ReConsidering Your Possibilities

comfortzone57074936Being an International Educator is all about putting yourself “out there” beyond your comfort zone, embracing new & different experiences. This is, after all, how we grow as individuals & as educators. In light of that, limiting your recruiting focus to just one or two locations seems contrary to the expansive spirit of the profession. Why not take a chance? I did & am I ever glad!

A couple of examples: I certainly had never considered Pakistan for a career move & when out of the blue I was offered a position, everyone tried to convince me not to go. I went to Lahore & loved it! The Pakistani people were gracious, the food & culture were outstanding, the students were a good group & with India less than an hour away (for example) the travel opportunities were spectacular. Although Pakistan was not originally on my limited, safety-zone list of places to go, in retrospect it should have been at the very top!

The Democratic Republic of Congo was not on my list either, but when I found a note in my recruiting folder at an ISS conference I decided to follow up, if for no other reason than to hone my interviewing skills. I did sign the contract & found the Congo to be quite a challenging experience, particularly since the school & location were grossly misrepresented by the director & his professionally-made video that painted Kinshasa to be a delightful tourist destination (this was Pre-ISR). Although the Congolese were warm & welcoming & I had fun resurrecting my high school French, the extreme poverty & complete lack of infrastructure at the school were horrendous. Looking back, I realize that the Congo changed my perspective on the world & international teaching in a profound way. Would I go back? Probably not knowing the situation as I now do. But it was a deeply enlightening period in my life, one that I’m glad I did not miss.

I don’t recommend you completely throw caution to the wind. There are most definitely some political hot spots best avoided. What I am recommending is that instead of limiting yourself to just a few possibilities, why not step out of your comfort zone, reconsider your possibilities & let the real adventures of your career begin!?!

Have YOU ever accepted a position at a school that was not on your list of desired places to live & teach? How did the experience turn out for you? Were you wonderfully surprised or shell shocked? We invite you to share your experiences with colleagues.  Please scroll down to comment.

13 thoughts on “ReConsidering Your Possibilities

  1. What out of way countries/schools would work for a family with three dependents? As a mathematics/ESL teacher with baby twins and (temporarily) stay at home wife (who can return teaching in the future), I have missed out a number of contracts by inches. Any suggestions?


  2. My first international job was at the American School of Durango in Mexico. Given that I also had offers in Puebla and Cancun (plus offers in Asia), all my friends – especially my Mexican friends – thought I was crazy to choose Durango. The insecurity! The scorpions! The narcos! The isolation! They said… It turned out to be a lovely experience! I managed to pay off my entire masters in the two years I was there, and I traveled extensively. I now live in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and at the end of this year I’m hoping to be moving on elsewhere…but I am so glad I started out in Durango! I wouldn’t change it for anything!


  3. After working in three countries, I’ve come to realize that I don’t care what country I work in. What matters most is quality of school (am I happy at work?), great package (how much can i save?) and decent housing (am I comfortable at home?). I use all my vacations to enjoy the better life.


  4. Yes I think that we international persons must take a lot into our strides. We are the missionaries of the 21st century, so take heart and take all the necessary precautions you can to minimize the risks and you should be okay. Don’t forget that we are a very privileged class and although we don’t earn executive salaries we do see the world as it is. I am loving my international experiences both good and bad. I say to you to keep positive, stay alive, and you can return to your homeland one day and enjoy your retirement. You’ve done your bit to make the world a better and a more inter-connected place. I know there are lots of jerks working in the international education community, and there is little you can do about that. All I can say is that you should find the silver lining in the cloud, and that because you have embarked on this fascinating journey, you should not be afraid to make a career on the international stage, as for better or worse this is where the opportunities are.

    Allan Walker
    Jilin City, Jilin Province, Northeast China


  5. I think the advice to be open is good BUT you must also know your own limits of what you can and can’t deal with. For example in India even though my housing had a back-up generator it could only run the fridge, tv, and lights. This meant no aircon for long periods of time in a very hot place. The tap water stank of sewer and I had to bathe in it. There were water leaks in my apartment and Indians don’t fix the small drips as it means cutting into the concrete. I contracted a tropical disease while there and it was very painful. The local sewers were dredged once per year which meant they dug up the nightsoil and dumped it onto the road. We got a cyclone hit and things were underwater for many days. Dangerous because watersnakes come and electric lines electrify water.

    Now perhaps you think I will say that i did not like India but actually I liked it very much. I grew up overseas and am used to things being chaotic and not at all Westernized.

    So it goes back to determining what you are comfortable to live with and what is a deal breaker for yourself. And conditions can even vary depending upon where you are in a country.


  6. When my students ask me where I’ll go next, I always reply wherever the wind takes me. I’ve taught in countries that I would never have normally gone to, and have learned something new every time. If a school says come and it’s not on your “to do” list, say yes (within reason). Life is an adventure, good, bad or indifferent, so why not embrace the adventure. I did and I’m so happy I have.


  7. The first time I went to an overseas job fairI went saying, “I’ll go anywhere except for the Middle East.” The first night of the fair someone gave a speech encouraging us to be open minded and consider jobs in places we weren’t previously considering. It was great advice and I ended up accepting a job in Bahrain. It has been a wonderful place to live and work. I’m so glad I took her advice!


    1. Same for us! We said no Middle East – spent 6 years in the Gulf and LOVED it. Lots to do and see, lovely, gracious, hospitable people, great food, ….


  8. I agree with the above posts. My advice, never dismiss a country without having done some research into it, media reports often blow things out of proportion. Countries I dismissed offhand, I ended up living in and have never regretted it. I ended up having the most amazing experiences and some of them had great savings potential! Having said that, yes there are some countries you should dismiss because even the basic information you can find would deter you. I wouldn’t live in a big city in China because I like to see the blue sky regularly. Know what is important to you before you begin your job search and stick to what is not negotiable. Don’t like the heat? Then don’t try to convince yourself that high paying job in Doha is worth it! You’ll suffer on those 45 degree days.


    1. LOL–you’ve just proven your own point! Having sworn I would never work in Beijing, of course that’s where I am now. Yes, pollution’s an issue and there are some very bad days. But not nearly as often as you’d think and the air’s actually been pretty clear this year, with lots of beautiful, blue-skied days. Beijing’s a fabulous city, I’m at an even more fabulous school and I’m thrilled to bits I broke my own resolution.


  9. I got offered a position in El Salvador. It was not really where I wanted to go but I thought, why not? I have not been here 3 years and if my wife didn’t have health problems I would stay for at least 5! It turned out that this is one of the best teaching experiences I have ever had, in or outside the US. If I hadn’t done it I would have missed out on some of the best beaches and best students I could hope for.

    Leaving with extreme regrets.


  10. I accepted a job on a whim, more or less. I had interviewed for 3 schools schools and nothing was going my way. That evening I got a phone call from a school in Taiwan. What the heck. Why not. I interviewed with them and I could see it was a go. I was offered a contract on the spot and that was that. It turned out to be a super experience and I spent 4 years at the school. So you just never know.


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