by Matthew Sullivan / ISR Guest Writer
How would you respond when the unknowns of your international post turn out to be significant challenges? International living extracts you from your comfort zone, distances you from family and friends, adds stress to your relationships and piles burdens on your dependents that you may never have acknowledged when you were idly dreaming of escape.
Often we romanticize about a new job rather than conduct research in a dispassionate way. Prospective international educators seeking an escape from homeland humdrum can easily delude themselves by imagining that their current troubles will disappear abroad. The human mind sadly can will itself into a doom loop of negativity, anxiety and depression when the environment around it doesn’t match expectations. But whatever attitudinal baggage you bring to your new destination will be unpacked and on display straightaway unless you travel light and divest yourself of habits that led to your unhappiness or restlessness at home.
Making a simple list of pros, cons and unknowns when sizing up a new job seems sensible, but few applicants take the trouble to do this systematically. The unknowns are always scarier risks than the cons because they cannot be measured. When you take that leap into the unknown by accepting a job abroad and signing a contract, you need to accept that you are running significant risks for yourself and your family. Many of these risks are incalculable before you start the job, and it is human nature to warm to the perceived rewards rather than to assess coolly the real dangers when busy dreaming of pastures new.
Depending on your mindset, these unexpected outcomes of a new job abroad can lead to varying degrees of panic or patience; anger or maturity; weakness or resilience; whinging or acceptance; frustration or wisdom. In the end, however, all learning can be good learning and one’s character can grow and flourish, even in seemingly adverse conditions.
During my 37 years in international education, I experienced many unknowns, rewards, sacrifices and opportunities to grow, learn and develop my character. Looking back, I have few regrets, but also few illusions!
What kinds of risks are acceptable to YOU when making significant career decisions? What do YOU aim to learn from pursuing an international career? In what ways would you like to grow as a person during your professional life?
Matthew Sullivan (recently retired international educator)
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