The benefits of being an international geography teacher.

Looking for a new start this new year? Wondering whether teaching abroad is your next step? Hear from Chris Lyons, an adventurous geography teacher who moved to South Korea back in August. He tells us why he is pleased to have taken the leap and explains how moving to one country opens doors to so many more.

Like most geography teachers you will probably meet, I love to travel. It quite honestly doesn’t matter where the destination will be, as long as it’s somewhere I haven’t been before then I’m likely to want to see it. From the city views at the top of the Empire State Building to an abandoned volcano anywhere in the world, I find being able to study a different part of our planet, both the human and physical aspects, particularly fascinating.

I’ll admit to not being the most outdoorsy of geographers. I only own one pair of walking boots and one waterproof coat. I’m no Bear Grylls; I prefer a cooked meal and a sturdy bed for the evening, but if it enables me to discover something new I can probably put up with a bit of ‘roughing it’ for a while. A short while at least.

Even before joining the international teaching circuit through Teacherhorizons, I’d done my fair share of school trips. Highlights included zip lining across the Costa Rican rainforest, touring around Alcatraz, trying to sleep during the midnight sun in Iceland and getting caught in a hailstorm at the top of Mt Vesuvius. The last two might not necessarily be highlights but it was all part of the experience!

Travel Pic 2Taking the leap

My love of seeing the world out there led me to looking into the international circuit. I loved my school in London but felt that it was the right time to move on. With a whole world to choose from, narrowing it down was a bit of a struggle, but the team at Teacherhorizons helped me realise that Asia was the best choice for me, Korea in particular. When a great opportunity came up at North London Collegiate School in Jeju I decided to go for it, and here I am.

No time to waste!

If you have an international mindset then adjusting to living in a new country isn’t too much of a big deal. Learning about a new culture first hand can be both fascinating and frustrating, but as our school constantly reminds us ‘It isn’t Korea’s fault’ when you encounter something that you don’t understand or find exasperating. It’s excellent advice, but in all honesty the general lack of driving competence on the roads here has to be someone’s fault!

Within a few weeks at my new school I realised the opportunities for further exploring the planet are excellent. Already in my first term I had travelled to various other parts of Korea and the Philippines in my breaks and holidays. The lack of monthly outgoings that limited my travel in London are not an issue here and it really is great to know that I can afford to do the things I want to do, which for me often means travel. If you are someone who prefers to travel with friends then I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll meet like-minded people where ever you go.


Travel PicOther ways to travel as an international teacher

There are also likely to be opportunities to travel with school, and not just for geography teachers. Students at my current school are constantly flying off around the region for sports competitions or debating conferences. A great way to get travelling is to get involved in a sport or society. I’m currently writing this post from a Model United Nations Conference in Singapore (a good location choice if you like the heat and humidity) and I know that next term my involvement with the rugby team will see me travelling to other parts of Korea, as well as China and beyond, for fixtures. I’m also currently arranging a school geography trip to New Zealand for next year which should be full of both fun and educational activities, and I’m looking forward to seeing another new part of the world. International School teaching really is an excellent way to see the world, you just need to be willing to work hard and get involved.

Just be aware that you’ll have to put up with your family and friends from back home asking whether you actually do any teaching!

Has Chris answered some of your questions about teaching abroad? If you still have more, have a look at our FAQ by Teachers blog. To get adventurous like Chris, just create a profile here. 

Written by Christopher Lyons, a geography teacher at NLCS Jeju in South Korea. He had been teaching for 5 years in London before he decided to indulge his love of the world and go international.

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