Nervous About Your First Time?

Transplanted from the ISR forum
The contract’s signed. You’ve resigned your State-side teaching position. There’s still loads to do in preparation for leaving, when suddenly….reality hits. “What am I doing?”Β  Leaving family and friends for a far distant land can be a scary proposition. Is it normal to feel apprehensive and even overwhelmed? Do these feelings occur in seasoned overseas educators? ISR invites you to share your first time experience with colleagues preparing for their first time.

52 thoughts on “Nervous About Your First Time?

  1. First of all you would be amazed how much you don’t actually live abroad because you live in your house. Second Skype means you get to see and talk with family and friends anytime you need it.
    Yes it is normal to be scared but once you are in your classroom you will see you feel right at home and if not then you leave at the end of your contract knowing you tried something amazing.
    The community at international schools is supportive so don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Expect culture shock- for me unexplained tears from holding it together- but that passes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In 9 weeks time, I am leaving a wonderful Head of Eng Dept job in a nice school in southern England and heading out to Brunei to work for CfBT. I have heard and read nothing but positives about the organisation and the country, so yes I am really looking forward to it, but yes I am getting very nervous/apprehensive as well! I am taking my husband and two young daugthers along for the ride, too, so this will be a family adventure.

    I guess I’m coping with the inevitable feelings of ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ by constantly picturing our lives 6 months from now, when I envisage us sitting on our veranda on warm evenings, trekking through virgin rainforests, and feeling more relaxed than we have done for years; I imagine the wonderful friends that we haven’t met yet but are about to; and I picture my children’s awe-struck faces as they see night skies full of more stars than they have ever seen, or watch newly-hatched sea turtles scampering down the beach to the water’s edge, or as they find a gekko on their bedroom wall for the first time πŸ™‚ When I think of these things, and when I tell myself these things WILL happen, then I know for sure I am doing the absolute right thing.

    Stay strong, and keep telling yourself that Fear Of The Unknown is what stops 99% of people from having the courage to Live The Dream!


  3. I just this week accepted my first international teaching job outside of Bangkok. I am very NERVOUS. Especially considering the current civil unrest. Most family members have been very supportive, while others have “expressed reservation.” πŸ™‚
    I have been on a rollercoaster of emotion (which is mormal, Im sure…) but I am nervous, nervous, nervous!


  4. I remember how I felt before my first big move to teach overseas. Even though I had worked overseas before in another job I had gone with a friend.

    It’s the unknown that is scary. I knew next to nothing about the town I was going to beyond what it said in a guidebook. Guidebooks don’t really help, as they give no clue to what it’s like to be in that place apart from a night or two.

    When I arrived in Indonesia the plane was delayed. Sitting on a plane by yourself and not understanding the language is quite an experience. This was also my first experience into how friendly people in the country are. One family also waiting for the plane kept giving me food and trying to talk to me despite speaking very little English beyond β€œHello what name you.” lol.

    When I eventually arrived I was taken to a boarding house where another teacher was living, as the teachers house wasn’t finished. There was also other professional Indonesian’s living there, too. I wasn’t told this before I left. While this wasn’t the ideal living situation, I and the other female teacher loved living there (we lived there for 1 month). We got to make some good Indonesian friends as soon as we arrived which we wouldn’t have done living in the teachers house from day 1. Also, most of the others living in the boarding house spoke goodish English and they helped us start to learn the language straight away. They also introduced as to some nice places to eat and go out.

    When arriving in a new place the key is to go with an open mind and be open to meeting new people. Also if you learn the language this will help you to settle in more.


  5. reynoam – its about what you’re expecting from the countries I think. Egypt is meant to be much dirtier than kuwait and the people less accomodating.

    Handing over your passport is not such a big deal really – if problems arise you have your embassy there to back you and help put things right. I’m off to Kuwait at what sounds like a wonderful school, knowing that my grandmother is ill and without my pasport it will be more difficult to get home if I need to for the first couple of months. But I figure emergency’s can be dealt with…. Once you have your residency – at the time they give you your passport back, you can come and go from the country as you please WITHOUT needing permission – you don’t need an exit visa as you do in a number of countries (Saudi springs to mind). The staff I met yesterday were in three different countries over the last three weekends, so again, definitely not a problem with travel. Admittedly there is a lot less history to Kuwait, but are you going for a history lesson or to experience something new? There is complete freedom to practise the religion of your choice, but you must be respectful of theirs. The thing that persuaded me to accept the post? The two most ordinary British women ever – one had lived there for 26 years and the other 14 – both heads of their respective schools. They come back to Britain regularly and the only thing they missed was the ease of access to alcohol with their meals (prohibited, but home brews seem quite popular for those who need it lol). There can be a lot of censorship of educational materials, but what you read/watch as an adult is up to you. At the end of the day, you should be looking into the things about each country that you would be most interested in and the things you couldn’t deal with, and decide whether a little conservatism bothers you (with an exceptionally low crime rate) or whether the country’s history and a more westernised society (and a high crime rate) are what you want.


    1. Reynoam:

      After you finish your interviews, please consider each country and what each school is offering carefully. The last poster said surrendering your passport isn’t a big deal. I disagree! Do you really want to involve your embassy if you need to leave the country for a family emergency or to take a spontanous trip abroad to meet family or friends?

      The previous poster indicated a little conservatism isn’t so bad. Really?

      1. A 21st century woman is prohibited from driving a car;
      2. Racist, discrimination and inhuman treatment of hundreds of thousands of Philipino maids (sex slaves) who are prohibited from leaving the country. (NO ACCESS TO PASSPORTS!!!);
      3. Are you comfortable teaching a curriculum dictated by the royal family of Kuwait with no liberty to deviate from the restricted script?;
      4. Are you comfortable living in a country where the limbs of petty thieves are amputated and women who are “convicted” of adultery are stoned?;
      5. Are you comfortable teaching in an environment where disciplining a child of a well connected family, may result in your detention? (see past postings in this blog).

      As an educator, to live and be surrounded by incredible history, and to be able to take your students on field trips and share in their culture is truly a rich experience. Modern Egypt is the cradle of civilization. Modern Kuwait simply cradles the 16th century.

      The previous poster’s assertion that “there is complete freedom to practice the religion of your choice” in Kuwait is preposterous and absurd! How many Jewish synagogues are in Kuwait City? Try wearing a necklace depicting a Christian cross to your school and experience the religious freedom of Kuwait.

      As to the alcohol issue, feel free to enjoy the bath tub gin of Kuwait City, or you can visit one of many liquor stores spread through out Cairo which offers a wide variety of beer, wine and spirits from around the world.

      Lastly as to the crime issue, the previous poster is correct. The crime rate in Cairo is significantly higher than the crime rate in Kuwait City. However compared to other major cities around the world, the crime rate in Cairo is minimal. A recent study showed you are 1000 times more likely to be a victim of crime in Washington D.C, USA than in Cairo Egypt. The victims of crime in Egypt are overwhelmingly citizens of Egypt. It is extremely rare that a foreigner is a victim of violent crime in Egypt.

      I hope the above helps you with your decision.


    2. Maybe the previous poster should get their facts straight before offering advice.

      Women are allowed to drive in Kuwait. I know because I have my license – They seem to be getting it confused with Saudi.

      Limbs are not amputated – again Saudi.

      You teach what the school – not the royals – dictates. The royal family do not dictate the British Curriculum. There is some censorship, but it is mainly aimed at protecting younger children from anything to do with alcohol and some limits on sex education. As long as the school shows that what you’re teaching is relevant then it will usually be allowed to appropriate age groups. Deviation is up to the teacher but must be relevant and appropriate for the children.

      Religious freedom is allowed in Kuwait – again the previous poster is misinformed. There are a number of non-muslim religious establishments. You are not allowed to try to convert or teach others about your faith. But if you want to practice your religion you ARE allowed. Do a google search on the Churches there are in Kuwait etc.

      I can’t comment on the stoning of women. I haven’t heard of any cases.

      You only give up your passport for a short space of time. You’re not likely to be ‘spontaneously taking trips’ in the first 6 weeks or so.

      I don’t know of any filipino (sex slave) maids – all the ones that service the school apartments and houses are Pakistani, Egyptian and Indian.

      As with all things – check all the information you recieve, make sure it is from reliable sources, and then make up your mind. At the end of the day, every country and every experience has something to offer – it’s up to you to put the good and the bad of each country into perspective before heading off. I chose it because not only is it completely westernised when it comes to shopping (I’ve got a BK, a starbucks and a M&S next to the school πŸ˜€ ), but because the American University is nearby and runs professional development courses for all ex-pat teachers – and provides a wealth of opportunities for a healthy social life! As I said, decide what’s important to you and don’t be easily swayed by a few peoples views – everybody will have different experiences in different countries but make sure you get the FACTS first.(I currently work with a Brit and an Aussie who have worked in Iran and Afghanistan, and were extremely positive about their experiences – not what one would expect from some of the media hype).


  6. I am just going through interviews and I am very excited! I have only been teaching for five years and I can’t wait to go overseas and teach!! I had an interview with Kuwait on Thursday and one with Egypt tomorrow. Any advice I need to know about either place?


    1. Hi,
      Good luck to you with your interviews. If you are offered both, take the Egypt job. Egypt will not be as conservative as Kuwait. I have heard lots of horror stories about living and working in Kuwait. Life there can be very restrictive and you have to surrender your passport to your school. I am very uncomfortable giving my passport to strangers. What if you have a family emergency? My understanding you have to get permission to leave the country. Not a good situation to be in. Please be careful when you decide. Look beyond the money and think about the life style. Egypt isn’t perfect, it’s dirty, polluted, and hot, but the history and travel don’t even compare. You will definitely feel more relaxed in Egypt. So think about it before you sign your contract!




    3. Yes, definitely check the schools out. Kuwait can be VERY problematic, and Egypt is really only marginally better. There are some real hell holes there (I taught at one my first year there, and I can tell you, it is NOT fun.) Be sure to read the reviews on this site carefully.


  7. Yes I have heard that quote as well! It was on a recent episode of Family Guy, lol! Anyways I am liking all these encouraging replies! I recently went to a fair and many people looking for jobs were of all ages. I also get nervous of getting older on the International Circuit as it definatly did seem that the “more mature” candidates had a tougher time finding opportunities. Yeah I guess it all boils down to fear of the unknown. I think I need to start living more day to day instead of dwelling too much on the “what ifs”


    1. I say go for it! If you don’t like it and it’s not what you thought it would be, you can always go home. Until you try it, you will always have a bit of regret. To me that’s the worst feeling, wondering “what if”. I am in my 40’s and this will be my first time teaching overseas. I have a lot of emotions going on inside, but I am going to say a prayer and get on the plane in August and not look back. I can tell, you really want to do it, but you are searching for reasons not to do it. What are you afraid of? Trust me, I backpacked around the world for a year and a half and thought for the first couple of months that I was missing something at home. Well come to find out, people were going about there daily lives and everything was the same way I left it. The only one having fun and enjoying life was me! So what I am trying to say, go to the job fair this summer and get that dream job overseas and start having an adventure!!!! JUST DO IT!!!:)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. OMG–that is SOO true. I remember the first time I came home after two years, and I had all these great experiences and new ways of viewing life. And everyone at home was carrying on the same conversations they were having when I left!!

      You will also find that most people don’t want to talk too much about your adventures. They will listen for about 5 minutes, then the eyes start to glaze over! : )


    3. Hey, I am sitting here laughing my a** off. You are soooo right on. You start to feel embarrassed talking about your travels. Some people take it like you are bragging, but they don’t understand that it is your passion and you love seeing new places and discovering other cultures. I better stop, that’s a whole new topic for discussion:)


    4. Thank you, it is nice to know there are people who do this all the time! Also nice to know there are lots of people who have fear!


  8. Ha, that is funny Trav 45! Luckily, I am also somewhat opinionated and I do not get offended easily, life is way too short to be angry at people over silly things. My family and most of my friends are telling me to stay here but part of me wants adventure in life. Most people I know are homebodies and hardly venture further from home. You know the Western dream, big house, big screen TV, 2 kids, a mini van, and hockey. People almost expect this of you as most people I know have this and you almost don’t “fit in” if this is not what you aspire too. I guess I need plenty of persuasion to do it.I am not a huge risk taker and that is the problem. However,with the lack of jobs in Canada, if I stay and “wait it out” that may be even more of a risk than “biting the bullet and doing it.
    P.S Thanks for your encouraging words CN!


    1. Good attitude! None of my family are travelers, either. They don’t get it, but tolerate it in me. I always wanted to travel, but was also afraid to. I didn’t finally head overseas until I was 39. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I’m not a huge risk taker either, and I hate change, but I know it’s good for me, so force myself into these situations. Take the plunge; I always think of Thoreau when I’m feeling scared about taking something on:

      I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”


  9. Oh, you know one thing I should mention. What ends up surprising most Americans/Canadians. A large portion of the culture shock will not come from being in your host country, mostly because you EXPECT to have to adjust to that. What is hard, and I say this lovingly (grin), is learning to work with Brits.

    We expect to be so alike, and nothing is further from the truth. I have numerous British friends of whom I’m inordinately fond, but we have very different ideas about education. And if one more Brit tells me their Bachelors is worth more than my Master’s, I’ll probably hit him/her! : )

    Moreover, that famous British sense of humor can come across as downright rude to most Americans, even if it’s not intended to hurt. So just remember: cultural adjustment comes in a variety of forms, and they don’t all have to do with your host country!


    1. Brit degrees ARE worth more than American masters – unfortunate for Americans but true. In addition, most Brits now have PGCE’s and have to pass the QTS, specific qualifications in teaching….When Americans leave school they go straight to uni – when we leave school we do another 2 years of qualifications before beginning our degrees.

      I know it’s true as I lived in America for much of my life and my family have American qualifications – and mine are recognised much more than theirs (throughout the world, including in America itself). Like it or not, that’s the case. Join the O.U, get a masters though them, an then you can tell us Brits to shut it lol.

      Sorry πŸ˜€


  10. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about the landline comment above. I think that was true back in to 90’s, but now we have SKYPE! It will be your biggest friend! Make sure all your family and friends load it onto their computers and that their computer have a camera!


  11. I am a recent teachers college grad and I got offered an overseas gig which sounded really exciting to me. I did not accept it and I am afraid to mention that the largest reason I turned it down was fear. I went to Korea for brief periods and Thailand and I loved it but I am soooo frightened about a longer stay. I am in my 30’s and I am not hired on by any boards here. I think my biggest fear is having to get up and move every few years, I still am afraid of looking for work every few years here as I get older. Is there lots of teachers out there who never worked for school boards in their home country and have strictly been working overseas their whole career? Is there lots of single people who go alone and make a ton of friends? I am very outgoing and I worry I will be lonely. Please give me some advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh, do not let fear stop you! I moved overseas for the first time at 36 and yes, I moved as a single person. I have been at this same school for 6 years and have made some of the best friends of my life. If you are a friendly, outgoing person, you will have no problem. So yes, there are lots of single people who make tons of friends. Frankly, it is hard not to because everyone is in the same position. I am now about to move onto my next assignment. I am going to miss the friends I made very much but now I know that I will make many new friends. What has been so nice living overseas, is that my group of friends are of all ages; from 33 to 60! I say go for it. You will not regret it.


  12. One thing that really helped me during my tour was having a land line phone (Vonage)that hooked up to my computer. Calling the US for any amount of minutes never made my bill increase (c.a. $25 a mo.). Getting it before you leave the US allows you to use a local number. Talking to my family whenever I wanted helped with feeling alone and missing them.

    If you are a larger size in an Asian country, it will be hard to find clothing. Take plenty with you.


    1. May I ask where you used your Vonage account? I am moving to Egypt, and heard the government there is pretty restrictive about Internet phones.


  13. I guess I was lucky. I look back at my first posting overseas with nothing but fond memories; I loved every minute, and 10 years and three moves later, still do. My mind frame back then was, “Man, I completely want to do this!” and I embraced every single thing about it. I also got lucky with that first job because it was at a great school and I came in with a big group of people–instant friends: several first-timers overseas plus a good mix of expat veterans, and now a decade later I’m still very close friends with a few from both groups, though we’ve scattered across the globe.

    If you’re nervous, that’s good! And the above-advice about dealing with culture shock is excellent. Your experience will be unique, but you can also be prepared to recognize that the different emotions you feel during the first few months after arrival are normal.

    One of the hardest things for me to deal with was the weather, especially as that played out over the school year. I had been a public school teacher in a high-elevation ski resort town, so when October and November rolled around at my first overseas school and it was still hotter than hell, I felt out of sorts–hard to describe, but that was something that I found unsettling. I guess similar to a couple friends who’ve been with schools several clicks north of the Tropic of Cancer and have had issues with long, dark, cold winters; same with going to opposite hemispheres. Winter in June just may well throw you and your body and psyche for a loop! So be prepared–read about your new post and visualize it. What might it be like when Thanksgiving is a work day and it’s 100 degrees outside? What if I can’t afford to travel for Christmas holidays, how will I deal with minimal/no local festive cheer?

    Finally, the big concern is that all of this becomes who you are! I’m American, but don’t feel American…I feel like an expatriate and I’m “from” where ever the roof over my head is…

    and ps–I wouldn’t trade a second of any of the last ten years for anything!


  14. Thank you for posting this blog. This is exactly what I needed! I’m heading off for my first posting and I’m very, very nervous. The majority of my nerves now are due to visa paperwork, meeting deadlines, and convincing family that I’m not crazy or running away from reality. I am also one of these people who want to bring their dog with them (very excited that he has been welcomed with open arms) and I’m concerned about his transition. All said and done, I’m not looking back. This is going to be the BIGGEST challenge of my life, but what is life with out challenge. I look forward to more postings on this blog and more advice from seasoned international teachers. I’m going to check out that book The Art of Crossing Cultures. If you have any other advice, keep it coming please!


    1. Hi,

      I can completely relate to what you have written. I am getting ready for my first overseas experience and I am experiencing a range of emotions. I am also still trying to convince my parents that I’m not running from anything (I am happily married with four older children). They don’t really understand that I am doing it because, for the first time in my life, I can. I am also taking my dog with me but am also concerned about how he will handle the move and the heat (he is only 5 months old). I’m curious to know where you are going to be moving. I’m leaving for Egypt in August.


    2. I hear you – I can completely relate too – I’m heading out in August to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for my first overseas experience. It’s quite an adjustment and I am really experiencing the range of emotions too. I’m excited but terrified at the same time!


    3. Hi Sherri:

      Which school in Egypt? I was there for 5 years, at Modern English School. I enjoyed Egypt a lot–there’s a book you should get. “Cairo: the City Victorious” by Rodenbeck, I think. I read it my last year there, and was so sorry I hadn’t read it sooner. I would have appreciated the city a lot more. It can be dirty, polluted and noisy. If you’re in Cairo, I’m assuming you’ll be living in Maadi, which is a pretty nice area.

      You’ll definitely want to get out of Cairo, though. One thing I can’t recommend highly enough: Take the lake Nasser cruise on the Eugenia, and do the Aswan to Abu Simbel route, not the other way around. Absotluely stunning, and not something most (American) tourists do. I wouldn’t bother with a Nile cruise, really you can see all the stuff you’d see w/o the cruise, which starts getting pretty repetitive by the end.

      I brought my dog back to the States with me, and he did fine. I’m also taking him to Mongolia with me. It’s natural to worry, but I have friends who also take their dog, and the dog is always fine. There’s a blog post on ISR about traveling with pets–you should take a look at it.


    4. Hi Trav45:

      My school is giving us an option to live in Maadi or Helio. Which one do you think is better over all for the first year experience? I plan to work on learning the language, but it will be slow. I don’t want to only have expat friends. It would be nice getting to know the Egyptians too.

      Was it hard traveling around Egypt with your dog? Could you take him on public transportation to Dahab? We would like to take our dog with us as much as possible. What was your experience like?

      Should I pack clothes for two seasons? Does it get cold enough to pack sweaters?


    5. Oh, wow, I laughed hysterically at, “does it get cold enough to pack sweaters!” I froze my a** off the first winter! Not that it’s that cold, but most of the flats don’t have heating–just little portable heaters. I would actually go outside to warm up!! Definitely, pack warm gear. You’ll need it for desert trips, anyway.

      Which school are you at? I’m trying to think which school would give you an option in either Maadi or Helio?

      Personally, I’d say definitely Maadi. Believe me, it’s very international, and plenty of Egyptians. There is a LOT more going on there, as far as sports groups to join and general activities, etc. Helio would be difficult your first year. It’s VERY city–hard to walk around, etc.

      Plus, if you’re taking your dog, DEFINITELY Maadi. Easy to walk there, you can find flats with gardens and about a 5-10 minute taxi drive away is Wadi Digla–WONDERFUL place to walk dogs and let them romp off leash.

      You have to realize, most Egyptians (at least the ones who would be on public transport) hate dogs. Religiously, they’re considered unclean. So I doubt they would be allowed on public transport, but I never tried. Nor do you really want to bus to the Sinai. It’s a miserable experience. Takes HOURS, the busses are hot because Egyptians don’t like drafts and won’t open windows, and they play Arabic-language videos at full blast the entire time. It’s also dangerous to drive the Sinai at night, as many Egyptians don’t drive with headlights (they think it’s rude). Lots of fatal accidents, as they also drive really fast! The American Embassy won’t let their employees drive the Sinai at night. It’s a reasonably inexpensive (and short) flight from Cairo to Sharm, then you can grab a taxi or shuttle to Dahab. (You’ll love Dahab, btw. Great diving!)

      You won’t have only expat friends…I would imagine your school also employs Egyptians? But good luck with the Arabic! Everyone goes with good intentions, but I can’t think of many who actually got beyond taxi driver Arabic! I do regret not sticking with it.

      Have fun! I’m more than happy to answer any other questions, btw.


    6. Hi Jerihurd:

      Hey thanks for the info! I will be teaching at AISE. Do you know anything about that school? I’ve read mixed reviews, but I am going with an open mind. If everything goes well, I will stay beyond the contract, if not, I will do my time than go to the next pit stop. Thanks for answering my question about the weather. I have been torn about selling off my yarn. I guess I will be taking a suitcase full of yarn and sweaters.
      I have been looking at some of the apartments in Maadi. They look pretty nice. Is it realistic to find a nice two bedroom apt. for 3500LE or will we have to go over 4000LE to find a nice place?
      I’ve been to Dahab and I love how relaxed it is. i can’t wait to go back there for a long weekend.
      Are you still living in Egypt? If not, were are you now? How long have you been working overseas? Any good advice for a first timer?


    7. I just accepted a job at MES in Cairo! This is my first overseas teaching job, and so naturally I have some anxiety. How was your experience teaching there? Should I rely on their relocation specialist to help me find a place? I am sorry you are leaving MES; you sound like a fun colleague!


    8. Hi, RaeRee:

      Actually, I left about 4 years ago! I can still connect you with people there, though and give you some advice. The school has issues, but is pretty decent, really.

      email me at :

      That’s actually my junk email, but I’ll be sure to check it over the next few days to see if you pop up! : )


    9. Hi Sherri:

      I can completely relate to how you are feeling before the big move. I am also going overseas for my first experience and will be taking my little 4 year old Shih Tzu. The heat and his transition to a new place also concerns me.
      I am more overwhelmed with all of the preparation before the big day. I have a lot of “stuff” to get rid of. I am a long time knitter from the midwest, so the worst for me is parting from my sweaters and yarn stash. (Do you knit?)
      I will be teaching at AIS in Egypt in the Fall. Which school in Egypt are you headed too? I have a really good book recommendation for you. I am currently reading “I am Happier to Know You” by Jeanne M. Eck. It’s about a woman who moves to Egypt on her own and her day to day experiences with living in the culture. I can’t put it down. If you don’t speak Egyptian Arabic, the book introduces you to a lot of basic words. Check it out!


    10. Sherri, I’m heading to Buenos Aires. All the best with your transition to Egypt! Good luck to both of us with taking our pets. I can’t imagine life without them, even in Buenos Aires!


  15. attitude will go a long way to determining the success of an overseas transplant. when my wife and i went, we were caught up in the rush of preparations and barely had any time to think about missing home when we were getting shots, papers, etc. in order. the finding of accommodations, the building of a new home in the host city, the acclimation to a routine, all took our attention away from the distance apart. we maintained curiosity and a desire to explore and discover, which made our new home an adventure. we did end up going home for christmas, but it was just to recharge a bit.

    even our second posting was equally exciting and we had no problems adjusting to the new, completely different cultures. you will meet people, you will make friends, you will discover amazing things about your host country. the beauty of international postings is that you are not alone, unless you make yourself that way.

    we have been back in canada for about 12 years now, but i have never stopped thinking about going back overseas. we have promised ourselves that we will be back on the road sooner, rather than later.


  16. Oh my gosh!! I am SOOOO nervous! I was offered a job overseas last year, and didn’t sign the contract b/c I wanted to go and visit first. Over my spring break, I went and visited and the teacher whose room I was supposed to take over, changed her mind! So, I didn’t get to move!

    This year, I think it might actually go through! I’m in the interview process and have a few great leads! And as it gets closer, I am starting to freak out a little bit. I know it will be a great experience, but I’m so nervous! Should I just go on vacation, instead of move out of the country???


    1. Well, it depends on the job of course…make sure it’s a good school, decent package. But all else being equal, TAKE IT! Seriously…it is SOO worth it. The nerves are absolutely understandable. This is my third overseas job, and I still considered changing my mind last week (mostly because I dread all the packing up this is going to require), but I know I am going to LOVE it once I’m there.

      Being on the international circuit is such a great lifestyle, again, depending on where you are. Personally, I think Europe is just the US with better buildings, but you’ll still get some great travel in because everything is so much closer. If your school is in the developing world, your salary will go pretty far. It’s a sad comment that one of the aspects of going back overseas I’m most looking forward to is having a maid again. I remember when I first got back and I was all “what do you mean I have to clean up my own kitchen??!” I missed Sherine quite a bit!

      As to travel vs. living–they’re not the same thing at all. In fact, moving overseas will spoil you in one sense. You’ll realize when you’re travelling that the two weeks in whatever country is a fairly shallow experience compared with actually living somewhere.

      So, screw your courage to the sticking point, as they say, and go for it! You won’t regret it. Just be very realistic about those first few months, know that they’ll be difficult, emotionally speaking. Be patient with yourself (and your host country) and it will all work out!


  17. I have worked in Los Angeles, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Berlin and Saudi Arabia. The first month in a new country has always been stressful. However after the first experience I know that the feelings of being in an alien place will pass.
    But on the other hand, be prepared to do a runner at the end of your first tern if you have been deceived.


  18. If you are coming to Kuwait or at least to cetain schools in Kuwait, you HAVE ALL THE REASON TO BE NERVOUS.
    1. You test HIV- in your home country and suddenly you will test HIV+ when doing your medicals here for the first time. You are being deported home, just to discover that you are in actual fact HIV-.
    2. You leave your secure, permanent job in your home country, you come to Kuwait, can be dismissed without reason within the first 100 during your probation! You are so f@*******because you now have to start allover again in your home country.
    3. You leave your nice, clean house, quality furniture, nice garden, etc. Come here and find yourself sharing apartments where your flatmate decides that you can not share the bath or toilet and the school thinks that the furniture they have supplied is stuff that you never had as you have probably lived under a bridge as a vagrant, lol.
    4. You come to Kuwait and discover modern day slavery, huge racial discrimination, and your own country’s nationals participating in these inhumane practices…..and you start wondering: Why did I come here because this is not ME!

    Yes, you have to be nervous! VERY NERVOUS!
    Pray for guidance, wisdom and courage. That’s all I can say.


    1. The 100 day rule is also a benefit because if you hate it you’ve got your get-out clause.

      I have a spangly wonderfully furnished apartment. I do not have to share – I made sure that was part of my contract before going. If you did not check before going, and have it in writing, then I feel sorry for you.

      I work at a great school.

      I haven’t experienced any racial discrimination beyond the norm. I experienced more when in Virginia with a friend whose parents were from Malaysia and we were forced to leave a bar because of his looks.

      I didn’t have problems with my HIV/Hep tests so I can’t comment.

      If people with strength of character do not go to these countries and educate the young there is no chance that the inhumane practices, as you described them, will ever stop.


    2. I’ve worked in Kuwait at a school whereby I HAD to break my contract. Kuwait is a HOT SPOT for teachers. Make sure YOU investigate the school, using this site. Do not take the words of teachers who are given to you to contact by the school. You will find althought you have a contract, Owners/Directors will do whatever they want to do regardless of what’s written on PAPER.

      I broke my contact because I was verbally and sexually harassed by the middle school vice-principal. No one did anything about it. Instead the Owner and the two Co-superintendents promoted the middle school vice-principal to principal for the 2010-11 school year.

      There are so many terrible stories about teaching in Kuwait.

      Again, I caution everyone to investigate the school before leaving your home to only return back home.


  19. As I prepare to leave for Mongolia, I still think I’m out of my mind at times. But now I’ve done this enough to realize that’s just part of my process, and I’m sure I’ll have a fantastic time once I’m there!


    1. I would love to get there. Visited about 10 years ago and just was completely transfixed by it. Of course visiting and living aren’t even in the same universe, but it’s on my radar. I hope you can somehow post your experiences there in a general way that’s accessible to the ISR crowd…


    2. I’ll definitely be keeping a travel blog, that I’m sure will pop up on any blog search.


  20. Oh, wow! Do I ever remember that first overseas school. I’d been thinking Greece…Rome…London. I never thought I’d end up in Turkey, of all places. While I was excited, I was also terrified, and I cycled through both emotions (and a zillion others)on a daily basis. It is harder going on your own, as couples/families have a built in support system.

    When I arrived, while I had a great time during the day, I admit I cried myself to sleep almost every night for two months! Once the routine starts, though, it DOES get easier. Just give yourself time. I promised myself that if I made it through Christmas and still wanted to go home, I could. Of course by Christmas, I was fine. Read a good book on culture shock–this helps you recognize the feelings you’re experiencing, and put them in their appropriate context (I recommend Storti’s The Art of Crossing Cultures).

    For example, my experience was a bit unusual. Most people are in the “honeymoon stage” the first month or two, and it’s only after 3-4 months that the “quaintness” scheduling repairs that take weeks longer than promised begins to wear off.

    Having said all that, I initially planned to stay overseas for 2 years, and stayed 10. I came home for grad school, stayed 4 years, but am heading back overseas again next year. I miss it a lot.

    My best advice? As you are packing, at some point you will panic at the amount of baggage you’re accumulating and start throwing things out of your bags! Resist this urge! Your apartment when you arrive will be bare, and you’ll want some “comfort items” around to make it feel like home for you. This will be your nest and refuge when it all becomes too much–and it will sometimes. But that’s also part of the fun, and knowing you have a place of retreat makes it much easier to venture forth into new cultures and worlds.

    Have fun! You’re in for a wonderful experience!


    1. I can definitely identify cycling through about a billion different emotions every day. I’m about to embark on my first international experience. I like hearing success stories though, of people who were terrified and ended up loving it! Thanks for the packing advice…I think I’ll put it to good use πŸ™‚


    2. Hi Jo- Where are you going? Definitely get the Stortini book. It helped me so much to put all the emotional stuff in some sort of context. And be patient with yourself once you’re there. For all the Sturm und Drang of my first months, I stayed in Turkey 5 years.

      I remember well my first few days. I think it was about my 4th day there, and I had to go to the director’s office for something. He looked up and asked “how are you” in the usual sort of way. I paused for a second and, to my utter mortification, I burst into tears. He was very understanding, though. I heard later they used to have meetings those first few months about “Is she going to make it?”

      Glad to say I did, with flying colors. (grin) In fact, when I left, I had had a wonderful 8th grade class that year. We really hit it off, and all of us were bawling on the last day of school. My boss commented…she was crying when she came, and crying when she left.

      Give it time, and you will grow to be as comfortable as you are at home. I remember after that first time home, when I flew back to Turkey and was taking the bus back to my flat, looking out the window and thinking, “Oh, yeah. It’s good to be back.”


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