Outdoor Education Jobs Abroad: The Perfect Alternative to Teaching ESL for Outdoor Types

Guilin China is a hotspot for Outdoor Education and Wilderness First Aid Certification
Outdoor Education is often overlooked by people thinking about experiencing life and culture in another country. What makes Outdoor Education jobs abroad an interesting career choice is that you get to step outside of the classroom and share life-transforming experiences with adolescents. We met up with Steffen Lohrman, an Outdoor Education enthusiast. Steffen is an example for anyone who is interested in starting or transitioning into a career in outdoor education, an incredible alternative for those considering teaching English abroad but who enjoy being outdoors.

If You Like the Outdoors, Then Outdoor Education Jobs Abroad Might Be Right Up Your Alley (Or Mountain)

For those of you who are wanderlust, teaching ESL learners has long been a viable way to see and experience the world. But teaching English to ESL learners in a classroom environment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people loathe the mundane aspects of being an ESL teacher: preparing lesson plans, teaching grammar and pronunciation, reviewing and grading essays and tests – day in, day out – the list could go on. Not everyone is wired to work in a structured environment, and for this type of person, teaching English is going to put a damper on the broader goal of experiencing living in a different culture.

Enter Outdoor Education…

What is Outdoor Education?

Here is a description from Wikipedia:

Outdoor education is often referred to as synonymous with outdoor learning, outdoor school, forest schools and wilderness education. Outdoor education often uses or draws upon related elements and/or informs related areas. The hallmark of outdoor education is its focus on the "outdoor" side of this education; whereas adventure education would focus on the adventure side and environmental education would focus on environmental. Expeditionary education involves expeditions into wilderness "where man is but a visitor." All of these activities typically involve experiential education.

If you have a penchant for the outdoors and wilderness, then outdoor education jobs abroad might be the perfect alternative to teaching English. Many people who have worked as outdoor educators declare that the experience was life-changing, and the friendships made have become rich, purposeful relationships.

Who Do Outdoor Educators Educate?

Outdoor Education Climbing

Outdoor Education jobs abroad will often be available in international schools and outdoor education providers that cater to them. Outdoor Education is not cheap. Camping trips, wilderness excursions, and extensive travel for both educators and participants means Outdoor Education can indeed be expensive and thus out of reach for the typical public school. Consequently, most outdoor education jobs abroad deal with engaging international school students, since international schools are equipped with both the financial means and willingness to integrate outdoor education into their curriculum.

Not all programs happen in the wilderness. There are plenty of programs that take place in school gymnasiums and playgrounds, as well as programs where students get involved in local community work, and often there are programs offering a mixture of these experiences.

Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), for example, has its own Outdoor Education Department. WAB is one of the most prestigious international schools in China. It is evident that WAB views Outdoor Education as critical to its students’ learning experience. Here is what WAB says on its website:

In the wild, we challenge students to challenge themselves, and think and reflect on how they interact with the environment, heightening awareness of the global issues facing our planet. Our team structures programs unique to each grade level, gradually increasing in difficulty and steadily building independence. The goal is to meaningfully engage students, and to foster a love of nature and respect for our interconnectedness.

Western Academy of Beijing

What Do You Need To Be An Outdoor Educator?

Outdoor Education Crossing

Before searching for Outdoor Education jobs abroad, it is important to know if this type of work is suited for you. Even if you are someone who loves the outdoors, that’s not enough. As you will often be dealing with adolescents and working in collaborative and culturally diverse environments, a positive mindset, team spirit, and cultural awareness are all crucial to making this a successful experience.

Because Outdoor Educators need to be prepared for emergencies in the outdoors, most Outdoor Education jobs abroad will require you to have completed a Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certification course.

As well, there is often a lot of travel, and perhaps several days in the month when you will be away from home and cut off from the comforts of modern urban living. There may be times you will feel homesick, and times when relaxing for you means not being outdoors!

While Outdoor Education jobs abroad often attract people of all age ranges, they are likely to appeal most to people in their late 20s to mid-30s. Many people in this age range tend to be in a transitional phase in life before settling down or pursuing other goals and interests, and have very few commitments and dependents, if any.

What Career Options Exist After Working As An Outdoor Educator Abroad?

As mentioned, people drawn to Outdoor Education jobs abroad tend to be in a transitional phase, and thus it is important to think about what comes after this wonderful experience in terms of a career. In fact, Outdoor Education jobs help to develop a wealth of skills and experience that prepare you for practically any career path later on. While many people move into corporate careers, a number of outdoor education enthusiasts stay in the field of education, often becoming international school teachers or counselors. Some pursue careers as Outdoor Education consultants, while others start their own businesses as Outdoor Education or Experiential Education providers.

Meet Steffen: An Outdoor Education Enthusiast Living Abroad

Steffen Lohrmann
Steffen Lohrmann enjoying the wild with a friend.

Steffen Lohrmann is a Dutch-American expat who has lived and worked in Asia for several years. In fact, Steffen grew up and went to school in Asia. Steffen’s father was an expat who worked primarily in Asia’s hospitality industry, so Steffen and his brother have been living the expat life from a young age.

Naturally, due to his father’s line of work, Steffen first found work in the hospitality industry. It wasn’t long after working in the corporate world though that Steff realized his true calling as an outdoor educator. Steffen has been working as an outdoor educator since 2013, and has embraced it not merely as a career, but as a lifestyle choice.

Watch Our Interview with Steffen Lohrmann About Outdoor Education Jobs Abroad

Steffen took some time to connect with us and share his wealth of experience in Outdoor Education. In this interview, he talks about outdoor education jobs abroad, and how international schools and companies have recognized the value of incorporating it into their culture. He also talks about topics such as how much outdoor educators can make living abroad, what type of person is suitable for this field, and where this career choice can take you. Because Steffen has been a long-time resident of China, he also shares his insight about how much ESL teachers can earn living in China.

Steffen was in a remote area of Chiang Mai, Thailand, during the interview, so his internet connection dropped off towards the end. Fortunately, Steffen was able to answer all of our questions, and we hope you will find this interview insightful in your search for Outdoor Education jobs abroad.

Interested in a Career in Outdoor Education?

If you think Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning is something that resonates with you, we have featured JUMP! Foundation, a global leader in this arena, in a follow-up post. For what it’s worth, Steffen got his start in Outdoor Education with JUMP!, so if you are looking for a place to start, JUMP! should be at the top of your list.

Adil Vellani

Adil Vellani

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Adil Vellani is the co-founder of ESL Job Exchange. With more than 20 years of international experience in both the education and corporate sectors, Adil is devoted to sharing his knowledge and experience to help individuals and organizations connect and make a massive impact in the lives of ESL learners across the globe. Adil also lectures at the Sino-European Institute of Aviation Engineering, where he teaches aviation engineering students in an international degree program.
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