The Trade-Off for an Overseas Experience

There’s plenty to love about living in far off distant lands. So much so, in exchange for that experience many of us will tolerate a not-so-great workplace — as evidenced by ISR School Reviews.

Don’t get me wrong. There are truly outstanding International Schools around the globe. Those of us enjoying both our school and the experience of living overseas are hopefully in the majority. Be sure to Share your experience at such schools with the rest of us. Review Your School

That said, no school meets everyone’s expectations. Some things you just have to live with. In extreme cases, toughing out aspects of employment that may otherwise be a deal breaker, is the trade some of us make in exchange for the privilege of an International lifestyle.

We each have a different threshold for what we can live with at a school not entirely to our liking. What bothers one educator may be of no consequence to another. In most cases we can simply ignore most scenarios. Not getting what you’re promised contractually, feeling abused, underappreciated, and fodder for overly entitled parents and students will make a situation intolerable for most all of us. That trade off isn’t worth it. Teachers run.

ISR asks: In your own, personal situation, are you enduring a negative workplace environment in exchange for the privilege of living overseas? If so, what is the trade-off? What is it at the heart of the overseas experience that makes the trade-off worthwhile to YOU?

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

15 thoughts on “The Trade-Off for an Overseas Experience

  1. For me it is really about the students. If I am teaching large groups of students whose education will lift them out of poverty, I know I am making a good difference. The money and unshared accommodation is part of the contract accepted. The place has to be safe as well, including the water and air quality. No position is worth losing your health over.


  2. The Trade OFF????? Lost money from Social Security and a state retirement. This can cost a person $1,000’s of dollars at retirement time. It takes 10 yrs to gain the 40 points needed to be vested in SSI. Thirty Five years to get everything SSI has to offer. It usually takes 5 yrs to become vested in a state teacher retirememt system. Every year spent overseas is a year lost in each system. The loss won’t be realized until a person retires. By then it is too late. That retirement bill does eventually come due.


    1. Good points. But you can adapt and still come out ok. By paying taxes, your quarters update for social security, as long as you had a work history in US to begin with, even a short one. You can invest overseas with certain plans to have a retirement. If you return and work for the last 5 years, you can have an investment plan through your job, that will help. Overseas, a single person ( if they found a good package) would be able to save $1-2,000 per month- something you could not do at home in US. Married couples can often save 1 salary. After 10-20 years, you return, no bills, money saved and the option to top up your social security for a few more years.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Some of us save $50,000 or more, and we are exampt from Federal and state taxes.Seems worth it to us !


  3. I always say you either have to love your job or love the country/city you’re in. If you can find a position where you love both, that’s a job you’d better keep for life. Truly great international schools in truly great locations rarely hire anyone because their teachers never leave. So if you got a job at a school, chances are already high that it’s NOT one of the great ones. The more you love the location, the higher your tolerance for BS will be. If you hate both, you’ll be totally miserable.


  4. You need to to it for the adventure.

    In my experience, leaving a career from public education is a one way journey. No one will be interested in your experiences on your return, and system you left will have been evolving in new directions and not value your input. (There are whole ISR discussion forums around this topic, and also around the impact of aging, which comes to us all).

    Secondly, be conscious of the tax implications of leaving your country of origin. For example, many countries in Western Europe have a ‘wealth tax’ or ‘death tax’, so if you own substantial property and in the event of your demise, your children may not receive what you had hoped for them. Also, you will not be contributing to superannuation schemes while away, which might have implications on retirement. Any earnings back home (e.g., rent, royalties or honoraria) may be taxed from the first dollar, or need to be added to your income in your current country.

    I made sure no substantial property was in my name before leaving (so, you need to trust the family members who are left behind). I am now engaged in education research back in my home country, pursuing a long held interest in pedagogy, and living off a pension.

    I do not regret my decision to turn back on the career pathway that would have been there for me, but am warning others to beware there are pitfalls, and that every decision involves risk.

    But money is not everything. My overseas teaching career, and awareness and lived experience in for-profit schools, for example, is now enabling me to build links with international research students from developing countries, with a dream that perhaps in future we will be able to lift the pedagogy in whole systems (e.g., in government schools in these countries) together!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I worked in a school in China for 5 years that eventually went bankrupt. The owner was involved in very shady business practices and used the school’s operational budget as his own personal slush fund. Adding these issues to Tier III China not exactly being an easy or convenient place to live made things more difficult.

    The only reason I endured it as long as I did was for the money. I was making ¥32,000 net a month with all expenses paid for.

    The experience caused me to leave education entirely. After coming home and working as an interventionist in a charter school for 6 months, I started work on my MBA. Now I work in a casino doing revenue audit. I now earn $65,000 a year for no stress cubicle work. I could not be happier.


  6. I am certainly making the trade. I love, love, love living in Eastern Europe. So much culture, so much to see and do. School: not so good. Nothing happening like not getting paid or being thrown under the bus for demanding parents. Problem is learning is more memory based and we are required to teach the school’s curriculum – and use school provided tests. Things could be worse. Any job would require me do things their way. It’s just that the approved style of teaching here is like comparing dial up to Wi-Fi. Of course, I do go beyond the curriculum and feel I am helping students and not completely sacrificing my values for this great overseas living experience.


  7. I am in a terrible school with entitled, bratty kids. Every day is a struggle. I do love my fellow team, my neighborhood, and the pay. I don’t think I can teach another year, though, without adequate supplies, a more organized Admin., and better behaved kids. Teaching is a passion and my classroom means a lot to me.


    1. Yup. I’ve been there. I was where you are in 2017.

      The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. An MBA is certainly a lot of work, but it’s doable. If you have an understanding of math up to matrix algebra and functions, you can do it.

      Keep going. You can do this.


    2. I had the same experience in Brazil. If admin hasn’t set the appropriate standard for behavior, grades and responsibility, the situation won’t change during your stay. Move on to a place that appreciates you and continue enjoying your international experience.


  8. Good research can reduce bad experiences. If you can 1st, get a Country you are interested in and 2nd. Get a school and package that seem reasonable, you have, at least, had input that should make things better. After that, it comes down to you’re professionalism/ ability to adapt, then the real big one. The big one is how effective is the administration. That can often be the make or break clause. Once teachers leave large public school umbrellas, they can be limited in terms of promotion and or just being able to transfer. Admin can be so entrenched in their own package, they outlive their ability to lead. You essentially have 2 types of admin. The best are the ones who listen and say, “ how can we help”, the other , find fault and are chatterboxes behind your back. Of course the ownership group/ board have an effect, good or bad or both. If you can work your job, be effective and avoid cliquey admin groups, then enjoy the Country. If not, enjoy the Country and immediately start preparing to quietly, without telling others, your plan to move on.


    1. I agree very much with this comment. The admin make or break the school, and this is hard to judge. The best way is to ask for a school contact and try to get in touch with current and former teachers on LinkedIn. The on-the-ground view of the admin is so invaluable in making a decision. As I get ready to move on this year, leveraging all my channels to get authentic opinions of what it is like to work in a place is a top priority.


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