Was It a Wise Decision to Come to This School?

The first days at a new school can be a window into the exciting year ahead.  From airport arrival to help transitioning into the school and community,  how your school treats you right from the start speaks volumes about the experience to follow. Which of the following describes your arrival?

Scenario 1 You knew you were off to a terrific start when the Director met you at the airport, escorting you to a waiting apartment replete with fresh linens, a few staples, plus a bottle of chilled wine. City tours, sampling local cuisine and organized family shopping trips are just some of the things your school did to welcome arriving teachers. You’re looking forward to meeting your students and colleagues. You always had a good feeling about this school!

Scenario 2 You found yourself (and your luggage) left standing at the arrival gate. Hours later you took an unmarked taxi to an unknown hotel, hoping beyond hope that you’d still  be alive the next morning. You began to think that maybe coming here wasn’t such a wise idea. This thought was confirmed when you had to find your own apartment, on foot, in a community you knew nothing about. Worse yet, no one seems to even have time to show you to your classroom! Yikes!

Tell us about your experience
International Educators keeping each other informed is what ISR is about!

  • How did your expectations compare with the reality of coming to your new school?
  • Did the school and admin support you and your colleagues in settling into the community and school? Did you feel welcomed?
  • Did you ever have that funny feeling about working for this school and wish you’d listened to your instincts?
  • Are you just thrilled and pleased as punch to be embarking on a whole new international teaching adventure?
  • Do you agree that the first few days at a new school are very reflective of how the school will treat you later on?

34 Responses to Was It a Wise Decision to Come to This School?

  1. Bedu Teacher says:

    Arrived in Amman after traveling more than 24 hours from San Francisco. Was met by the director and taken to my accomodation. Along the way, she informed me I’d be sharing the apartment with another woman (this was news to me!). The car broke down on airport road and I had to leave all my possessions behind and hitch with the director to my apartment. A bit of a rough start, but the roomate remains a dear friend and I married the son of my landlord. We are still based in Amman, but currently living in the US because of his job.


  2. The Hippo says:

    Yes, we were met at Nairobi airport by the headmaster and his wife, who then took us to our lovely bungalow. The bed was made up, there were flowers on the table and yes, there was even a bottle of wine in the fridge! That was the start of two great years in Kenya. Pity the salary was so awful!


  3. overhere says:

    Our first overseas experience was in Laos and as we flew into Vientiane we had three children in tow and no idea what to expect upon arrival. You can imagine how relieved we were to be met by the director, his wife and many of the school’s support staff. On the other hand our arrival in Europe was not quite as easy as an email snafu caused us to wait in a major European airport for 3 hours before the school came to pick us up.


  4. Michelle says:

    I’ve been to seven international schools. The vast majority of these schools met us new teachers with open arms and lots of support, encouragement and concern about our personal life (such as helping us find homes we liked and felt secure in). I found that even when problems did pop up later, I considered the rough times only simple minor blips because the groundwork had been laid for trust, respect and a good working relationship. When admin works to make you comfortable and informed right from the beginning, it’s much easier to work thru the difficulties because everyone can believe staff and admin really are on the same team, a team making a great school environment.

    On the flip side, those schools who lied just to get me there, telling stories about how “Cosmopolitan” and safe Kinshasa was, and the subjects I would be teaching, for example, the damage had been done; no matter what was offered or asked of me into the school year, I distrusted the admin. It was the lying that really bothered me, and I could just never get past it in future dealings with this school.

    So, I offer the thought that while the first days and weeks at a new school may have some problems, it’s the original lies that can get in the way of a good relationship with your school. Watch out for lies told, just to get you at the school. There’s no way to make up for those in an admin’s history. Problems at the airport, finding housing, setting up your classroom? All these difficulties can be worked out. But the lies, lies, and more lies told to me at the recruiting fair? Never could I get past that.


  5. AAP says:

    As of now I have two international teaching experiences. One is in my past, and one has just begun. The difference in their commencements is vast and wide. My previous experience, at a large corporate type school in Beijing, was exhausting and overwhelming in the beginning of the year with many cheesy getting to know you activities, cultural awareness trainings, and boring, soul destroying PD meetings where the semantics of education are thrown around ad nauseam. My second experience is at a small, funky and eclectic school in Trieste, Italy. Everything from the start was infused with authenticity and genuine caring on account of the welcoming staff and administration. These are people who clearly care and are quite intentional in their quest to allow new arrivals to feel supported and independent at the same time. Upon arrival at the airport not only was the principal there, but two staff members with welcome folders and cookies! The staff made sure we were taken immediately to our apartments and then graciously took us out to dinner that night. Arrival in a new country is not easy and we have had one week in which to feel productive, yet relaxed in our adjustment to Italy. I am so appreciative of the transition which has been carved out thoughtfully by the staff and principal.


    • Sue says:

      We have been asked to expat to the Trevisio area. It appears Trieste has a high school along with Padua. Are you at the International School of Trieste? I’d love any insight you may have for someone relocating to northern Italy with 7 and 8th grade children.


      • IST says:

        Small class sizes, friendly teachers and a quiet location in Opicina out of the hustle and bustle of the city. The student population is mostly Italian but by the time they get to 1st grade they’re essentially fluent in English and the school is tight knit community where your kids won’t get lost in the shuffle.


  6. Gary says:

    I had a very positive experience arriving at the British School Lome this fall. We were ably met at the airport by a member of the senior management team who facilitated a smooth passage through the sometimes arduous immigration and customs process and then it was on to an airconditioned van to our house/apartment. The house was in very good condition, and had already been stocked with basic provisions and many different cooking utensils which was a nice touch.

    In the morning, the school had arranged with the SMT a three day cultural/planning experience trip to one of the nature areas of Togo. There we experienced village life, African drumming and an interesting nature walk.

    It was a nice way to start the new term in a new school.


  7. Scott says:

    Having taught 26 years with about 20 of it abroad I have had my share of “starts”. Overall I would say getting off to a good start is better than getting off to a bad one regardless of your flexibility.My worst start would have been in Guam where we waited at the front of the airport for 5 hours in 1991(after 26 hours from the east coast)before someone showed up to take us to our fabulous 1.5 star hotel.And to me the best starts are always when someone is there to greet you immediately at the airport and almost everything is as you would have expected which has happened a few times including my current employment in Pakistan.


  8. CPM says:

    Sharjah American International School was the most horrible experience for me.

    This school is disorganized to much hating amoung teachers and the administration does not care about you at all. Never picked me up from airport. Never reimbursed for taxi fares just throws u out there to the dogs and leave u there for dead!


  9. Roundtrip says:

    Joe, so glad you have had a great experience. It’s almost impossible to find an overseas job after you turn 60, so teach over there as much as you can while you’re young.


  10. Joe says:

    I spent 11 years overseas between 3 schools and all of my experiences were great from the day I was hired to the day I left. Athens, Cairo and Khobar were all great cities plus each country provided a new experience. I’m going into my 9th year in Atlanta, Georgia and once I get my 10th year completed and vested in the retirement system, I’ll look to go back since overseas schools are great if you get the right one. My school in Atlanta is the same as an international school with the same dynamics so I’m lucky.


  11. Canuk says:

    My experience coming to the American Cooperative School of Tunis is exactly that described in the ideal version you describe. I was picked up at the airport, taken to my new furnished home where a welcome pack of basic foods awaited me. Orientation week provided us with all the information about our new school that we needed for success, as well as a tour of our parts of the city, group trips to shopping, and a fabulous overnight stay in a five-star hotel The director set a positive, productive tone at the first staff meeting, then stayed out of our way so we could get ready to teach on Monday. Can’t wait to get started and may never go home!


  12. Roundtrip says:

    Wackedman, so sorry you had that experience. I hope you will go back and try another location. Just peruse the school reviews on this site and try to pick a school with a better track record. Good luck.


  13. Wackedman says:

    Although I was not a licensed teacher, 12 of us newly hired went over to Taiwan for the first time 15 years ago now to teach ESL. We were met at the airport by two tiny schoolbuses and a cramped ride from the airport to the school offices happened, then without food we had a lengthy orientation. At the time, I was so jet lagged I couldn’t concentrate on a word that was happening, it was just a blur, and then there was a long, frustrating wait, while our apartments and schools were decided (!) and arranged. Off we go individually through the city to a three story apartment in a suburban apartment complex, among the rice fields. We open the door (me and my two female roomies, I was male), and the place is completely empty, not a stick of furniture. And it hadn’t been cleaned, cob webs and dust bunnies everywhere. Our hearts sank and we looked at each other like, what the heck have we got ourselves into? Luckily there was bedroom furniture …but some things at the school was difficult. Learning the job, facing difficult cultural behaviours and expecations, it was not that easy. It was too much for me to cope with and I left after 5 months. But others coped better than me and stayed.

    I am so excited that others had positive experiences in different, more established schools. Maybe it was the nature of ESL schools, language academies and the like. So I guess I got myself into it too…now I am not so naive. Would I do it again? Not now, but I needed the job at the time, I was pretty desperate. Probably would go given those circumstances, but at a different school in a different country.


  14. CN says:

    I have just completed three weeks at my new school in Seoul, Korea was well. I was picked up by my new Principal and Vice Principal. Two other new teachers were on my flight (this was great and arranged by school). As soon as we were met at the airport, we were greeted warmly and then handed an envelope of money! We were helped into the air conditioned van, which had a cooler with water, soft drinks, and beers! We were driven to our apartments which were furnished and well stocked as well! The principal went to everyones’ apartment beforehand to turn on air conditioning so I arrived to a comfortable home. The orientation and school community has continued to be great. I have had an easy and enjoyable adjustment because of this, and thus continue to be happy aboout my choice!


  15. Karen says:

    Scenario Number 1 describes the amazing welcome we got, along with 24 other new teachers, last summer at the American International School – Chennai, India. We arrived to a well-stocked kitchen, drapes and furniture in the color we had suggested. Plus the first five days of orientation at school and wonderful dinners at the finest hotels at night, shopping trips, and an outing to a resort on the beach–all paid for by the school made our initiation smooth. The school personnel from the top down has been accommodating in so many ways: banking, car purchase, and tips on finding anything in town. We were assigned a mentor and given books and maps to the city. It was a great start that was just the beginning of a supportive and successful first year.


  16. Chinuk says:

    I managed to visit my new school in Korea for a weekend in May before starting my contract. The school put us up in a guest apartment on campus and we had a couple days to meet colleagues, tour facilities, check out the neighbourhoods where teachers are housed, and get our bearings in Seoul. This experience was invaluable in soothing anxiety about how my daughter would take to the new school, in helping decide what to bring, and in putting names and personalities to the people I’d later be working with.

    When we arrived in August, we were picked up at the airport and taken straight to our fully furnished apartment (down to new iron, vacuum cleaner, washing machine and drying rack) which was stocked with fresh linen, dishes and kitchenware, a refrigerator well stocked with the basics, an international phone card, maps, phone lists, photos of all appliances with translations of all knobs and settings, and generous moving allowance in cash (Won and American dollars). They thought of everything! They assigned us a veteran teacher to help show us where to shop, and then gave us a full week of the most excellent orientation and training anyone could have wanted. I started the school year calm and confident. In the year since then, I realize this warm, professional and comprehensive introduction to the school was just one indication of the culture of the school. Teachers feel supported, both professional and personally, and the result is a happy staff, and therefore a happy school. I feel really lucky!


  17. Robert says:

    My wife and I signed our contract in February to teach in Taipei, Taiwan (somewhere we had never been) and I flew over there during my spring break to check things out…great idea! The headmaster met me at the airport. took me to lunch at the American Club, showed me around the school and the city, and then dropped me off at the nicest hotel in town. For the rest of the week I met with department colleagues, toured the city, and saw dozens of apartments and homes close to school. After calling my wife back in LA, we finally settled on a nice home up in the hills not far from the campus. We moved to Taipei in July and spent ten productive years at the school…easily the best teaching experience of our lives. It all started with a warm, friendly introduction at the airport. At that point I knew we had made the right decision.


  18. Amy says:

    Have only been teaching overseas since the beginning of my teaching career. Now 6 years in and my third country I feel a whole lot more prepared for the unsettling period of time between arrival and the first few days of school. Have been fortunate enough to have been meet at all 3 locations by either a Director or Principal. All smiling and doing the best that they can. Housing situations have been decent but what they come with have varied according to each country, making the first week or two highly important for settling in and making things feel comfortable. Patience and a good sense of humor make adapting a lot easier.


  19. Superhawk says:

    I just finished two years teaching in Bolivia. It was a WONDERFUL experience other than the tax issues that forced me to leave. The school was beautiful, the kids were great and the administration was first rate. In fact, other than corruption/extortion in the business office, it was the the best two years of my 22 year teaching career. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to add a little spice to an other wise monotonous teaching career. I most definately will do it again.


  20. Roundtrip says:

    Haha, the funniest part of your post is when you say your wife got pregnant the first day you arrived. Evidently you handle stress well. 🙂


  21. RonB says:

    First job teaching EVER in S. America. New wife in tow, arrive at airport, paged over intercom sortof, our overstuffed boxes, weighed to the ounce, shoved into backseat of sedan without seats, hotel nighttime, movie marquee says Tuesday the 12th (in Spanish) Friday the 13th isn’t bad luck there, knock, knock,middle aged man in suit with hat hands me a document to sign, it’s my contract, in Spanish, with the salaria a tenth of agreed upon wage, I don’t sign, next day school lawyer translates word by word marking through whole sentences as he reads, ” oh no we don’t do that anymore”, military gov’t, curfew, great food,drink, nice people, lunatic headmaster from US transportation department with a Napolean Complex, wife gets pregnant day we arrive, etc. etc. I would go back there…now that I know better.


  22. Roundtrip says:

    The second scenario of this topic brought back memories of my arrival to my first (and only) school overseas. On the flight to Europe, I battled with the constant frightening thought…have I made the right decision to leave America to teach abroad? I was almost in tears for 6 hours. When I arrive at the airport in my target country, there was no one to meet me, I had jetlag and was starving. Three hours later, no Headmaster in sight. Eventually, I noticed a few others wandering around, wide-eyed, looking lost. We discovered we were all going to the same school. Our Headmaster eventually did show up, drove us for 4 hours through the mountains without a water or food break and dumped us on campus. This whole story sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it? Well, that was just the first day. What followed for a year turned out to be the most fantastic teaching experience of my life, the school was great, and the Headmaster was a dear. My message is, just because your first day leads you wanting to pack it up and run home, give it a chance. My experience was in the early 90’s and that one year to this day gives me wonderful memories.


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