The Yin & Yang of Int’l Teaching

Just in case you didn’t already know, Yin/Yang is the idea that all things exist with inseparable, contradictory opposites such as rich and poor, large and small, dark and light, truth and lies. Within that structure of opposites there exists balance. Teaching overseas is no exception

The rewards to going international (Yang) can be great, while the difficulties (Yin) may be enough to make some of us stay home.  For readers contemplating a leap into International Education, ISR recommends you assess the potential Yin and Yang of your decision-making process.

The Yin of teaching overseas: Being away from loved ones back home during major life events, new-found friends and colleagues drifting away at school’s end, lack of a caring support network when things go wrong, a constant slight feeling of insecurity, difficulty getting by with limited language proficiency, the challenge of moving pets, hard-to-manage financial responsibilities back home, lack of job security and/or a pension.

The Yang: A decent paycheck and savings potential, eager students and generally great colleagues, interesting, nearby places to visit, breathing room from family pressures and expectations, personal growth from living in different cultures and languages, potential for living well above the socio-economic lifestyle of a teacher back in one’s home country, opportunities for lasting friendships with people of all ages from all over the world.*

International Teaching, like all aspects of life, is about getting your personal Yin/Yang balance right.  Can you deal with a polluted city as the trade-off to being near historic sites that make you swoon?  Is a small school with few resources worth the struggle in exchange for the opportunity to teach well-behaved students with a passion to learn?  For everyone, the sacrifices (Yin) they are willing to make for (Yang) pleasures will be different.

Of course, there is more Yin/Yang associated with moving and teaching overseas than mentioned here. Take your time and weigh your own personal Yin/Yang balance while making the commitment. Many International Educators say they were hesitant to leave their country behind but now don’t want to return. They’ve found their personal Yin/Yang balance. You can, too!

* from ISR Open Forum users


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11 thoughts on “The Yin & Yang of Int’l Teaching

  1. This describes exactly my overseas experience and I hadn’t thought of the yin yang idea, although I’ve been saying “gotta take the bad with the good ” as the summarizing expression of my experience so far. But it really is about yin yang, about “trade offs” and me being one of those naive Americans I had a hard time my first 6 months overseas because I was always comparing to the great life I had back in California. Even though I left California to pursue my overseas dream & I was clear about the reasons why I left, I still yearned for the easier life in California where everything was familiar. It was then that I realized why Americans are the biggest complainers 😦 and why this experience was so necessary for me: because I never fully appreciated what I had and now I have a new appreciation for things that, before I took for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, there are some teachers and administrators who just teach overseas for the money… and create issues and problems wherever they go. At some point, most of us wonder why we are staying overseas and go back home where overseas experience counts for nothing!


  3. The problem with teaching overseas is that you are not building a lifetime retirement that a state pers and social security offer. At some point we all reach retirement age. Unfortunately fun and experience don’t pay the bills once we reach that age. People never think about building a retirement when they are young. PERS and Social Security will do just that. However, these are never built when someone is overseas. Better to put 10 to 20 years in a PERS system then venture overseas.


    1. Sorry anonymousey but you’re dead wrong. Every overseas teacher I know put aside some for their retirement and many were able, with tax-free salaries and the occasional school or national pension plan, save much more than they could at home. Stop a minute and check your facts before spouting such nonsense here!


    2. I’m in complete agreement with omgarsenal. I came back from overseas with enough money to buy a nice house and pay cash. I also bought three rental units and the income is good. My friends that stayed home are all still working to make the house payment, etc. And, after you put in 10 to 20 years back home your too old to do the great stuff you can do when you’re young. Who knows, you may die tomorrow. Live!!!


    3. I didn’t start working overseas until my early 50s, meaning I had already made substantial contributions to SS and started receiving my New York State Teachers Pension at 55, so I am double-dipping big time! However, as stated by Anonomous, I have encountered and know many, many teachers who WILL not have paid in sufficianly to SS and have no pension to fall back on- I have also noticed the ones who have not, are also a lot more carefree with their money, so its not really an oversight, but a lifestyle choice. They seem to eat out, shop and travel at will. Now, I of course shop and travel also, but AFTER 3/4 of my salary goes into my US bank account. Where I currently work there are 4 teachers aged 58, 60, 62 and 63 (2 married couples), who say they have nothing to fall back on and have saved very little. Fortunately we are in a country with no forced age limit, so they can all work for years to come. I am aiming at just 2 more years and will have plenty of cash stashed away to retire way before my SS kicks in at 62 or 65 or whenever. I will buy a house and new car for cash and not worry about my retirement- And retire early enough and young enough to enjoy it!!!


  4. Agreed! Most schools in SE Asia seem to be run for profit, whilst some are seen as, and simply used as an alternative way to keep the family business intact. In my experience in Thailand, one such school owner didn’t really care about looking after and keeping the good teachers he had; he hired and fired at will and would only pay for the final stage of the employment visa and did not give any help to teachers who needed help to find housing, neither did the school do anything about taking their teachers to the Immigration authorities for visa renewals at Chiang Watana, a nightmare in itself! Medical insurance was only the bare minimum and generally, inadequate. As for teachers families, teachers were responsible for getting visas for their family members. Of course, this school was not “up front ” about this in the interview. On the other hand, we made many new friends and enjoyed the opportunity to have many new experiences, which we were not able to enjoy in our home country.
    In short, sometimes the pain is worth the gain!


  5. There are so many blessings, exposure to new environments etc but yes, I must agree with Omgarsenal – Management and Owners have no business accumin whatsoever, nor do they have respect or culture – to put it midly – they dont have class (definately no people skills) and are just in it for the money. I have wonderful memories and made many friends. Refuse to take any unscrupulous behaviour from these overgrown children who call themselves Managers and Owners. They need work on their emotional intelligence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tahira but about 1 in 3 owners/managers and admin. were pretty good from my experience. It is always a case of each situation being different from the rest….so generalizations aren’t accurate in this case.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There are many other issues and blessings working overseas but the biggest negative I encountered were unscrupulous and ignorant school management and owners, to whom basic decency was a complete mystery. The biggest plus were the lasting friendships and unforgettable memories you make while working overseas.

    Liked by 1 person

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