You've moved to a great place and got a dream job as a TEFL teacher, yet you feel lonely and just don't fit in. Well you're not alone. Almost everybody who moves to a foreign country soon finds out living away from your home amidst a community where you're a stranger and barely speak the language is a very lonely road. You may struggle to fit in with the local people or find it difficult to understand an alien culture.
You may be an expert in your field and have top notch skills to ace your new job yet if you're constantly having trouble fitting in, you'll soon find that your work is starting to suffer. This takes an even higher precedence when it comes to work place synergy and your interactions with your colleagues which is essential for success in a foreign country, especially places like Asia or middle East, where your peers hold a lot of sway on your work life. Building a friendly and supportive relationship with your colleagues is paramount to successfully navigating the culture and environment of your new job.
So how exactly do you go about being the new kid on the block?
Build Relationships; more than one support system that is
Sure, you really get on with the English teacher who seems to be of your type and then there's the chairman who told you walk in through the door whenever you've got a problem. But relying on just one or two support systems is a bad idea. You can't talk to the principle about getting a bus pass, nor can you rely on a single person all the time as if they're an agony aunt. Keep in mind, you're still acquaintances, not bffs. So try building more than one support system and cultivate a good relationship with many people.
Connect with everybody, even the annoying ones
Develop a cordial and friendly relationship with all your colleagues and neighbors. You can filter out the annoying ones later but ensure you are acquainted with all. This will be of immense utility as your life in the new country progresses.
Most people can offer you knowledge and tidbits that bellies their appearance and could be highly useful. For instance, the loud gossipy history teacher might just have the inside info on the payroll systems while the quiet grammar teacher can give you tips on how to control the classroom and the background info of each student. So listen to all and learn as much as you can from them.
Always be open to new relationships and new experiences, even if it's outside your comfort zone. Sure not everything would click but you'll still learn something new and exciting. This will help you tide over the blues and homesickness when you're down and feel lost among the crowd. And as your develop your language skills by communicating with the local people, you'll soon find out that you've become a part of the community yourself.
Being a TEFL teacher is more than just teaching English to foreigners, it's about the experiences and relationships you forge in your journey.