10 Things I Learned from my First Year Teaching Abroad

As I sit on the Plane, ready to head home for a short holiday, after my first year teaching abroad, I thought now would be a nice time to reflect on what I’ve learned and gained from this experience!  

1. Courage 

There is genuinely nothing more terrifying and equally overwhelming, as leaving your home, that you’ve known for the last 24 years of your life, with 2 suitcases containing your worldly belongings. Not only leaving behind everything you know and love, not only moving to a new country, but to one that doesn’t even speak the same language as you! 

But do you know something, that little push, that little leap of faith is just what I needed in my life and it truely was the best decision I ever made. 

With fear comes courage, and know I feel I can face challenges with grace. 

2. You will get homesick 

You’re only human. You will miss your family, friends and familiarities. I’ve had many moments of weakness, but it will pass. Thank God for Skype, I find my blog a great way to allow my homesickness to pass, as I write about all my adventure for my friends and family to read, it reminds me why I’m here and that they are always there to support me. 

3. Smile 

In my particular school we split English and Italian, therefor you have a teaching partner who has the class half of the day and you take them the other half of the day. My Italian is horrendous and her English isn’t so great so sometimes communicating can be a bit tricky. 

But something I try to remind myself is a smile is universal in any language 🙂  or if your kids are as clever as mine are ( I’m biased) get them to translate ! 

4. Teaching and Learning are not the same all over the World 

In Scotland we are constantly made to question our methods and ability , in Italy as long as the parents are happy then you’re doing a good job! I’m working on implementing as many active learning approaches in to my classroom ethos as possible as Italy’s education system can be very old school ! 

5. Difference isn’t always a bad thing 

I’m not gonna lie, at first it was a major culture shock. But I had to remind myself why I was here, I wanted something different to home, so I had to remind myself Milan will not be an Italian Glasgow, very far from it ! Expect the unexpected 🙂 

6. Experience makes you richer 

Yes, I earn less over here than I did in Scotland ! But, I get to enjoy life so much more, all these amazing places that have been on my bucket list for years, are only a train or bus ride away ! The experience makes me richer than any pay rise would! 

7. You are important 

I have never felt so in high demand in my life. As a native English speaker you are already sought after but when you team that up with a bachelor of education honours degree , you’re on to a winner 😉 

I know that gaining employment when you move to a new country is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, but don’t sell yourself short, remember you’re valued ! 

8. Pride 

I am always so proud of all of the children I teach, but over here it’s a different kind of connection. You bond with the children in such a different way. Back home you can barely cuddle the kids without somebody having something to say about it, but in Italy they’re so affectionate and loving caring children and so so so respectful of their teachers. 

There is a different level of pride that comes from teaching someone how to speak and develop in a whole new language, fills me with pride 

9. Patience is a virtue 

Living and working in a country where you don’t speak the same language is the best way to practise your patience, and let’s face it to be a teacher, you already need to have a lot of it ! There is no place that has a sense of urgency like the UK, face it, things take time , get working on those breathing techniques haha ! 

10. You’ll never want to come home 

And that exactly why I’ll be returning for another year, next year 🙂 and in Italy the children move up with their teacher, so they’re stuck with me for another year !


Have you ever taught abroad ? What would you add to the list ? 


24 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned from my First Year Teaching Abroad

  1. Travelling is one of the very few things I’m yet to do, but once given the chance it’ll be hard to stop me from uncovering every hidden gem of every corner of this world!

    I hope you take every lesson you’ve learnt, everywhere that you go as they help you grow into the person you’re supposed to be!

    Happy travelling!



  2. I’m a Reading and English elementary school teacher and I’m fluent in Spanish. I’ve been dreaming of teaching English in Spain, and your post fills me with excitement. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it, but knowing I can makes me feel happy.


  3. Loved this heartfelt post and, yes, sometimes the experience trumps everything else. You’re happy with your choices and, above all, you’re a resolved young woman. That is one of the best feelings in the world, knowing what you want and what you don’t want, and not being afraid to walking that path! Happy holidays!


  4. Your experience sounds amazing 🙂 When I studied teaching yoga to kids we looked at Reggio Emilia’s theories on childhood education and I think it offers a great insight into how education is viewed in Italy and other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing!


  5. I am so glad to hear that you will be returning! I think a lot of what stops people from traveling is being alone and fear – but at the end of the day, you learn so much from it. Many life lessons you can’t learn elsewhere.

    Great post.


  6. This was lovely. I will be teaching in Spain come September, so your lessons are ones I am sure I will encounter as well. Glad to hear your experience was great despite some obstacles 🙂


  7. I’m getting ready to move to Thailand and I’m really nervous about being homesick but waaaay more excited than scared! Hahah trying to convince my parents to come visit! 😀


  8. I have never been abroad to teach but I did learn a lot from my long trips, and some of those lessons I find in your article right now. Because of traveling I become an open and sociable person, while before I used to be very shy and afraid to talk to people. That’s just one of them


  9. That’s a great post! I totally agreed with you. There is always a bit of culture shock whenever you visit a new place, but you eventually learn to appreciate the differences 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


  10. This is lovely! Congrats on your first year abroad, I hope many more adventures and insights come your way in the year to come 🙂


  11. In your first year you definitely learn while teaching in regard to certain grammar points ; I did English Language till A-Level and had definitely never heard of a cleft sentence or even a gerund! Agree with a lot you have said – good post.


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