Still On the Fence About Teaching Internationally?

Are you considering going international & not quite sure the overseas life style is for you? You are not alone. A States-side teacher recently wrote to say: “I live in the U.S. & have a pretty great life. I have a stable teaching job that pays well with good benefits. I like the area where I currently live & am blessed with great friends. HOWEVER, I keep getting this pull in my gut towards travel & adventure. I want to see places & meet new people, explore exotic cultures, eat weird foods, be thoroughly challenged…”

f these comments resonate harmoniously in your psyche, you’re no doubt looking for some answers to help you get off that fence. Good news! Our States-side teacher posed 5 insightful questions, the answers to which are certain to help you decide which side of the fence is the right side for you. ISR invites experienced international teachers to lend a helping hand & shed some light on the following questions:

1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

61 Responses to Still On the Fence About Teaching Internationally?

  1. Anita Horton says:

    I’m one year away from teaching internationally. I am so grateful for this online discussion. Thanks to all of you!

    Like

  2. Jennifer says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home? I would teach internationally. I have taught 4 years in the states and my husband did 10 years in the states. One of the main reasons we left was the emphasis beging placed on test results. We do not find that internationally. Yes our students do still take standardized tests (SAT 10, Iowa) and we use them to adjust our teaching.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    We are a teaching couple so we do have double salaries and we have a young daughter. We have taught in Central Asia (Uzbekistan) and Middle East (Saudi Arabia). In the 9 years we have been overseas we have traveled a lot. We have seen places we would have only dreamed of while working in the states. Our daughter (5) had all of her pre-natal care for a total of $200. She was dragging us to the museums in Venice and Florence at Christmas time this year. She is receiving her education at the same school we work at and for free. She is aware of various cultures and religious beliefs. She is very open-minded. We also have the experience of allowing her to learn other languages for free. Her first words were in Uzbek/Russian and now can speak a little Arabic and other languages.
    As for actual money..it depends on what lifestyle you want to live. We paid off all credit cards in our first 6 months overseas. We put a downpayment on our house in the states. We travel on school breaks. We have a full-time house keeper and used to have a nanny and a driver. We are able to afford what we want when we want it. We do save for retirement, but still are saving money while living nice and giving our daughter opportunites we could not afford in the states (private riding lessons).

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
    It has been a combination. I do have my days of feeling lonely or homesick. I also have my days so full of activities I think I need to get sick to slow down a little. For example this month (March) at our overseas placement we have had or will have: Compound Fun Run; Birthday party for dd; brithday party for friend; an american bbq at the beach; International Day at school (20 countries represented); Talent Show at school; Girl Scout campout at school; an Indian friends engagement party; a glass bottom boat trip in the Red Sea; and will leave for Spring Break in Greece. I want it to slow down.
    But at home I will miss my parents anniversary. My niece in her school play, my neices growing up.
    I would say at least two of my best friends I have meet at an international school. One is from Australia and the other is from USA. You and your friends will move away more than they would in the states, but technology will keep us together.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    All schools have pluses and minuses. I loved the culture in Uzbekistan and going to teh bazaar to get my produce. I liked that we worked with students who were motivated to learn and that we did not have wish lists for our classrooms because we had it. I did not like that you did not have any convience food, we had to make everything from scratch. There was not good quality clothing or goods in Uzbekistan. Would I go back….probably.
    In Saudi Arabia I do not like that it is male dominated. I do not like that the whole country stops for prayer time. I do like that it is a safre place to raise my daughter and one of the benefits was daycare at school when she was not school-age. I love the housing, we live on a compound and have a swimming pool 50 ft from our front door. I like that I can find convience food (cake mixes). Would I return…maybe after my daughter is grown. We are limited in extra curricular activites for girls. She does go horseback riding, but going at 7 am before work is getting alittle old just because she is a girl.
    Each school we have taught in has a different clientele if you would. In Uzbekistan we had the children of embassy employees and businessmen. In Saudi Arabia (KSA) we get more blue color workers who are all here to send the money back to their families. Yes a lot of the parents here (KSA) are engineers, but their money is not as ‘free’ as in other schools so we still have a lot of wants for our classrooms.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?
    Best- Traveling, raising family to be open-minded; benefits; PD opportunities; friends
    Worst- missing family events; traveling at weird hours,

    Like

  3. Anita says:

    1. Definitely international. I had a good teaching job at home, but always dreamed of teaching internationally. Living my life’s dream. How could this NOT be a good thing?

    2.Financially, in terms of salary, making less. But in terms of cost of living, buying power is MUCH more than at home. Travel opportunities are much more available, and much cheaper. Malaysia has a retirement fund that you pay into, and you get back your share plus employer’s share when you leave. I pay income tax in Malaysia, but didn’t in the middle east. Cost of living in the middle east was EXTREMELY high, so the trade off wasn’t worth it.

    3.If you want to make a lot of friends, you can. If you want to keep to yourself, not difficult. In the middle east expats tended to stick together. Here it’s a bit more diverse, as there are a lot more expats. More to do here, so more ways to meet people.

    4. Favourite so far, Malaysia. Least favourite, Kuwait. Travel opportunities from both countries is amazing. Travel in South East Asia much more “comfortable” than in the middle east, as a single female traveler.

    5. Best: Travel. Culture. History. Meeting new people. Seeing different ways of life. Trying different foods. Learning new languages.

    Worst: Injustices. Discrimination/racism. Lack of hygiene. Lack of discipline. Treatment of animals. Treatment of maids/drivers/anyone NOT a national.

    Like

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am in Oman. I have friends in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai. We are all happy. The long and short of it is, in my opinion, to know yourself and know the limits of your flexibility and tolerance. I would never accept a position in Saudi. I know that. I turned down positions at proprietary schools in the region. I accepted this position and am happy I did. I enjoy intelligent, collegial colleagues (sorry if that sounds redundant, but I haven’t always had collegial colleagues), some amazing students, and I am learning a great deal about a new part of the world. No regrets.

    Like

  5. Eman says:

    I have no regrets about my choice of teaching internationally and highly encourage anyone who is remotely interested to give it a shot.

    Many school district allow teachers to take a sabatical, consider testing the water that way.

    Like

  6. Cat says:

    Yeah well you will certainly find a difference in the approach teaching Internationally but it seems like you might be attracted to difficulties if you feel impelled to go to the M.E. !!I taught for 5 years in Europe and in that time came across a number of stories most of which you will find echoed on this site. I would pick a gentler introduction than the M.E. if I were you. But know really WHY you are doing it as it really does change your worldview at the very least and things will never be the same. Also use this site, I have a lot and tempered it with the idea that everyone has a REASON to write stuff here as reviews.

    Like

  7. lovelife says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    This was a great decision for us and we have no regrets.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    Yes, but mostly because we have children so the benefits of teaching overseas have put us slightly ahead financially.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
    It’s a mixed bag– Diversity is an issue. There is a history of racism where we are so we have found as teachers of color we’ve had to work a bit harder to build relationships in a community of people who are not from diverse communities. But we’ve been lucky so far.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    Only been at one so far, so still a newbie🙂

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?
    The best is the quality of life.
    Worst is racism. (purely contextual, however)

    Like

  8. Anonymous says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    We would definitely teach internationally. We came overseas soon after our children were born so I was able to spend four years at home full-time while they were young (which is usually not possible to do while you are on an overseas teaching contract) before returning to full-time teaching internationally. We never intend to return to teaching in New Zealand.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    Since we are from New Zealand, where we feel teachers are not well paid, we are definitely better off overseas if you consider all the benefits, such as free tuition for children, tax free salary etc. We travel internationally about 3 times a year (including the 2 months over the summer vacation), are debt free, but are still careful to put away over $80,000 per year for our retirement. None of this would have been possible if we had stayed teaching back home.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    As a family it has been very easy to make friends away from home and none of us have never felt lonely.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    We have only been in two countries, both in Asia, so don’t really have much basis for comparison. Obviously we are happy in Asia, but definitely the outdoors lifestyle is a sacrifice we make living in a large city.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally?

    The best things are the travel, the teaching conditions, and in general the excitement of living in another country, which after 8 years is still there! We have never felt homesick, nor have we ever had a bad experience that made us think about moving “home”.

    What are the worst?
    Being away from family back in New Zealand. Worrying about our children not identifying with a single country as their home (but hoping all their other experiences will outweigh their lack of “kiwiness”.)

    Like

    • Cat says:

      where on earth are you teaching that you can save 80,000 a year? Are you both directors of a small oil rich nation state?

      Like

      • lovelife says:

        I believe it– aisa? middle east? certainly.

        Like

        • zakaiaszone says:

          I was an HOD at AISA and the wages are not that good. Also, the benefits don’t compare with a lot of the other international schools in the area.

          Like

      • Anonymous says:

        We are at a school in China with a good package and the $80,000 represents approximately one teaching salary plus other paid benefits, and like teachers in other schools we are able to live off 50% of our salaries by not living an excessive expat lifestyle (which is very tempting to do). We are not at the highest paying school in Asia and so I am sure there are others like us. We are very conscious that without a teacher’s superannuation package from home we must plan very carefully for our retirement.

        Like

  9. Anonymous says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    I would have left sooner. Teachers in the US don’t know what they are missing. If you do your homework and get into a good overseas school, you can make a much more fulfilling life for yourself.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    In the states, we barely saved anything. It bordered on poverty. Overseas, we’ve already saved more money in a few years than we could have in an entire career.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
    Making friends has been easy with local teachers. The local community has been tougher to tap into, but that is a cultural issue.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    I have only worked in one country, but I’ve visited, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Jamaica, BVI, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Mexico, Caymans, an Italy next month. Panama has been my favorite country to travel to thus far!

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?
    It is easier to save money for travel. Exotic destinations are much closer. The weather is great. Great water sports opportunities.

    Worst is being away from home, not having friends near, and some annoying cultural differences.

    Like

  10. expatteacher says:

    1. My move to go international, like some others, was motivated by teaching cutbacks in schools, although I had always wanted to try it. I am very glad I made the leap, and it has definitely made me a better teacher, but it can also be very exhausting, and there are definitely days when I wish I could be back in the US. However, then I remember: crowded classrooms, kids with terrible attitudes, drug problems, bossy parents, and I know I’m still in the right place. Having 16 kids in my classroom that are respectful is a heck of a lot more enjoyable than 40+ with every problem in the book. Granted, I’ve been lucky where I’ve taught – I know those “US” problems surface at other international schools too – just not where I’ve been. The quality of life I have as a teacher is so much better internationally.

    2. I was financially better off at first, in Asia, but now I’m in Central America and definitely not better off here. I wanted the experience, but I’ve found the poor wages (and super high taxes!) have resulted in me not being able to travel or see the region like I had wanted. Plus, as some have noted, that retirement looming in the future will only get closer. It’s a serious concern, even though I still have 20+ years to go, I can’t afford to hang out and watch my bank account dwindle. The happiest here are those with zero debt back home, but even then, they have to live frugally. I’m headed back to Asia next placement, so I’ll be in better shape.

    3. Making friends can be tough. It depends on your colleagues and the local scene, if you know the language, etc. Some international school foreign hires are very cliquish and you can forget about getting in those groups, and some cultures just don’t love chumming it up with westerners. I recommend going someplace where people can speak some English, and the school has a big enough staff or city has a big enough pool of expats, so you can mingle without feeling you’re bumping into the same 10 people everywhere you go.

    4. Favorite places: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand. Worst: China

    5. The best things: autonomy from family – I’m not very close to my family and living overseas gives me an excuse to avoid everyone…ha ha. Really though, it’s the food, the cultures, the people – just opening my eyes and ears to the sights sounds and customs of those who aren’t like me! Meeting new people, learning a new language. It’s very active and certainly never dull. Students are really great and (generally) no helicopter parents like in the US. Cultures where parents hold their children responsible, not always blaming the teachers for everything is nice!
    The worst things: finding yourself in a country you don’t care for. It may happen, but stick it out. Make your apartment your sanctuary and find ways to be “at peace” with it all. Gossipy/cliquish colleagues. Lack of good communication. Missing those things from home that are simply irreplaceable (fishing in a meadow, camping in the middle of nowhere).

    Like

  11. duras says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    I would keep things the same. My years of working in a public school in the United States were invaluable. I learned a lot about teaching and had great professional development. The schools that I have taught in overseas pretty much expect new teachers to know what they are doing. And even though U.S public schools have their many issues, I also appreciate the idea that all children, no matter what economic status or title they have, will get a good education. That’s the mission anyway. The big international schools overseas are filled with rich, entitled, “important” kids who’ve never really been outside their bubble, even though they have all the resources at their disposal. I have a MUCH greater appreciation now for teachers who work in the U.S and all the politics they have to deal with. That experience of working in the U.S gave me a backbone. And I really miss the diversity of public school children.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    same; but i do have to save for my own retirement now.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    easy to make friends. i feel like the foreigners become one big family because you really only have each other and your nationality sort of becomes a mutual bond, like it or not. i have found teachers at my schools friendly and warm. the locals are like people everywhere. some are warm and friendly, others don’t want to be bothered by the new crop of foreign teachers.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    latin america!!!!!!!! my second love (besides my own country!🙂

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    best things:

    *NO “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND”. (kind of sad, but the poor and less entitled do get left behind);

    *travel opportunities

    *as a black person, it feels good to help break the stereotype of “the american”, which in latin america refers to blond and blue eyes. good to let locals know that america (usa) is a mixed bag, full of many different cultures. We are definitely not all the same.

    worst things: racism, classism, sexism, corruption, extremely crooked police, with no organizations or obvious means in place to move these issues in a more positive direction

    Like

  12. Phil says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    Yes, I have been in Germany for two years and it has been great.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    No.. I am from Australia and was earning almost $100k a year as a teacher down there.. Germany actually pays quite well compared to many other places so I get about €45k here but the taxes are high. Most US teachers say they are better off here as US teachers are generally not paid well and spend a fortune on health insurance.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    It is easy to make friends. It is also easy with the locals if you make the effort to learn some of their language and interact with them. Sadly most teachers do not bother to learn any German and just hang around with other expats.

    4. What have been your favourite countries and/or schools?

    I would have no hesitation recommending Germany. I would be reluctant to take a job at another ‘for profit’ school however. Sadly most of them are like that. I have also heard plenty of awful stories from teachers who go to teach in terrorist countries in the middle east. The money is good but it is a nightmare to live there.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    The chance to travel. I have been to so many countries and new cities in the last 2 years I can barely remember them all.

    The worst things are missing friends and family from back home.. especially being so far away. Most American teachers just go home for Christmas and summer holidays.

    Like

  13. Retire and Go says:

    Going international after you retire from your career in your home country is a great way to boost your retirement assets! If you can live comfortably on your overseas job in that country, you then get to save most of your pension/social security income (even with a mortgage payment).

    The experiences have been well worth the small daily inconveniences. Making new friends, seeing a different culture, and learning how education works in another country is invaluable.

    Getting outside your comfort zone is a great way to stay young and energetic! Go!

    Like

  14. AP Teacher says:

    Obviously, everyone has his/her own story, and there are some great ones posted here already. Here’s mine: When the opportunity finally presented itself for me — that is, family crises resolved — there was no question and no hesitation. Like someone else here, I took a leave of absence from my US school and decided not to go back. Not going back cost me a $10,000 retirement incentive, but I have never regretted my decision. Read below for reasons why.

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    I would have gone international much sooner. I love being an expat. As an expat, you usually find yourself surrounded by like-minded people: open-minded, tolerant folks who are curious about the world. As someone already noted, you are always learning something. I am currently in the Middle East, somewhere where I never expected to be, and I am learning something new everyday.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    MUCH better off financially since being overseas. In Latin America, where I was for five years, I saved $30,000 a year. My school wasn’t high paying at all, but with my experience and educational level, I was near the top of the scale. My spouse did not work. We had a much better lifestyle than we did in the U.S., travelled extensively but did not splurge. Car insurance now costs me less for a year than what I used to pay a quarter in the northeast. I live in far more luxurious housing than I could afford in the U.S. And I have a maid.
    Do your homework and find out what the situation would be for you. I’ve been fortunate to have worked at embassy schools with good packages: 100% paid world-wide health insurance with no co-pays (except in the US), retirement payments, end of service benefits, generous professional development funds, paid home leave every year, etc. We have no debt. We live on about half of my salary and save the rest. I’m retiring before 60.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    Had more friends after one month in Latin American than after one year in a new district in the U.S. where everyone was very entrenched with their social circle and made no room for new folks.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    As someone wisely pointed out, this is very personalized. I have been at places where I stayed despite some issues with the country or the school because of the intensity of the friendships I had. Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa — they all have their allures. Wherever you go, be open to the experience. Remember, you are going because it’s different, so don’t complain because it is!

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    The best: small class sizes. All the research points to it: Size matters. Small class size enables me to be the kind of teacher I want to be while still having some emotional energy left for my family and myself.
    The worst? Airport security. It just gets worse and worse.

    My experience has been a great one. If you are too hesitant, I would say, don’t do it. This is an experience you must embrace in order to enjoy it.

    Like

  15. Michael says:

    I’ve been teaching abroad since 1980 and have no regrets about doing so. Of course sometimes it has been difficult – it might sound exciting to have been in the middle of revolutions but the reality isn’t that great. Sometimes you come across really bad schools but ISR should help you to avoid the worst of them.
    In money terms I think I’m much better off than I would have been staying in the U.K. Of course, working in tax-free countries like the Middle East has helped.
    When you find yourself in a new city where few people speak your native language, it’s natural to feel isolated and lonely but,generally speaking, as you start work and make new friends it doesn’t last very long. Many of the other ex-pats are feeling a bit lost and alone and so people tend to be a bit more open to making new friendships.
    My favourite country would have to be Thailand. Terrible pay but really nice people and beautiful beaches and mountains. The worst was Cambodia but that was 15 years ago and it may have improved since then.
    The best thing about working abroad is that you have experiences you would just never have at home. Not all of the pleasant but all of them useful to help you develop as a person. Perhaps the worst thing is that the people back home (friends and family) will not usually be able to comprehend what you have seen and done and so it won’t be as good trying to share what you’ve learnt. it is a truism that you can’t really understand something until you’ve experienced it and working internationally will give you the chance to better understand much more.

    Like

  16. Anonymous says:

    1. I have taught in Russia and Oman and would never have missed out on the fantastic experiences I’ve had in the classroom and outside.
    2. I think it’s about the same as being home in the UK – certainly utilities are much cheaper in Oman.
    3. Making friends has been easy although missing home is natural and normal.
    4. You have to make the most of the country and school you are at: it’s no use whining about what it’s not, make the most of what it is.
    5. Best thing is the freedom to make new resources and to develop the curriculum to fit the learners; worst thing is marking and break duties like everywhere else.

    Like

  17. Rick says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    No. I have really been stretched as an educator and administrator, and have experienced things (good and horrible) that I would not back home. I wouldn’t have missed these experiences for the world.
    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally? No. I have taught, lectured and spoken at symposiums and seminars in Mexico, Indonesia, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. The salary is low (often much lower) compared to back home in most cases, there’s no retirement or security net financially. Sometimes, you can go through a drought period where nothing is available other than picking up some tutoring or ESL classes to survive. It’s not always stable.
    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home? Both. I have made great friends, many of the teachers are like my own kids and I love them dearly… but the downside is becoming a “third world” citizen. You won’t really know about that until you have been away for a few years. I miss being able to go back home and it feel like “home”.
    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools? Mexico. I was in Monterrey, close to the border, for 14 years or so, so I could drive back and forth and the food was awesome. I had a lot of close friends there. In my opinion, the Asian countries can be very cruel, especially once you cut through the formalities and politeness and find out what’s really going on. I have friends that are HoS or Pricipals in local schools that have been completly buffaloed by their local staff and never knew it! You have to be tough to survive many Asian experiences for the long term. I lectured at ITESM University for many years, and also taught at the American School there. Both, great places to be and awesome people. Here in Indo, I was HoS of a small school struggling to break free of the local paradigms and become a truly international school. We passed IB authorization and the first eval with flying colors, and the staff were really maturing as teachers.. I honestly fell in love with them all. Once the local cultural handicaps were eliminated, it was a nice team and we did great things there. Unfortunately, the atmosphere and ethos we created could not be sustained within the organization, and the understanding of an ethical, collaborative leadership model was lost in the woodwork.
    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?
    The best things about teaching internationally? The foremost must be that it pushes you to be a life-long learner. Every school you go to is new, a completely different dna and culture. You are forced to adapt.. it keeps things fresh and new.
    The worst? I suppose is a culture shock, and it can be rude. We westerners have to grip a truth that when we come over seas, we can’t come to force our culture on others.. we have to adapt, and often into an already hostile and very prejudiced environment. The people in some cultures are often already defensive and ready to hurt you.. usually with a smile. Being direct is often confused with being rude, so you will often get people that will smile and tell you what they think you want to hear, and then torpedo you from behind. Don’t expect honesty or truth, you might not get it until you know someone well and for a long time, and they have had time to adapt to you.

    Like

  18. China Teacher says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    No hesitation, I would go international in a heartbeat, and much earlier than I did. In fact, I cannot envision myself teaching in the USA (public schools) ever again. If you are a serious teacher and ravenous to grow, international is the place to be.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    I am much better off financially. I have never worked anywhere that I couldn’t save at least 1/3 of my salary and still have funds to travel. Currently I save over half, plus I get cash retirement, incentive and bonus payments. Of course, I work my butt off, too. This isn’t, and shouldn’t be, free lunch.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    It is generally easy to make friends, but some places are easier than others. It depends on your circumstances, the profile of your school and host country, etc. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    I have my favorities but I don’t think any of that is relevant to you. Everybody has their own preferences and standards. If you have the right attitude, you will enjoy and appreciate every place. Sometimes the school will be so-so and the country will be great, sometimes the reverse, sometimes it will all be great, and if you have half a brain and use it, you can probably avoid the worst case.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    At serious schools in most international venues, teachers are revered and respected, students are motivated, and the school is its own master, both politically and financially. Your colleagues are amazing people who will teach you a lot. If you are a western teacher serious about your teaching, you will think you died and went to heaven.

    On the other hand, if you are here for the adventure and travel and only want to work the minimum, that is what you will get; mediocre schools, ordinary pay, unprofessional colleagues and administrators, problematic parents and students. That’s not to say that serious teachers can’t have travel and adventure — I certainly get my fill. But make teaching your first priority, you will be much happier.

    Like

  19. Anonymous says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    I would teach internationally, but a different school/ country.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    I am not. I teach in latin america, which is notoriously low paying. I make about 500$ a month and after living expense there isnt much left for travel.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    I have many casual friends but not many close friends. Most people in the county get married and have kids early so being single and free leaves me with more free time than others.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    Ive only taught in Honduras, and i love the country and the food, but I wish i was in a bigger city.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    Best: warm weather and no snow, learning a new language and the occasional beach trip.

    Worst: spoiled rich brats, difficult parents, bad school, and low pay.

    I just hope this experience does not keep me from trying again someday..

    Like

  20. Roses or Thorns says:

    In response to question five, remember, if you need a change from teaching, and want to find a new situation, you will definitely find something different abroad, but it is highly unlikely the total situation will be any better on all fronts with friends, social life, finances, career satisfaction, etc. Remember, teaching is still teaching where ever you go, so don’t go looking for roses elsewhere in another country – chances are you will encounter many thorns instead. Be clear for yourself why you want to go elsewhere, and that may be the best indication of whether the situation will have more aspects that are rewarding or detracting,

    Like

  21. Dawn Hansen says:

    I am sixty, single and female. I love my life! I taught nine years at JIS in the 80’s, one of the best in the world. I returned overseas several years ago. Check out the school first! I have been in four schools, met great friends. Some schools are just there for profit and lie about benefits and use teachers. They can be nasty and vindictive. Some break teachers contracts and know you have no legal recourse. They also have power over your future. Avoid poor ones,(BLIS) and it is a learning experience, wonderful adventure.

    In the 80’s with snail mail, no skype, it was harder to keep in contact with family and frends. In Africa now and there are thingss that do not work, but love the teaching, travel and continue to learn!

    Like

  22. Anonymous says:

    The grass is always greener!

    If you are happy where you are stay there! If you need a challenge in your life – move on!

    I have been on the move for 20 years! Sometimes I love it some times I hate it! What I have found is that I do not really fit in at home anymore – probably because I have seen so much.

    If the desire is to earn more money – try a different profession! Average salaries are 50k – 60k.

    I have two kids and they have benefitted immensely from the experience, well grounded – I am lucky, a lot of expat kids are spoilt brats/

    Good luck, do your research as there are more bad schools than good. I would go as far to say that 20% of the international schools out there are good and the rest average to poor!

    Like

  23. Hugh says:

    1. I am much happier living overseas (Korea) and traveling in the region (three or more trips each year) than I ever was living and working in western Canada. I sort of wish I had started this earlier on in my career.
    2. Had I stayed home, well, I would be making at least double of my present salary, but when taxes, mortgage, car maintenance, and other unavoidable expenses are taken into consideration, the net is nearly the same.
    3. I would say that it has been pretty easy to make friends. You immediately share many common bonds, i.e. love of travel, experiencing life as a foreigner, etc. Just know that there is a revolving door on the H.R. element. Today’s friends are very likely to be off to another placement next year. But, it does give you a place to visit and a house to crash when the time comes. So it does balance out.
    4. I am very fond of East Asia. I have lived in this region for over a decade. I think just about any country in the region is pretty cool.
    5. The students are generally great. There are usually opportunities to get more experience teaching courses that you might not otherwise get back home, i.e. AP and IB. Smaller classes – so far – by comparison. You begin to realize just how little stuff you need in your life. Wow, have we downsized, and haven’t missed a thing…yet.

    Like

  24. Cat says:

    No I don’t regret teaching internationally for 5 years in Europe but it does have a high cost. Firstly there is the loss of income as compared with Australia and its employer paid Superannuation contribution to my retirement took a plunge not just for that 5 years I was away but in the down time since I have been back (1 year). I found others who had the same experience as me. I would be a novelty value for the interviews and despite my excellent results and experience it was really hard to land a job. although I did ultimately. My subject area has a glut apparently. I was also seen as too different and people were worried I would quickly move on. Schools in Australia are generally highly conservative places. So that is the financial side but then there is the family issue, crises happen and where are you? That is very difficult but can normally be managed. There is the emotional distance that happens while you are away and everyone is getting on with their lives and eventually you drift into the background unless you make a continual effort otherwise.
    I spent everything I had on the experience in travel and living fairly well. It was fabulous in that regard but I feel now I don’t fit back here and would like to move on again I think. The stats are that for those who stay away for 4-5 years 80% leave again in the first two years after the return home.
    I would also echo the views of others. Lots of International Schools are complete zoos in terms of professional admin protocol and procedures. But that happens in heaps of schools everywhere! Just be careful to get others to check your contract carefully, have an escape hatch planned if you get there and after you have settled down, find too many anomalies. All life is risky but remember what Tagore said,
    Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree.

    It is not the environment that matters but why you are leaving, how you will contribute while you are away and what you put back into to your country on your return. Grow in your own country or grow in another’s, it doesn’t matter only keep the sap flowing.

    Like

  25. PlanetCraig says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    As a previous poster has said, I wished I’d discovered international teaching 10 years earlier. I’d had a stint teaching in government schools in London but was more than ready for the challenges of international school teaching much sooner!

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    Yes. I’ll never be rich and I’m not get paid a lot, but life in Vietnam is much cheaper than life in Sydney. By the time we through a housing allowance, airfares and health insurance into the mix, we’re doing OK.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
    My wife and I have both settled into life in Saigon very well. Unlike our previous placements, we’re not socialising very much with teachers from school. My wife has made many friends from her mother’s group and I’ve made many friends through playing cricket, cycling and my work with Saigon Children’s Charity. My tip would be to get out and try to make some friends outside of school and become involved in the community. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes some time, but it has made this placement our most successful.

    4. What have been your favourite countries and/or schools?
    I loved London (though it wasn’t an international school). Guangzhou was a real winner (my first visit to Asia and I met my wife in China, who it turned out grew up about 30 minutes from me in Sydney). Saigon will end up being our longest placement (with no end in sight as yet). Dubai was our least favourite placement but we still had a ball learning to 4WD, camping on the beach and the like.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally?
    Not as many behaviour problems with a greater focus on teaching & Learning. Greater cultural diversity among staff & students. Much easier work load than government schools in NSW. A chance to live in and experience different cultures – I’m a much more open minded and knowledgeable person than I was
    What are the worst? Nothing really. Skype & Facebook lets us stay in touch with family & friends from home

    Like

  26. Bert says:

    There’s another factor to consider as the job market seems to be changing. Search Associates has told candidates at the job fairs at the end of this hiring season that there are more teachers than jobs… which is not normal at this time of year.

    Some schools like hiring people fresh from their home countries, others like people with a lot of overseas and/or in-country experience. It takes a lot more effort to help people that are new to living overseas and some of the schools that hire them don’t do things properly. Things like language lessons, health care, housing, transportation, visas and knowing where to buy groceries are important and having proper help to settle down at the beginning makes a big difference in someone’s first year overseas.

    I’m not advising against teaching overseas, but a lot of schools that are not equipped to deal with people in their first posting now have a wider range of candidates to choose from. Two teachers fresh from home went back at my school this year because they couldn’t settle in and I work with very supportive colleagues that picked up a lot of the slack that HR left. Just be sure to do your homework as these little things matter as well as the working conditions.

    Like

  27. Trav45 says:

    Like everyone else, I just wish I had started earlier. I suspect most people who say they are better off financially, are not thinking long term. One lives like a king at the time, but it takes a lot of self-discipline to think ahead to retirement, when teaching internationally may become a serious drawback.

    I would “traditionally” retire in about 12 years, but I have almost nothing put away for that, and am in full-blown panic mode at the moment. Most of my schools gave nothing towards retirement, and it was all on me to save. The first school was very low-paying, so I saved nothing. My second school, I paid off bills, then went to grad school. This school, I’m finishing paying off grad schools bills.

    I’m in a new school next year (in China) with a good salary, so I now have to start socking about 30,000 a year into retirement, or I am going to be in deep trouble.

    Most international schools, with a few exceptions, only give 5% or less towards “retirement”, and even then it’s up to you to sock it away.

    Andrew Hallam, the investment guru who works at Singapore American, wrote this post about the difference between a state-side teacher and one on the international circuit, retirement wise:

    http://andrewhallam.com/2011/12/what-international-school-teachers-should-consider/

    I really recommend his book to ANY teacher, especially those just starting out. If I had known all this back in the day, I’d be sitting pretty now.

    Like

    • Trav45 says:

      Key quote: My point is this: most international school teachers I’ve met believe they’re wealthier than they are. Rather than living the life of Riley (which many do) they really need to hunker down, save significantly more for their retirements, and pay far more attention to their investment costs.

      Like

  28. Anonymous says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    International all the way. No regrets and no desire to have done anything differently.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    Currently, yes. There is a huge pay differential between various International Schools, but currently I am with a school that pays awesomely.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home? Good friends are one of the biggest perks of overseas living because you get the best of both worlds: Great same-culture friends from you colleagues at school and amazing local friends from the culture you are immersed in.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    CHILE! Nido de Aguilas. Norway, Switzerland and my first overseas love, Rio.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    Best: Great kids, great pay, amazing travel, fabulous friends, incredible lifestyle.

    Worst: Far from family as parents get older.

    Like

  29. 1. If I could go back in time, I would have started about 10 years earlier.
    2. I am much better off financially than when I taught in the states and live a much higher lifestyle. I have been able to live overseas on only 15 to 25% of may salary and have been able to save and invest the rest which will enable me to retire with no debt at the end of the current school year at age 58.
    3. It has been very easy to make friends teaching overseas and the friends made come from a much more varied background than those I would meet while teaching in the U.S..
    4. I liked working in Myanmar (Burma) the best and the middle east the least, although it was a good life experience.
    5. The best things about teaching internationaly are that you tend to get a much more well behaved student, better parent support, more respect in the community, less red tape or busy work from the school administration and of course the opportunity for travel and cultural experiences. The worst part is being away from family for extended periods of time.

    Like

  30. worldtravler says:

    1. I wanted to go but at that time only insiders could know of job openings. Then in the mid 80s things began to change with privately owned schools opening. Embassy schools pay the best. Privately owned have their own challenges. So I am ending my career overseas and enjoy each position as I choose to enjoy it.
    2. Finances better? No..Quality of life better? No More interesting life and varied friendships? Yes Net on the finances is still in question….Middle class are all taking a hit in retirement…and we may live 20-30 years in retirement…Working for entertainment and quality of life is really essential.
    3. Friends or lonely? Administrators have it tough….fewer friends, more politics with owners and staff. Locals can be better sources of friendship. Overall it really is the same as in my home country.
    4.Best? Each one has had their pluses…I would not put some on my list to return to…formerly soviet bloc countries are often dreary until you make that first friend. Overseas living is not the answer for personal issues. Many who work overseas do not fit in their own country and bring their flaws with them. Others are UN/ Embassy etc who want a servant, maid, nanny, etc and would not have the same lifestyle at home. Others are going to change the world to their image. People are people regardless of being overseas or in your home country. Travel opens your mind to possiblities if you start with an open mind…or it confirms all of your biases. I enjoy history and nature so traveling can be fun for me in many ways.
    5. Best? I meet fellow adventurers with like interests and energy and comfort standards. Worst? The constant stream of older/younger white/not white men seeking foreign women who are 20-40 years younger that them for companionship pretending this relationship is not financially based… Administration is 75% male yet teaching staff is mostly female. No legal rights at any of the private schools outside of Europe..I have seen many great teachers fall victim to unethical owners/ admin. Yet, all in all I like my choices and travels. I know I have made a difference in student and teachers’ lives as we keep in touch.

    Like

  31. Oshitakanawa says:

    I have only been teaching since 2010 so I am a relatively new teacher. I am from Australia but currently teaching in Indonesia. Here is my take:

    1. I chose to teach international from the word GO! I did teach for 1 year back home in Australia to get some grounding before I started and have never looked back.

    2. As I am relatively new to teaching, in my circumstance I am financially better off in what I can save. My income is less than it was in Australia, but I am actually saving a lot more. I live a comfortable lifestyle and eat out (healthily….maybe sometimes) all the time. My disposable income is alot higher.

    3. For me it has been easy to make friends. A lot of Indonesians know English so I am able to make friends outside of my job as well. Having a circle of friends outside of your job is vital for a work life balance. If you can go to a sporting club, gym, church or some other social group, this will definately add to your experience. It’s good to have a mix of friends who are expats and locals. In some other countries, I guess this would be harder to do.

    4. I have only taught in Australia and Indonesia so far, and I am loving the lifestyle and benefits in Indonesia but there will always be things that will naturally frustrate you. I find the unhappiest expat teachers are the ones that stay in their teacher cliques and complain about what is wrong with _________. They’ll never change because their perspective is still from where they came from.

    5. Best things – invaluable experiences, holidays, cheap travel, friends and being able to save and have spending money.
    Worst things – craving for things from back home, traffic, pollution, bureacracy. The best things FAR outweight the worst things.

    I think about how some of the teachers back home and how they are stuck in a rut with a mortgage and are generally unhappy with work. I promised myself not to become one of those teachers and going international makes you an adventurous and a risk taking person automatically.

    Like

  32. Will teech 4 fud says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    Jobs in the US dried up for young teachers, so I had few other options. Had the US been more sensibly run in those years, I think I’d have done better overseas with a more than just 2 years domestic experience. Even though it’s been a steep learning curve out here, I believe I’ve learned a great deal more about best practices overseas than if I’d stayed put.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    It’s been feast and famine. Overall though, I’d say I’m doing better. Especially in East Asia, one’s cost of living is so low, salary isn’t such a big deal.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    Just like anywhere, you’ll meet lots of cool people and a handful of jerks. Definitely look forward to seeing my friends and families during the holidays, but once you go overseas, “home” feels less and less like the place you left behind. I’ve forged lifelong friendships overseas… and I met my fiancee out here.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    Lebanon was the most amazing place I’ve ever worked, due in part to the political crisis there at the time. The people, the city, the countryside… just amazing. Indonesia is great for island adventuring but limited if you crave some city life. China is exactly the reverse.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    The best part is that first morning, waking up in your new home and realizing, “I live here now!” The salary and benefits packages tend to be pretty nice too. The worst part is that int’l schools are a minefield. I’ve found that for every bona fide school on the circuit, there are ten schools that range from sub par to downright unscrupulous. Do your research, and take red flags seriously!

    Like

  33. Ted Persinger says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    I would definitely do it again. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had another career that I retired from (military) and wasn’t sure that I would thrive in this environment. It has absolutely been wonderful. If you’re even considering it, travel somewhere and visit an international school on your trip…you’ll be pleasantly surprised, I’m sure. Remember, though, that there are many types and levels of international schools, so don’t let one bad one turn you off.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    Money will vary from country to country and region to region, but nobody is in teaching for the money anyway, right? I teach in Asia (Thailand) and I do quite well compared to Thais. If you teach in the Middle East you can make more money (lots more) but you earn it in other ways, if you know what I mean.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    Very easy! Most schools have orientation programs, and people naturally get close in this type of environment. Everybody gets homesick from time to time, but that would be true if you took a job in another state. Get out and see the world…life is too short. You can always go back home.

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    This is my 2nd “tour” in Thailand, and I really love this country. The people are so friendly, sweet, and generous. It’s a wonderful country to teach and to travel within. Just last weekend I was sitting on a perfect beach having a cool beverage and eating some great food! I think there are positives and negatives to every country and culture; if you’re open-minded, you can make the most of your experience.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    Best: Seeing the world, meeting new people, tasting adventure…I think I’m a better person for having taken the plunge!
    Worst: You do miss some creature comforts from back home, and of course family and friends. These get more distant the longer you’re overseas.

    Be sure to measure your own level of tolerance…if you can’t survive without your Starbucks and favorite restaurants, be sure to go to a more developed country. If you enjoy “roughing it” you can find some areas that will really challenge you. Remember that each country is VASTLY different, and each will have positives and negatives.

    Like

    • Ted Persinger says:

      Oh, and when considering “money” remember that you can have a lifestyle here you cannot have in the US. In Thailand, for example, you can live a luxurious life for little. My wife and I go shopping often, travel, go to spas…we could not afford to do so in the US. So when you think about money don’t just think about savings; think about the type of life you want to live. There are many parts of that equation!

      Like

    • Ted, I’m curious to hear what you mean by teachers in the Middle East earning their money in “other ways”. I am currently in the Middle East and I don’t know what other way I’m earning my money than by doing my job the best I possibly can. Please elaborate.

      Like

      • Ted Persinger says:

        Hi Jennifer. Well, I’m no expert, but the stories I hear from teachers who have worked in the Middle East tell me the conditions are not like in other countries. I did 1 “tour” in Morocco, and felt that the people were overly aggressive and weren’t very forgiving of people’s beliefs that didn’t match theirs. I had a friend who went to Qatar and was arrested at the airport because she tried to go on vacation without her sponsoring family’s consent. I met a woman who had her passport taken at a school in Saudi Arabia, and she had to go to the US Embassy, get a temporary passport, and flee under the cover of darkness. I know bad things happen all over, but it seems the Middle East is tougher, though perhaps some like it. I know my school in Morocco had nearly 100% turnover EVERY YEAR for Western teachers. Not so in my current school. No offense intended…everybody has their own likes and dislikes, after all. Certainly, the highest pay is in the Middle East.

        Like

        • Sandsmoked says:

          Such a generalization. I make 20K more in the UAE than I would make in the states with housing, insurance and yearly airfare. I live a better quality life than I would live at home. While I would not live in certain Middle Eastern countries, I would also not live in some Central American countries – and certainly not China (personal preference). Not only have I been treated justly by my school, parents and government, I can not relay a single ‘horror’ story from a teacher here. I have worked in North & South America, Europe and the Middle East. Finally I can afford the travel that I came abroad to do and pay off all those credit cards from years spent living (and overspending) in other places. Off for a swim in the Gulf (in the middle of winter) followed by a 3 hour brunch at a gorgeous hotel. So much for the horror story.

          Like

          • Ted Persinger says:

            I didn’t mean to offend anybody. I think you’ll agree, though, that the UAE is unlike most of the Middle East. Yes? Glad you found a place you’re happy with. I was just offering my perspective…you’re welcome to hold a different perspective.

            Like

            • I’m not offended at all. I just think its important not to put the Middle East into one category. There are places in this region where I absolutely would not work due to political insecurities and/or their perception of roles that women should play. But there are definitely a handful of countries that are stable (like Qatar, where I’m at) and reasonably forward thinking😉 That being said, one should take care in choosing to come to a country in the Middle East.

              Like

          • Anita says:

            I lived and taught in Kuwait for two years, in Al Ain, UAE for one year. In terms of TEACHING, I wouldn’t recommend either country to anyone. In terms of living, well . . .

            Kuwait is probably the best (worst) example I have ever seen of blatant racism, discrimination, segregation, whatever you want to call it. I put it like this: Slavery is alive and well and living in Kuwait. No joke! Ask the Indonesian or Phillipino Embassy how many run away maids they have in their basements. Then ask how many of them are pregnant by their “employers”. Then ask how many of them WILLINGLY had sex with their employers. Ask where their passports are. Ask what would happen to them if they were NOT on the “hallowed ground” of the embassy. And ask what the embassy has to do to gain the freedom of these women. Ask the Bangladeshi workers in the work camps how much money they make. How many people also share their beds (not in a sexual way). Ask how often they get to eat. Or what they get to eat. Ask if there is any heat or a/c in their building. Ask if their building actually has walls or a door. Ask if there is any code of safety, or any sort of compensation if they are ill or get injured on the job. You get the picture.

            The students simply follow in their parents’ footsteps. Why do they have to do well in school? Their fathers BOUGHT their degrees, why shouldn’t they? They don’t have to work, the government will give them money (copious quantities of money, might I add) every month. And more when they are married. And more for each child. They don’t need jobs because they will go to work for their fathers (the boys) or get married to a rich man (the girls). Their fathers mostly don’t actually work, either. They have jobs. Most of them do. But they don’t actually WORK. They have a title (the all important title!) and they get a paycheque, but they don’t actually work. That’s what the expats do. They treat the maids, drivers, and anybody not Kuwaiti, or not in their “class” worse than dogs. (Don’t even get me started on how they treat animals!). Now, try teaching to a group of children that has grown up in that culture. You get the idea.

            The school would have been a condemned building in Canada. Safety issues EVERYwhere. Hygiene issues EVERYwhere.

            And management would have been sued left, right, and centre! Student abuse issues EVERYwhere. Employee abuse and corruption EVERYwhere. Staff turnover was rampant. People pulling runners in the middle of the night. People getting fired and disappearing in a day. People being promoted and demoted without any rhyme or reason. The new Business Manager didn’t like me (because I stood up to him when he was trying to break contract issues), so TRIED to screw me over by NOT reserving my airline ticket out of the country at the end of the contract. Backfired on him because I threatened to go to the Ministry, so he had to pay 3 times the cost of the original ticket. Cancelled my friend’s ticket on the day of our flight home. Again, cost him 3 times the cost of the original ticket. They have NO IDEA how to deal with Western staff! Their modus operandi is threats and punishment. Try again!

            Corruption is simply the way the country works. It’s how it’s done. And they see nothing wrong with using their “Wasta” for everything and anything. So the students, also see nothing wrong with it. They offer you money or gifts to give them better grades. If that doesn’t work, they get their parents to talk to the principal or the director and offer wasta to change their grades. If THAT doesn’t work, they go to the owners, money changes hands, and all is miraculously taken care of. Saw it WAY more times than I want to count.

            The few really nice kids, just tried to slink into the background and stay below the radar. There are some. There truly are. But one has to wonder how long they’ll stay that way, until they give in to the pressure all around them.

            Now, having said all that, I am an SEN teacher, and my kids, and most of their parents, were lovely. Mostly because the kids were all mentally handicapped and didn’t UNDERSTAND the concept of wasta, or how to manipulate. The parents were thankful that someone genuinely CARED about their kids, and were teaching them stuff that made SENSE. Before I joined the school, they were teaching them straight academics, no life skills, nothing actually USEful. I had 14-20 year old boys, who couldn’t tell time, or count money, or butter a slice of bread. They learned to do those things in a year, so WHY were they not taught them earlier? Don’t even ask.

            In terms of living, Al Ain was much better. Although, the school was probably worse. Administrative nightmares. All about the title and having your name on something. They changed rules and regs about every second week, because one or the other had to have THEIR name on a piece of paper. We went through 3 (I think. Maybe it was 4.) principals in one year. The one GOOD principal that we had, they fired in the middle of a staff meeting, then whisked him away and basically locked him up in a private hotel, until they could get him out of the country! We had kids with fetal alcohol (of COURSE not! Alcohol is illegal for Muslims . . . ) and various other learning difficulties (many caused by all the interbreeding) that were NOT acknowledged or dealt with. We had no resources. We had no support. Management was constantly trying to drive a wedge between Arabic and Western staff. (Much to their dismay, I was friends with most of the Arabic staff, even helped them fight for a better contract!) Didn’t give us our contracts until halfway through the year, and had changed most of the terms of employment by then. Kids didn’t want to learn in English, because they saw no purpose to it. None of them ever spoke it anywhere but in school, didn’t watch English TV, parents didn’t speak English, more importantly MAIDS didn’t speak English! Swimming pool was closed more than open. Kids weren’t allowed to play outside because it was “too hot” or “too cold” ALL the time. Promotions and privileges were based on how much you sucked up to the boss. They actually hired an Arabic woman to SPY on all of the western staff. Seriously! Discipline was practically non-existent because most of the kids are raised by maids, who aren’t ALLOWED to discipline. Another country where “wasta” is the almighty god. And last but not least, they brought in a dress code which included the words “sensible underwear”. WHAT?!?! My question, of course, was, “Who is going to inspect our underwear?” Insane!!!

            Unlike Kuwait, my students in Al Ain were EAL students (which basically should have been the whole student body!), many of which had learning difficulties, but still intelligent enough to be part of the “wasta” game. With the same prevailing attitude as many of the Kuwaiti kids.

            But at least the general public in Al Ain were slightly more pleasant than the Kuwaitis. They didn’t hiss or spit at us, for starters. I actually saw families on outings together in Al Ain. Never saw that in Kuwait. (Or if you did, there was at least ONE maid in tow, doing everything, while the parents blatantly ignored their own children.) Even women that were fully covered would say hello and try to carry on a basic conversation.

            And Al Ain is right on the Oman border, which means access to a wonderful “playground”. The Western Hajar mountains, the Musandam Peninsula, Muscat, Salalah, magnificent deserts, stunning mountains (sea floor fossils at 9000 feet!), and wonderful people. Probably the nicest people I encountered in all of the middle east. Humble, generous, TRUE Muslims, not hypocritical imitations like the Kuwaitis. A very WISE sultan has made cautious inroads into “civilization” unlike Dubai that is blatantly “in your face”. Al Ain is also only an hour and a half from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, which means international airports and a way OUT of the UAE!

            Staff turnover at our school was about 80% the year I was there. Many of us just LEFT! Broke contract. Finished up one year, and didn’t go back for the second. That probably says it all.

            I am now in Malaysia, at a good school, with good kids, and love it. But there are bad schools here, too. You hear about them when you work in the international circuit. I’ve been to a number of other schools while involved with school sports, etc. and there are definitely some high quality schools here. Not sure about student attitude in the other schools, but in general our kids are great. Discipline issues are almost non-existent. High grades are normal. We have a HUGE number of extra-curricular activities. Kids have LOTS of choices. No wasta. Amongst the student body there is no noticeable amount of racism or discrimination. Maids and maintenance staff are treated fairly well. All in all, a MUCH more pleasant place to be than the middle east!!! I’m on year 4 here, and have signed on for 2 more. That about says it all for this school!

            Like

          • Susan Vernon says:

            I have also been attracted to the UAE – I’d love to hear about schools that you’d recommend. My sister-in-law spends 3 months each year at the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi. She enjoys it.

            Like

    • daleyreading says:

      My husband and I, both teachers, are exploring the possibility of teaching overseas. As I am familiar with Thai culture – I was an exchange student there – I would love to go back. I am having difficulties however finding job postings. Any information you could give me in this direction would be much appreciated.
      Also, in your travels do you see many `teaching couples`. We would both need to secure employment, as well as schooling for our children who are 5 and 8.
      Thanks for your support!

      Like

      • Ted says:

        Hi DailyReading…You should definitely join Search Associates. However, due to the poor economy in the States, there are SO many teachers here right now. I have never seen so many! You can also get a listing of international schools in Thailand (Google it) and simply send messages to the schools and monitor their sites. That’s how I found my current job. But it is tight here, simply because Thailand is so amazing coupled with the bad economies in the Western countries. As for teaching couples, I’ve seen many. A couple years ago I attended the Bangkok Search Fair, and it seemed every school I spoke to was looking for couples. Many times you’ll have an advantage, especially if one of you is Math or Science. They know couples tend to stay longer. Two children shouldn’t be an issue, but some schools balk at more than two. But when you’re ready, you shouldn’t have too many problems, as long as you understand there are a lot of teachers right now. Good luck!

        Like

        • daleyreading says:

          Thanks Ted. We are Canadian (and have an overabundance of teachers here too…not from cutbacks, but lack of retirements). But Search Associates does have a branch in Toronto so we are in luck! So glad to hear that teaching couples are in demand…I thought that this might be a sticking point for us.
          Now I`m pumped!

          Like

  34. Dave says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
    If you like to travel then international teaching is a great way to do it.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
    Absolutely worse off. I missed out on 10 years of pension contriubutions. My average pay overseas was around $30,000 per year compared to my current $105,000.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home? About the same

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
    I loved Japan due to their culture. I hated the Middle East.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?
    The best thing was the opportunity to have freedom in the classroom. The worst were the administrators.

    Like

  35. SchoolPsyc says:

    If you school district will allow it, try to take a sabatical? If you don’t like it, you will have a postion waiting for you.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      1. Best experience ever!!!
      2. In some cases, yes. Sometimes, the finances could be replaced by the quality of life (travel, friends, friendly people, different culture, etc)
      Choose the school (country) depending on what you are looking for a life style or for money. Also, depends where you are in your life….
      3. Very easy. The expat teachers usually like to have their circle of friends. Depends on the size of the school. For me it was a small school, with a nice community.
      4. I taught only in 1 country.
      5. The best things for me are: a new culture, a lot of traveling, new friends, friendly people, very supportive.
      GO FOR IT!!!

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I have considered going the sabatical route and was told that I would need to make a great argument on how it would benefit my school district. Any observations, advice?

      Like

      • Bonnie Ross (worked at ISM in Manila 15 years ago /and AISL in Lusaka, Zambia 8 years ago) says:

        The argument that I used was both true and effective. As we become more and more a global society, it’s imperative that we prepare both ourselves and the children/families with whom we work. My large school district was at the time of my first two years away close to being mono culture or as a friend calls it, “cream of wheat” —

        My argument was absolutely spot on and I got to go. My second two years, I had to resign. Did and don’t regret a moment of it. First two years in Asia, second two in Zambia.

        I LOVED both experiences and miss my Philippine and Zambian friends and ‘families’ greatly!

        Like

      • Anonymous says:

        It is actually written within the contracts of tenured teachers that they are allowed a certain amount of time for a sabatical. For example, I taught ten years in my old district. This has earned me up to five years on sabatical. I am taking every one of them! If not, there are plenty of other teaching jobs out there.

        Like

      • Jennifer says:

        By taking a sabatical you will be benefitting the school. Most international schools offer a lot of inside training and PD time. You will gain a lot of experience working with ESL students and develop new strategies that you will bring back to your school. If you go to an IB school they will train you in IB and that training will benefit you and your students in the future.

        I have been teaching internationally for 9 years now (WOW, time flies) and in two different countries. It really has opened up my eyes to the variations in cultures.

        Like

  36. James says:

    1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?

    I wish I had started teaching internationally 10 years before I did. It is a wonderful experience and it is the highlight of my already colorful life.

    2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?

    I am not. I teach in latin america, which is notoriously low paying. I do have lifestyle though. I have beautiful beaches, pleasant climate and a wonderful place to live. That’s what its all about anyway! The only reason I wanted more money was so I could afford to visit the places I now work.

    3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?

    I have found it easy to make friends with the locals. Fellow teachers are often unfriendly but they’re americans!

    4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?

    Mexico was a favorite. Great food and tourist opportunities. Colombia has breathtaking scenery. El Salvador has beautiful climate, great services and comfortable living. Beaches, mountains, surfing and hiking round out it’s allure. I think it’s my new favorite.

    5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

    Travel, food and people are tops of my list. I have friends all over the world thanks to my time in international teaching. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

    Dealing with foreign governments and spoiled rich kids are the most demanding parts of the job. Most schools have ways of helping navigate those minefields.

    Like

    • J.H. says:

      Your response to question two, excellent ! J.H.

      Like

    • away from home says:

      I am teaching at a school which is not a good one. There have been constant schedule changes, “Saturday School”, tiny classrooms, large class sizes, limited supplies, no gym etc. The apartments we are living in aren’t the greatest and there have been issues with plumbing, cleanliness etc. etc. Many times I have missed home and there have been stresses beyond imagining.
      On the other hand, I have been able to travel more than I would have been able to do otherwise.
      I have gained an understanding and an appreciation of what others in the world have to cope with on a daily basis. I have increased my teaching ability and in the long run it will have been a good situation.
      For young people just starting out it isn’t a bad deal.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s