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The New Me: 10 Ways that Teaching Overseas Has Changed My Life

teach overseas spain

There is nothing like hopping on board a plane across the pond, to an internship that you have little experience in, and a language that you don’t really know to make you question who you really are. Teaching overseas not only pushed me outside of the comforts and security of daily American life. It also pushed me outside the very safe sense of self that I created throughout much of my adolescence.

How Teaching Overseas Changed Me

Teaching abroad as a language assistant in Spain has profoundly changed me in many ways, and I thought I would share a few below.

(Video: I am hosting the Infantile Carnival event at my school with another teacher. The theme of our Carnival parade was Jungle animals. I had to overcome my nerves to present to over 300 parents at the school gymnasium. We worked for over two weeks to prepare the students for their performance).

“Kati” Before Teaching Overseas

In order to investigate who I have become after teaching abroad, I need to reflect back on who I was before. Here is a list of the defining qualities of “Kati past”:

teaching overseas
Me and a friend (also Meddeas assistant) in front of Pilar Basilic, Zaragoza
  1. Someone who lives life out of fear. This may seem counterintuitive (see the whole hopping on a plane thing above), but I used to let anxiety and fear rule many of my daily life decisions.
  2. Someone who was unsure of what to do after graduating university. Work at an office? Teach? Jobs overseas? Grad school? Travel? There were so many options, and none of them fit quite right.
  3. Someone who had a self-conscious tendency to avoid speaking Spanish at all costs. I had some experience with the language, but would always turn bright red and stutter at the thought of communicating and sounding “stupid”.
  4. Someone who struggled with talking to strangers. Why would I say good afternoon to random people on the street??
  5. Someone who was searching for fulfillment. Enjoying your work and living a happy and prosperous life is just the stuff of myths. Right?
  6. Someone who would have never had the confidence to write a public blog. Who would want to read it except for mom and dad anyway?
  7. Someone who would drive to the grocery store a mile down the road. Enough said.
  8. Someone who hated mornings. Please don’t speak to me before noon on a good day.
  9. Someone who rushed through meals, and rarely cooked. But the drive-through line is so convenient!
  10. Someone who was terrified of being her authentic and true self. Again, people that do this aren’t real right? Sometimes it happens on movies and stuff…

 Now that you have a picture of the “Kati of lifetimes past”, let me let you in on a little secret: The girl I am writing about is someone I don’t even recognize in the mirror anymore.

“Kati” After Teaching Overseas

Teaching overseas in Spain has shaken me to my very core. It has shown me how beautiful and magical every day can be if you let it. Through my language assistant role, all of the wonderful friends I have made, and the immersion into a new culture, I have grown in every direction and see no signs of stopping. So let’s take another look at that list, shall we? Here are the characteristics of “Kati Present”:

teach overseas spain
Me in one of my “infantil” classrooms
  1. Someone who searches for fear everyday. By staying in my comfort zone, I realized I was doing a terrible disservice to myself. The leap of faith and little bot of courage I had to make the journey to teach abroad proved to be one of the greatest decisions of my life. I decided that, if I could have the courage to take on the fear of the unknown in such a big way, magical things might just happen if I approach challenges head on, with a big smile and heart of curiosity.
  2. Someone who is on the path to something great. Albeit vague, I know that if I keep living everyday of my life to the fullest I cannot go wrong. I have found such passion in teaching, and have committed to listening to my heart every step of my journey.
  3. Someone who isn’t afraid to sound a little “dumb”. If I am going to ask my students to let go of their embarrassment when speaking with me in English, how can I not do the same in Spanish? Practice what you preach, and teach by action. It is the best way.
  4. Someone who makes a new friend every day. Whether it is the postman or someone at the tram stop. A smile and wave can change someone’s whole day.
  5. Someone who realizes that fulfillment must come from within. Always searching for the next phase of your life, next country to go to, next meal to have, next relationship, next job, next whatever, takes you out of the present. We are given the beautiful gift of life every second of every day, and realizing that sometimes it is enough to just be alive can be quite profound.
  6. Well you are reading this, aren’t you? It is so easy to make a million excuses to not do something. You can say you’re not as good as the others, that it isn’t your thing, that you don’t really want it anyway. How do you know teaching English overseas is not for you unless you try?
  7. Someone who WELL exceeds 10,000 steps a day. I literally love walking everywhere, and I am gearing up for the “Camino de Santiago” in June!
  8. Someone who loves seeing the smiling faces of my four-year-olds at nine in the morning. I always wanted to be one of those people that could get up and fully enjoy all the glorious things the sunlight has to offer for as many hours as possible. And now I am!
  9. Someone who LOVES to cook and eat with friends! Not eating until at least 9 pm and enjoying conversations in the kitchen and the table has become one of my favorite things about Spain! https://youtu.be/W5zNusmbb1M
  10. Someone who is incredibly proud of the woman I am becoming. I have learned such wonderful things from every student and friend that I have met teaching overseas. All the love and talent and wisdom I see in others, I am finally able to see in myself.  I have made this opportunity my own, and I am so happy and proud to be able to share it with others.

https://youtu.be/W5zNusmbb1M

If it sounds too good to be true, I encourage you to find out for yourself. There are incredible opportunities to live the life you have always dreamed of. Why can’t it be you? Why can’t you make the move and teach overseas? I will always be thankful for the opportunity to explore Spain, but I never realized the true terrain I would be exploring was my own inner self. As for the characteristics of “Kati Future”, well that is something I am unsure about. But I do know that Spain will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart, and becoming a language assistant has changed me for the better.

2016/17 Posted by Kati S.

If you enjoyed this post about teaching overseas, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. How Being a Bad Language Learner Helped Me Be a Better ESL Teacher
  2. Why Applying for Gap Year Jobs Was the Best Decision I Have Ever Made
  3. Life After Meddeas: Teaching Abroad Gave me Confidence and Enthusiasm

5 Responses

  1. Wonderful article! Living and teaching abroad has changed me a lot as well. I first lived and taught abroad in South Korea for 6 months for my work experience in my 2nd year of university (I was only 19) and I wanted to continue that journey of self development and push myself even further out of my comfort zone, so here I am in Spain. Before all this when I was younger, I was extremely introverted and socially anxious. I hated talking to strangers, talking on the phone, taking public transport and was afraid to do new things by myself. But living and teaching abroad pushes you outside of your comfort zone as you have to do all of these things to survive and also to enjoy the experience to the fullest. Nowadays I don’t have any qualms about speaking to someone in Spanish and getting out there and meeting new people. Taking the leap out of our comfort zones is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, even though it’s scary at first!

  2. It’s really nice to read a blog post like this one as I am currently recognizing changes like these within myself since I started teaching in September. In only almost six months, I have definitely grown lots from this experience. Looking back, everything that I was terrified about in September right before moving to Huelva seems so silly now such as: getting lost, traveling on my own (I do it all the time now), and using lots more Spanish (I love it). It’s so funny that you mention searching for fear as that has been one of my greatest changes as well. I definitely love a good adventure and talking to strangers has become much easier. Before taking this job, I actively avoided being out of my comfort zone, but now, its honestly so much more easy to be brave.

  3. This was such a good read! Thanks for opening up and sharing your experience. It’s amazing how much we can change over the course of a year.

  4. I particularly agree with the “practise what you preach” part! I think it´s so important to push yourself and not take yourself too seriously, both as an English teacher and a Spanish-as-a-foreign-language student. Thank you for sharing your article!

  5. I loved this article! I loved the “before” and “after” perspective and you changed. I think my before and after lists would be very similar to yours! I, too, was unsure what I wanted to do right after graduation and was a bit afraid to live in another country where I didn’t know the language or anyone else. I definitely think that this experience makes you a better, more confident, more well-rounded person, and anyone thinking about doing it, despite any doubts, should! Facing your fears is the only way you’re going to overcome them! P.s. I love the video of making tortilla! It’s one of my favorite dishes here!

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