Things I Miss About Teaching Abroad

Laura with her students in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Laura with her students in Surabaya, Indonesia.

This post has been written by guest blogger, Laura Ambrey.

It’s been a few years now since I’ve left the ESL teaching game… Sometimes I miss it. Here’s why:

I miss… the cultural immersion. In no other job or travel experience did I have such instant involvement in the culture. Working with and teaching Indonesians everyday meant learning so much more about Indonesia than I would have, had I simply wandered from hostel to hostel, sightseeing with other travelers.

I miss… the kids. I’m a kid person; they truly crack me up. I particularly liked my pre-school and kindergarten classes – they used to tell me they loved me. Sigh.

I miss…the teachers who claim they don’t like kids. Actually I don’t miss this – you’re a teacher for Chris’sake! Why choose teaching if you don’t like kids? Not every class at an English school can be full of businessmen and women.

I miss…the schedule. Work started at 1 p.m., enough time for sleeping in and a trip to  the gym/pool in the morning. However, late starts tend to mean later nights. Finishing work at 9 p.m. meant meeting friends for a drink didn’t happen until at least 10:30 or 11 p.m. But heading home at 2 or 3 a.m. gave a rare and welcome taste of a traffic-less city.

I miss…having a “foreign family.” Fellow teachers, local and expat, became family. We shared good news and bad news, birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmases. And even though we likely hadn’t met each other’s real family we were excited to hear about their triumphs, and saddened by their tribulations.

I miss…the pay.  Jut kidding! Although the starting wage of USD$800 was more than enough to get by in Indonesia.

I miss… the questions from students. Questions like: “Miss, what is divorce forest station?” (This one took a little figuring out.) “Oh, I think you mean deforestation,” and, a personal fave: “What does it mean when a person is called tool?” Uhh….well…

I miss…convincing people teaching ESL is in fact a real job. Another lie, I don’t miss this at all. I quickly bored of explaining that I earned an honest salary and even got benefits. And I would quickly like to point out that teaching is no easy task – getting students (particularly middle-schoolers) active in and excited about a lesson is difficult no matter the subject or school.

I miss… the vacation time. In America you can count on the standard one-week of vacation per year, more once you’ve worked for the company longer. As a teacher in Indonesia, we started with three weeks – not including public holidays. Unheard of! And we certainly enjoyed it, spending two weeks in India, another two in the Spice Islands, and countless long weekends in Bali and Lombok.

About the Author

Laura Ambrey is a traveller, writer and wife who has backpacked through Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Her hobbies include photography, SCUBA diving and trying the latest spa treatments. Visit her blog: Writings From Abroad

Do you have a guest post you’d like to submit to Nomad Notions ?  Please send it with your name, a one-two line bio, your website if applicable, and a brief description to jennaroselongoria[at]gmail[dot]com


  1. These are truly enormous ideas in concerning blogging. You have touched some pleasant things here. Any way keep up wrinting.|

  2. Hello Jenna,

    I just want to thank you for your blog and comforting words. I am getting ready to teach abroad in Jakarta, and I feel absolutely everything. Reading your blog helps me unravel those nerves and to remember the beautiful risk I am taking. I wish you nothing but safe travels.



    • Hi, Melody! Thanks for the nice note. I’m glad my blog was able to give you some comfort, and I’m thrilled that you are embarking on this journey. I know it can be daunting, but nothing exciting happens within your comfort zone 😉 Indonesia is an amazing country. Good luck in Jakarta! Love and light, Jenna

  3. I believe you did an awesome job explaining it. Confident beats having to research it on my own. Thanks

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