample time to morbidly visualise the day ahead.
From Monday through to Friday you have one goal: to get to the end of each day as quickly and as painlessly as possible and return to the safety and relative sanity of the place you call home. There you will shut the curtains and drown out the mundane events of the day with the assistance of a large dosage of your tipple of choice.
Sound familiar? A recent survey found that job satisfaction in England is at its zenith in the north east of the country – with a whopping 18% of employees claiming to be ‘extremely satisfied’ with their current working situation. Which means that the remaining 82% of those lucky enough to live in the country’s beacon of worker happiness range from being ‘satisfied’ to ‘extremely unsatisfied’ with how they spend approximately forty of their waking hours each week.
It is surely a sad indictment of our society that the second most positive emotion available in the above-mentioned survey when referring to your feelings about your working situation was ‘satisfied’. Surely life is about more than simply being satisfied? But isn’t this is simply ‘reality’? Well, yes, it is the reality that many of us choose and accept, but there is another way.
What if I told you that every single person reading this has a commodity for which the rest of the world is willing, and even eager, to pay you. And, in some cases, pay you very well. That commodity is your language. For millions of non-native English speakers around the globe, acquiring a competent grasp of something you and I take for granted is the holy grail, a ticket to a life of greater prosperity.
By 2014 I had been working as a secondary school teacher for four years in various institutions throughout the Manchester area and my working week amounted to a version of the one described above. I had reached a critical point: something had to change.
The idea of teaching English abroad had always been something that had greatly appealed to me. One day, in the future, I would maybe try it. It had always been more of an abstract idea rather than a definite plan of action. But then one day, as I sat in my classroom one dreary, wet lunchtime, perusing, not for the first time, the vast array of international teaching jobs advertised online, I decided to take the plunge. A job in the Andalusian capital, Seville, caught my attention and, within two weeks, I was preparing for my first post abroad.
And it was the best decision I ever made.
You may be thinking, ‘that sounds nice, but I’m not a qualified English teacher so it wouldn’t be that simple for me.’ An internationally-recognised, six-week TEFL course is available to any native English speaker for anywhere between £400 and £500, and with this qualification under your belt there are very few countries in the world where job opportunities wouldn’t be available to you.
Experiencing life in a different part of the world has been such an enriching experience on so many levels. It seems we have it all wrong back home: work comes first, life comes second. Life in many parts of continental Europe, and indeed the world, has things in reverse. Once the working day is over, there is never a shortage of live events to go and see or take part in. In fact, just the other evening, I happened upon a tango class taking place in a square in the middle of the city; around fifty people of all ages coming together under the moonlit sky simply to dance and enjoy one another’s company. I struggled to envision something similar taking place on a rainy Tuesday night in the centre of Manchester.
Of course, what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. But what is for certain is that, if you are ready throw off the shackles, roll the dice and see what else life can offer you, teaching English abroad may well turn out to be the most rewarding decision of your life.