So you’ve heard more and more about language assistants (also known as teaching assistants, English teachers) either in a blog post describing ways to travel the world and make money, inside a travel Facebook group, or maybe even a close friend of yours who may have been one abroad.
You may be wondering what it is exactly. What’s the hype around it, and is it all fun and games, or can there be actual professional skills and development involved?
I know I’ve personally heard in the past from other people who thought that teaching English abroad after college was some kind of tactic to avoid “the real world” or something you had to get out of your system in order to “get serious.” I remember those comments being so dismissive of all that could be attainable through this experience, and not being accurate at all, even before going through the experience myself.
The truth is, there is SO much to gain, and no, I’m not just talking about the amazing, cultural, linguistic richness you’ll gain (which is also a plus!) but also all of the super marketable and desired traits and skills that many employers are looking for in new employees.
So, I’m here to tell you that there most certainly IS a lot to gain when you become a language assistant, in various ways, including your professional development. We will jump into the specifics in a little bit.
Also – If you’re wondering if it’s also even a possibility to be a language assistant during the current state of the world, then definitely keep reading on to see the different opportunities offered, in which you can be a language assistant, and gain these 5 professional skills while on the job. Whether it’s possible by your country and your host country to travel there or find other great opportunities, we’ll explore that in a bit so stay tuned to learn more…
How being a language assistant changed my life (and sharpened my professional skills)
Through my personal experience teaching English in Spain, I was able to jump into the real world, make big decisions on my own for the first time (abroad), get creative in a variety of ways, and think quickly on my feet. Through becoming a language assistant, I was able to build connections and gain clarity on myself, and what I really wanted for myself after this experience was over. Not to mention the heaps of opportunities I got at my school to practice effective communication, cultural understanding, adaptation (super important!), and not to mention, the confidence to keep and take with me, no matter what I ended up doing afterward in my career and personal life.
Being a language assistant during a pandemic
Considering the fact that we are experiencing a huge shift in the way we use to live life and do things because of the pandemic happening right now, there are a couple of things to take into consideration before jumping at the opportunity of being a language assistant.
First and foremost, being alert and aware of the ever-changing updates surrounding the virus is important to keep up with for safety. Each country and continent as a whole has its own rules and regulations to follow, so depending on where you currently live, you may be able to actually travel and live in the country of your school, or you may have the option of virtual language assisting.
So if you’re wondering if being a language assistant is the next step for you, or you’re simply curious to look into the variety of professional skills you can gain in this ultimate experience alone, then keep reading.
A couple of doubts to clear
Now before we get started, I do want to clear up any doubts that may be popping up in your head, especially if you’ve been on the fence on whether or not being a language assistant is for you. I get it, I had to ask myself that question multiple times before signing my agreement because it is a big deal and a big move.
I know one of the things that really helped me was finding other people that had already done the experience, and hear from them if it was worth it or not. 9 times out of 10 I heard really good feedback and most saying they would do it again (and most did). Then shortly after as I went ahead on my own experience, I realized the reason why it wasn’t 10 out of 10.
It wasn’t because of the culture shock or the people or homesickness – It was because of the uncertainty of where you would be placed to teach and where you would be living (whether you lived with a host family or on your own).
Aside from that, there is also the ambiguity of what kind of school you may be placed in – religious or non-religious? Public or private? Younger students or older students? And all the other details that you don’t realize until you’re at the school.
However, nowadays, there are many platforms online and people offering their help and experience as a whole. Take for example the platform Erasmus in School (not sponsored by the way), which is an online platform designed to help interested candidates to gain more clarity on these details, ownership, and control over this process, and go about it in a way that is most closely to what they’re looking for. Users are able to see more details and requirements from the schools and overall have a bigger pool of schools to be a language assistant at.
**Quick disclaimer: I am collaborating with Erasmus in School to bring you a simple and free platform to get a start on looking at this potential opportunity in as much detail as possible, so I will be sharing a little bit more about how this could be a useful platform for you to use. I am not being sponsored to share the Erasmus in School platform or services, so rest assured this is coming from an honest place to help you potentially use their platform to help see what kind of schools are out there to work with, and what are some requirements.
Erasmus in School is a great platform to do that, as they are firstly a FREE online platform designed to help connect language assistants to schools, universities, and other companies that are looking for language assistants with your specific knowledge, in a variety of locations all over the world, but the majority being in Spain.
It’s free to create an account and start researching schools that start to pique your interest. They make it so easy to get in touch with the school directly, get your questions answered, and get a feel for the school (very important) before making a decision.
So before you decide to start looking for potential schools, here are 5 professional skills you learn when you’re a language assistant.
Adaptability to new environments
If you’ve been able to leave your comfort zone at home, try new foods, listen and learn from other people, live on a budget, and get used to the lifestyle of another country, then you can learn to adapt to any kind of environment and lifestyle after that.
If you tell your employer that you are adaptable, that is telling them that you are better able to take on work challenges, deal with work-related issues with more patience and calm and that you can easily adapt and adjust to the work environment and learn to work with a variety of people. If you back up your adaptability by giving examples of how you adjusted abroad, you not only stand out, but you also demonstrate just how well you can adapt to any situation.
When you are interviewing for a job, aside from considering your education and experience, the employer is also having a conversation with you to get a feel for you as a person. They want to get to know you, and how your personality could possibly mesh with their current work culture and environment. Considering your travel experience alone, you have so much to offer in your presence alone, so double down on that, let that alone boost your confidence, and let that shine with all the examples and situations you’ve experienced when you’re at your next job interview!
Effective Communication Skills
This is also a very important quality that job interviewers are looking for in potential candidates, simply because they need to know how well you can communicate with co-workers to complete tasks. Whether you are communicating with clients or with your co-workers or your boss to complete a task, it’s important to know how to speak and communicate ideas/information to others.
And here’s your edge; when you were abroad, you not only had to learn how to communicate with your co-workers, but also on top of that, you learned how to maneuver different work styles, cultural implications, and potential miscommunication. You end up learning how to effectively communicate because of the added cultural barrier that exists between you and your co-workers, which also fine-tunes your attention to detail to another level.
The huge benefit in working abroad is that you get that actual *real-world experience* that all employers seek from interviewees, which means that working for a school, in a foreign country, maneuvering life abroad and getting settled, speaks in volume about your ability to communicate clearly, concisely, with consideration of the possibility that someone may not understand something you say the first time, so you have no problem finding alternative ways to communicate effectively, and then some. For this reason alone, and the other reasons to come, being a language assistant abroad really does help shape and sharpen the skills you learn in college, now in the real world, abroad.
Sharp observation and listening skills
When you’re abroad, working for a school that already functions in a very different way than what you’re used to, you have be learn how to be very observant and how to listen to directions carefully.
Being able to be observant and explaining that to a potential interviewer implies that you can pay attention to your surroundings, to your potential co-workers, and the purpose of the position you may be applying for and the company you want to work for. This assures the employer more that you can “learn the ropes” about the company quickly, learn your role, and that you will be able to listen and comprehend instructions given to you.
Sharpening these skills while abroad in your language assistant role can and will help you to easily take the initiative in your role to help your co-workers and the company overall more because you have already mastered listening to directions while abroad. When you interview, it is important to always explain what you can do for them, not what they can do for you, so by explaining the times you had to learn a new skill or system, and how you have been able to sharpen and shape your observation and listening skills as a language assistant, you can easily transfer that skill into the role you are applying for, and your overall professional toolkit.
Cultural and global awareness
Having a background of working within an international setting, as a language assistant for students from other parts of the world, listening to other languages and accents, other philosophies, and other work styles is a professionally attractive quality to possess. The reality for a while has been that the way we are headed, the world is getting smaller and more connected. Nations have established growing businesses together, multinational companies have built businesses and bases all over, not to mention back here in the States, companies are hiring foreign employees to take charge of specific tasks. You yourself may even end up having to move across the world because of a better work position and lifestyle, which means working with people of a different culture and learning to understand them is important.
We must be aware of the growing global economy, it’s potential, as well as how to work with the rest of the world. Being a language assistant can give you that first taste of what it’s like to work in a foreign country, under foreign work conditions/norms, and what it’s like to work with people of different cultures. It’s an amazing thing to be able to come into agreement on plans, listen to each other’s ideas, collaborate and have different influences that can work together to make amazing changes. Plus, work gets a little more exciting when you have different people from different backgrounds as your coworkers.
Money management and increased responsibility with real-world tasks
Money management and budgeting skills are never bad skills to have in life alone, along with cooking, I will tell you that much. While you are abroad, it is crucial to your good standing that you have funds to count on for important costs that you have to cover within the duration of the stay abroad. If you show your employer how you were able to handle your finances abroad, it will show responsibility, efficiency, and character.
Responsibility because you can handle a certain amount of money while making decisions on what to spend on and what not to spend on, efficiency because if you have a certain amount of money to make it last throughout the program duration, you learn how to prioritize, budget, and organize. Lastly, character as planning, budgeting, and being efficient with your money takes skill, responsibility, willpower, and being able to look at things from a need vs. want perspective. This will show your employer that you are trustworthy, have experience in money responsibility as well as techniques on managing it best.
How to find your ideal school with Erasmus in School
So, maybe by now, you’re wondering how you can get started on this journey that can start opening more doors than one, in order to excel at your next job interview and overall role!
Like mentioned before, Erasmus in School is an online platform that allows users to create a FREE account, research from a pool of schools looking for English (and other languages) assistants, and get in contact with them directly. They mainly have information regarding becoming a language assistant in Spain, but they do have other schools from other countries on the site.
Erasmus in School has resources on their site too which shed light on the process of obtaining a Spanish student visa, how to apply for the documents necessary to work and live in Spain for a designated amount of time, and so much more, along with a FAQ, contact information and much more.
Erasmus in School really breaks down this process, which can be confusing for some, especially under the current circumstances, but not totally impossible. The more you know, the better you can make the most aligned decision for yourself.
I remember when I came back from my experience of teaching abroad in Spain. I was applying for my first job upon coming back to the States, and my confidence alone was enough to help me sift through different opportunities that I actually wanted to pursue vs. what I didn’t but felt like I should (you know, the jobs that you know you’d be unhappy at, but apply to just because), all the way to the actual interview process itself.
My experience teaching abroad had opened up a world of possibility, in which I was able to really see what was available for me. Simply put, I learned through experience what I wanted and what I didn’t – including within my future employment.
Whether you take this information and decide to act on this opportunity this year, or next year or in the future, my only hope is that this post serves you as an additional resource to help you potentially make one of the best decisions of your life.
It was for me, and many others who have done it, so if you have any questions on ANY part of this process of becoming a language assistant, being a language assistant during the pandemic, or other more specific questions, please shoot me an email at maritzac@travelnotesandthings ☺️
To many more opportunities of expansion, curiosity, and positive gain ✨
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