There’s no way around it: Ishaq is a badass. You only need to scroll through his Instagram (@mango_man__) for two seconds before you get a feel for his wayward soul and adventurous energy. But now, Ishaq is going to put his trusty skateboard (his favorite travel companion) down (for just a sec!) to find a TEFL job abroad. Let’s learn more about his journey to Asia and what he’s learned along the way.


Tell us about your background, and how your community, friends, family, etc. took the news when you told them you were planning to teach abroad in Cambodia and Japan.

For the last few years, before I went travelling, I was working for Enterprise as a management assistant. I was living with Sheffield with my four housemates and everything was great, I just kinda felt I needed a little something more and wanted an adventure. I went interrailing around Europe and had an incredible experience, so much so that I came home and within three months, sold my car and reduced all my necessities to a 60 litre bag and headed off again. I travelled through Europe, the Middle East, and Thailand whilst doing my TEFL course before arriving in Phnom Penh.

As I was approaching the end of my stay in Cambodia, having gained some teaching experience, I began applying for more teaching jobs so that I could continue to fund my travels. It was few days later I was offered a teaching job in Japan.

What did you study in school? Did you study abroad? What exposed you to the possibility of living abroad as an expat?

Growing up I was an academic person; however, I didn’t really have the patience or attention span to really allow me to excel in any academic fields. That’s changed dramatically since I hit 23, but by that I was all ready out of education. I was fortunate enough to get on the Graduate scheme at Enterprise even though I didn’t hold a bachelor’s degree, which opened up so many doors for me.

I did my TEFL studies whilst travelling. For the last five years, I’ve had a very deep desire to travel and needed ways to fund it. I also wanted to do something rewarding. Hence, teaching English was very appealing. Being a Native English speaker and a teacher enables me to work pretty much anywhere in the world. Once you start doing the job, it’s amazing the feeling you get, knowing the positive impact you’re having on your students lives.

What skills do you have — both soft and hard — that you believe will allow you to succeed as an ESL teacher in Asia?

I worked in business and sales and I think the skills you acquire from that are easily transferable and can be applied to teaching. I think as well as that I’m quite an outgoing social person, which has helped me talk my way through certain situations.

Did you have any reservations about whether or not you should get a TEFL to teach abroad? What made you decide to go for it?

My reservations were more on going travelling. I think everyone who goes travelling by themselves gets quite nervous about the idea. It was a very new experience when I went interrailing by myself round Europe but it was the best thing I had ever done. Everyday was an incredible adventure and so I knew i needed to do this for as long as possible. Once that was decided, TEFL was a no brainer.

Share a fun story from your wheelin’ & dealin’ around the planet. We hear you love your skateboard!

Haha, I’ve been skateboarding since I was eight years old and my only regret when I went interrailing was that I didn’t take my skateboard because I was conscious of space. What a mistake that was! I didn’t make that mistake again.

One thing I love most about skateboarding and travelling is: whenever you go to a skatepark, wherever you are in the world, you’ve already got something in common with the people there—it’s quite easy to make friends with them. It’s even better if they’re locals cause then they’ll either tell you or show you all the cool places to go to.

What has been the hardest part of living a life on the road for you? What has been the most rewarding part?

I hate airports and flying but I just kinda get on with it. I’ve been denied entry into countries due to visa issues and just recently had to leave Cambodia and had to come back, again due to visa issues, but this led to a crazy adventure.

I ended up in Malaysia, made some really cool friends, and ended up seeing and meeting one of my favourite DJs who just so happened to be playing in Malaysia during the two days I was there. I think things are gonna annoy you when you’re travelling, but as long as you’re open minded and just push through, you’ll be ok. But the pros outweigh the cons by 95%.

I could go on for ages about the rewarding parts but I’m gonna summarise by saying the sights, the experiences, the people I’ve met, and the students I’ve been able to help have all been amazing.

What advice would you give future teachers considering finding English teaching jobs abroad?

Go for it! It’s the best thing ever. You’ll grow as a person whilst having some of the best experiences of your life.

Thanks for sitting still for a few minutes to share your insights with future TEFLers like you. Now get back out there! 🙂

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