Reverse Culture Shock: Home for the Summer

I’m home for the first time since I left for overseas 2 years ago. It’s not important where home is, but I’ll tell you it’s considered a “first world” nation. It must be because you can get anything and everything you want here, any time day or night. There’s more than 30 varieties of cold cereal and no less than 52 assorted chocolate bars gracing the shelves of my local 24/7 supermarket. Cars, furniture, appliances, clothes… It can all be had in an instant, no money down with 36 months to pay. My brain is on overload!

Everyone is overweight here, getting fat and fatter. They keep their eyes straight forward as if saying “hello” as we pass would be a breach of privacy. Shootings, mass and small are no big deal. It’s just how it is. Maybe that’s why they keep a distance. It sure isn’t because of COVID.

Capitalism has triumphed in this place called home. TV and radio pound away at psyches, insisting on what I need to be happy, what I need to find love. A shiny new car I can’t afford is a good start. Accumulated objects here have replaced friends, family, a feeling of connectedness. It’s business as usual, everyone kept satiated with what they have been programmed to buy with money they have not yet earned.

This corporate-created/managed reality of my home nation must have crept over me so subtly when I lived here that I hadn’t noticed until I looked through new eyes, eyes that have seen something better in a far-off land that my government’s travel alerts and broadcast news make look unsafe. It’s all part of an effort to keep dollars at home, feeding the corporate machine that owns our politicians and pays big money for broadcast advertising.

I’ve been living these past years in what was once termed a “third-world country,” now relabeled, “developing nation.” People here don’t rent storage lockers to squirrel away excess possessions they didn’t need in the first place. Designer clothes aren’t a thing. Labels don’t make the wo/man. Life unfolds here at a reasonable pace. Less tense. Less strained. And people smile. They say hello and nod in recognition of each other. You’re part of something. Friends, family and neighbors count. It’s not just me, me, me, with more stuff, more money.

If the country where I’ve been living is a “developing” nation and my home country is considered “developed,” something is terribly, terribly wrong with the goal. I, for one, can’t wait to get back to my “developing” nation. Am I the only one who feels this way?

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Retirement Goals

When you move from school to school, country to country, there’s no district office to tie a career in International Education into a sponsored retirement plan. If, for conversation’s sake, individual International Schools did offer retirement plans, how would it realistically work to have a small pension set up for you in 4 or 5 foreign counties, depending on how much you moved around?

Retirement after a career in International Education will be what each of us creates for ourselves. The best advice is: “Make a plan, start early & diversify.” Volatile markets, unforeseen global events & worldwide pandemics, as recently witnessed, can put a serious crease in the best-laid plans. The more financial irons in the fire, the more secure your plan will be. At least that’s what we hear from the economic gurus of our day.

ISR asks: What do YOU consider your retirement goal to be? What are you currently doing or plan to do to meet that goal? Naturally, goals will differ depending on what age you are now & what age you’d like to be when retiring, your current & future financial responsibilities, where in the world you plan to retire, & how extravagantly you’d like to live — a beer & bread budget or a caviar & champagne budget? Sharing plans, ideas & concerns, we can help each other to make informed, forward-thinking decisions on this important topic. We hope you’ll join in the conversation!

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It’s All About Priorities

When you stop to think about teaching overseas, is your priority to have horizon-expanding adventures in select parts of the world? OR, is your priority to work towards financial security with a willingness to live and teach in not so desirable locations in exchange for a great salary? Maybe you’re after a little of both?

If your bucket list wish is to live and teach in a cultural icon like Paris, Berlin or Madrid, be prepared to settle for a mediocre salary in exchange for the chance to fulfill a long sought-after dream. To make ends meet in these cities, teachers report taking on a second job. If, on the other hand, accumulating money is your goal, Kuwait or the UAE might be your first choice since salaries allow for travel, savings and more, although the trade off may be a less vibrant experience.

It’s all about priorities but keep in mind, the uninitiated can find themselves in an unpredicted situation. A school’s published “savings potential” could actually be based on eating street food, watching TV, and never taking a trip outside the city. Living a life that approaches a first-world lifestyle in some developing nations can be quite pricey. Know before you go!

Connecting with people who have ‘lived the life’ is your key to an overseas experience that satisfies your priorities and fulfills your expectations. We remind ISR Members that the ISR Member Forum is the perfect place to connect on a no-holds-bared basis with someone who lived and worked in the place you’re considering for a career move.

ISR asks: What were YOUR priorities when you accepted your current overseas position? Has reality met your expectations? Did your priorities evolve once you were in mid-Contract? If so, how did that work out?

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Pros & Cons of a Home ‘Back Home’

Owning a home ‘back home’ comes with some major Pros & Cons for International Educators. A big Pro of home ownership, and I think you’ll agree, is you have a place to retreat to in an unforeseen crisis such as Covid-19 putting a sudden end to your job. On the other hand, a huge Con for home ownership is the question of ‘How do you take care of the place and protect your investment when you’re 1000s of miles away?’

If you are planning to own a home from overseas, the Con side — a mortgage, potential troublesome tenants, regular maintenance and upkeep, annual taxes and insurance, emergency repairs — needs to be balanced against the Pro side — potential rental income, property value appreciation, a home to park yourself during the summer, a place to call home in the event of an emergency.

If a mortgage and other house-related bills are dependent on your teaching position and/or tenants, you may want to think twice. The headaches may not be worth the benefits of long-distance home ownership. However, if you’re financially solvent, home ownership could be the way to go, provided you have trustworthy people to oversee your property in your absence. Teachers report making more in rental income as compared to their salary.

ISR asks: Do you own a home that you maintain from a distance? Has it been a positive experience? What advice do you have for other International Educators considering owning a home ‘back home?’

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How Do You Get to School?

Whether by Guagua, moto, metro, pedal power, foot power, school bus, beyoglu, habal, or behind the wheel of your own car, getting to school can be, and usually is, a cultural experience in and of itself.

How do YOU get to school in the morning?

An ISR member in Thailand tells us:

“I drive to school in my 18-year-old, not so dependable Mazda I got from an English guy moving back home. Time permitting, I take the back roads and avoid the ever-present morning police trap on the main artery. It’s about a 40-minute commute. We’re talking expansive rice paddies, Buddhist temples, swaying palms and oxen in the fields. The road to school is an adventure, and even more so the couple of times the old Mazda pooped out.

An ISR Member in Pakistan says:

The same taxi driver picks me up every morning and drops me off in the afternoons. Even from the back seat the 30-minute morning commute is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. As if traffic wasn’t intense enough, a couple of camels in the road along with the occasional water buffalo and the endless rickshaws, the commute gives you the feeling you’re in a real life video game. especially since there are no lane lines on the roads here.

An ISR Member in the Dominican Republic checks in:

It all depends on the weather, you know, and how much stuff I have to carry. On nice days I try to walk. I see the same smiling shopkeepers and neighbors along the way. I feel like a part of the neighborhood and often stop in at a small coffee shop for a espresso and breakfast. On rainy days I grab a Guagua.

How do YOU get to school in the morning?

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Baking a Cake at Altitude & Other Unexpected Challenges of Living Overseas

Life overseas has its challenges. For most of us, developing useful language skills, making quality relationships with colleagues, and managing to acclimate to the daily maze of cultural issues may top the list. But, what of the little, unexpected challenges that tend to sneak up on us when least expected?

A completely unprecedented challenge came my way mere days after setting up my new house in Nepal, my first international teaching locale. I’m a baker by hobby and so set out to bake a double-layer chocolate cake for our director’s surprise birthday party. I soon discovered baking from scratch in Kathmandu’s high altitude would require a substantial readjustment to almost everything I took for granted about baking back home; and for that matter, Kathmandu would force me to reevaluate most every thing I took for granted about my life.

In case you’re interested, Kathmandu’s altitude means food cooks slower so temperatures and/or bake times must be increased …. but, by how much is really the question. Liquids evaporate faster at altitude so flour, sugar, milk and water require adjustment to prevent a too moist, dry or gummy batter. And finally, gases expand more at altitude making dough rise quite fast. It was easy to see: A new approach to baking was in order! It had been years since I pulled an utter flop out of the oven, and this cake most definitely was a flop, both literally and figuratively.

Most of what we take for granted back home and see as mundane and simple can take on an entirely new character overseas, especially when we try to accomplish a task as if we were back home. Reflecting on my early days in Kathmandu, I consider learning to bake at altitude an analogy of my time here. That’s because everything in Kathmandu is, like life, “at altitude” in one way or another.

ISR asks: What unexpected, challenges have YOU encountered and surmounted in YOUR life overseas?

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Schools w/ Highest Savings Potential, 2020

Read this first:  Please do not evaluate schools or Directors on this Discussion Board or pose questions that solicit such responses. Do not hijack the topic of this Discussion Board. If your wish to ask questions about your suitability for employment, please use our Open Forum.



High salaries don’t always mean high savings potential. What could sound like a high-dollar job offer based on where you currently live, might, in fact, turn out to be bare subsistence living in another part of the world.

I learned this lesson when I came onboard at the American School of Kinshasa, DR Congo.  The year was 2002. Food, gasoline, and everything in-between was triple the price I was accustomed to paying. I’d been duped by a sly-talking school Director. Hidden taxes and cost-of-living expenses quickly turned what appeared to be a wonderful salary, into peanuts. ‘Buyer’ beware! 

Speaking rhetorically, does anyone enter the teaching profession to become rich? We all, however, want to live a comfortable lifestyle and sock away some coin for the future. With that in mind, it’s highly suspect when International Schools neglect to make salaries readily known. And, what of schools that stall right up to the night before a Recruiting Fair to make pay scales available? You can be sure they’re not waiting to wow you with a spectacular salary!

ISR asks:  Which schools, in your experience, provide salaries that allow for a lifestyle we’d all like to become accustomed to while also saving for the future? Which schools pay enough to kinda enjoy life but not enough to save a cent? Which schools keep you just above the poverty level?

Please scroll down. Name your School. Then, tell colleagues about the standard-of-living and savings potential inherent in the salary at your school.



 If you wish to go beyond the scope of this topic and compose an in-depth look at your school,  Click HERE to send a School Review


 

Your Embassy in Times of Crisis


To what extent can you depend on your embassy or consulate for assistance in the event of an emergency situation? The Corona-Virus situation in Wuhan, China brings the question to light.

Knowing what you can expect from your government in a time of need could ultimately save your life and the lives of loved ones. Americans living in Wuhan report they were disappointed with the U.S. government’s response to the situation. Many say they wasted precious time assuming help was on the way:

• “Information about the evacuation flight was difficult to obtain. They [the consulate] never answered the phone. An outgoing message on an answering machine told me to go to the Consulate website for information. It was dated.” 

• “Consulate employees and their families got priority seating on the evacuation flight. Charging non-government employees $1000 per ‘leftover’ seat was without conscience.”

• “I could board the evacuation flight but was told to leave my Chinese wife and child behind. I stayed in China.”

Becoming familiar with your government’s policies and its past history of intervention in times of crisis is a must for expats. As witnessed in China, assuming your government will come to your rescue could produce a false sense of security with dire consequences. Following 9/11, International Educators living in Pakistan reported that the U.S. Consulate evacuated ASAP, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Have you had the occasion to rely on your embassy in a crisis situation? How did that  experience play out? Did it elevate your perception of your embassy or consulate and give you a feeling  of security and confidence? Or? What advice do you have for fellow expatriates?

Sharing experiences will help colleagues make informed decisions in the future.

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Aging Parents & Loved Ones Back Home

Hello ISR, I recently had a wake-up call regarding my aging parents living back in the States. I’d like to share the experience with other International educators with the goal of opening up a conversation. Here goes:

I’ve been overseas for 16 years, and although I was prepared for the news, it caught me off guard when my older brother emailed to say mom and dad needed more care and support than he could continue providing. He’s a family man with a wife and kids and lives about 15 minutes from the house where we grew up. I live in Singapore with my family.

I don’t think mom and dad believed they would live long enough to become dependent on their kids. Yet, the time had come. My brother put assisted-living on the table and fortunately mom and dad were ready to move on from the challenges of owning a big, old house. What if they had wanted to stay and dug in their heels? Then what?

This recent assisted-living episode has prompted me to investigate how expats cope with aging loved ones experiencing issues back home. Balancing my life overseas with future difficulties my parents may experience is certainly going to require a plan. I am working on it…

Part of this plan involves preparing my kids and husband for the slim possibility we’ll have to relocate closer to my family, or that at some time in the future I, alone, may need to return to the States for an extended period. It’s not pleasant thinking of my parents in ill health, but the future in this case is best not left unexplored.

Are you living far from loved ones facing health or age-related issues? Do you have a specific plan in place to cope with possible eventualities? If you would like to share your experiences and ask for and offer advice, this is the place to do it.

Warm Regards,
Megan

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Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential


There is more than just salary to consider when you’re looking for an International School with excellent savings potential. Airfare to home, the local exchange rate and income tax, among other factors, can make or break any Contract offer.

Beware of dazzling big numbers only to later discover your salary pans out to be worth less than a smaller salary in a less expensive place to live. All that glitters at recruiting time may not be gold.

In an effort to help colleagues around the globe identify schools with strong saving potential (in relation to all other factors), we invite you to participate in constructing a Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential.

Your entry should include school name, country, city and, based on your experience, what you estimate to be the yearly savings potential. Sharing a bit about the cost of living and other pertinent factors will be helpful. Feel free to ask for savings potential information on a specific school.

For example: XYZ International School, Warsaw, Poland. I estimate my yearly savings to be about $10,000 US. The cost of renting an apartment in Warsaw can be high but everything else is about half the price of living in the United States.

Your participation is appreciated – Please Scroll to begin

Beyond the School Gates

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

•••••

  If you frequent our Discussion Boards, you’re well aware our recent Survey revealed that nearly 50% of 650 surveyed teachers would break Contract if they could do so, consequence-free.

If you are ready to take the next flight out, it may help to know that seasoned International Educators will sometimes accept positions at poorly reviewed schools solely for the opportunity to experience a culture and country of great interest to them. It’s a bold move, but it is done all the time. If you’re unhappy with your current school situation, take pause. ISR encourages you to look outside the school gates to all your host country has to offer.

No one says it’s easy to rise above a school when everything about it flies in your face. Your objective, however, for going overseas was far more than to just be part of a school — you could have done that without leaving home. It’s YOUR choice:  You can wallow in the dissatisfaction of being at a lousy school and let negative feelings destroy the incredible overseas adventure you’ve worked so hard to earn, or…you can just let it be and do like seasoned International Educators and focus on, and savor, all that’s happening outside those school gates.

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A Gift that Keeps On Giving YOU

When I first moved overseas to teach in the early ’90s, landline phones and ‘snail mail’ were the only options we International Educators had to stay in touch with family and friends back home.

Problem was, calls home were prohibitively expensive, and when I could afford them, all I heard was an impersonal, distant voice on the other end of the line. As for ‘snail mail,’ by the time it arrived, if at all, life had seriously moved on. Maintaining relationships through the miles was so much more difficult back then…

Fortunately, all that has changed! Thanks to technology, last night I read my granddaughter a book over Skype. We laughed and giggled and shared a moment together. A few times a week I send loved ones photos and voice mails. I share my far-flung adventures, in and out of school and we often chat in real time. They keep me up-to-date on the happenings in their lives as well — videos of middle school concerts, athletic events, family get-togethers and the kids’ goofy mishaps await me nearly daily. I feel like I am part of their lives, and I am! I’ve discovered that, yes, it really is possible to venture out around the globe while maintaining close relationships back home.

These days, when I return home for the summer or holidays I’m no longer the distant family member dropping in temporarily from overseas. Through technology, it’s almost like I never left. This holiday season and all year ’round, give the gift of YOU.  Nothing says I love you and I’m thinking of you more than staying in close, personal touch.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from International Schools Review

International Educators Going It Alone Overseasj


Pulling up stakes and moving halfway around the world for an International Teaching position is a bold move. If, however, you’re part of a teaching team you’ll have your partner to rely on when the going gets tough. But what about educators who go it alone? What’s it like to move overseas when you have only yourself to depend upon?

For starters, going it alone will certainly put you out of your usual comfort zone, motivating you to experience new things, meet new people and take chances you might have never before considered. When you’re on your own, striking up a conversation in a coffee shop and making a new friend is more likely. Getting out to community events, plays, movies, parties and the likes can be more enticing when the alternative is staying home, alone.

Asked if they would have moved overseas alone if they knew back then what they know now, most educators answered with a resounding, YES! Educators who have gone it alone say they developed a new confidence in themselves and an entirely new side to their personality that would never have emerged had they stayed home or relocated with a partner.

Of course, not everything is perfectly rosy when you fly solo, and there are downsides to consider. The possibility of meeting that special someone may suffer overseas, and you’re bound to face some lonely stretches. You may even feel so intimidated by the overseas experience that you’ll have to fight the urge to head back home. Life can be frustrating when you don’t speak the local language or understand how things get done. Culture shock and the feeling of alienation are very real, the effects of which are intensified if you’re on your own.

Fortunately, there are varying degrees of how on your own you’ll be if you decide to go it alone. Better International Schools strive to minimize the stress on incoming foreign hires by providing solid support. Such schools handle utility bills, maintain teachers’ apartments, secure Visas, organize weekly shopping trips, and even supply transport to and from school. Additionally, they sponsor social events, making it easy for incoming teachers to become part of the established school community. In this scenario, teachers going it alone can immerse into the surrounding community at their own place while enjoying a more familiar and secure school-provided base from which to venture out.

ISR recommends you decide the depth of experience you’re ready for. Get all the information you need at your interview to help make an informed decision. Read Reviews and research, research, research! The majority of educators who have gone it alone say it was the best thing they could have done for themselves.

ISR Asks: Are you currently on your own overseas? What’s your take on the experience? Would you recommend it to others?

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Is ‘No Housing’ a Deal Breaker?

Caught up in the excitement of an overseas job offer, educators may be willing to overlook the inherent expenses and disadvantages of accepting an International teaching position that does not include furnished housing in the deal.

Security deposits add up fast! Think: apartment, utilities and internet. Shopping for household items such as a bed, couches, lamps, tables, and all the small stuff we take for granted back home (can opener, knives, forks, etc.) is not cheap. Before you know it you spent a full month’s salary, or more!

Schools know full well the costs associated with setting up complete households from scratch. They also know the legal and financial problems that often arise when dealing with local landlords who refuse to return security deposits and/or refuse to maintain their properties. Schools that choose to place the entire housing burden on teachers new to a country are schools that ISR feels take advantage of unsuspecting educators. As such, this may be a very telling indicator of what, if any, support you can or cannot count on from your school in the future, both in the classroom and outside of school.

The situation is further compounded when schools only pay a 10-month housing allowance, forcing teachers to pay out-of-pocket for the summer months or move out of their apartments. Apparently such schools place profit over the well-being of teachers. Additionally, teachers preoccupied with finding a place to live are not in a position to give 100% to their students. Everyone loses, except the school, which, of course, profits.

Is a lack of school-supplied housing a deal breaker? ISR recommends that teachers carefully weigh the pros, and especially the cons, of accepting a Contract that does not include furnished housing, or at least a stipend to cover deposits, furnishings and a school-trusted agent to personally help you find an apartment. Getting picked up at the airport upon arrival into your new country, dropped off at a hotel and told, “We’ll see you the first day of school,” has prompted many an educator to take the next available flight out.

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I’m Choosing to Have a Good Overseas Experience

An ISR Member Offers Timely Advice:

I”m in my second year at XYZ International  School. Is the school as spectacular as represented by the director at the recruiting fair? Not quite. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s not a bad school. But certainly not what I was led to believe by our illustrious leader. Last week I decided to write what I consider to be a factual ISR Review of this school. I feel it’s my responsibility to keep other international educators informed.

As it turns out, our director follows ISR like a watchdog. As such, he called an emergency faculty meeting right after my review was included in the ISR weekly newsletter. Following his senseless rant we were all “given the opportunity” to sign what amounted to a gag order, the alternative being….“pack your bags and go.” Essentially, we were agreeing to never post information or opinions about XYZ International School to ISR (or any other website). Yes, we all signed.

Violating the new gag order carries some heavy consequences, culminating in immediate termination and prosecution….”to the full extent of the law.” By signing, we also gave the school the right to financial compensation for any perceived loss of revenue which may result from a specific school review. That is, if they can figure out who wrote it. Good luck with that!

It’s no secret what happens when you tell a child to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Well, overnight two new reviews mysteriously appeared on ISR. If you know anything about ISR (and apparently our director does not) you already know your identity is completely protected when you submit a review. Whoever it was that posted the newest reviews did so knowing there would be no consequences, unless they included specific personal information that led straight to them. That they did not!

By mid-afternoon, via the school’s intranet (working for a change), the entire staff received an aggressively worded memo from the office. It looks like a witch hunt is on!

I know I acted truthfully and responsibly in sharing my experiences about this school. I also feel that for me, right now at this point in my life, I have a responsibility to myself to ignore the school’s shortcomings and make the most of this overseas experience. I’ve wanted to live in this part of the world for a very long time, and since nothing at this school flies in the face of my principles and/or integrity as an educator, there’s no reason to ruin this opportunity by obsessing on all that’s wrong here.

You can’t fix stupid and certainly not guys like the one running this school. If you’re in a similar situation, the choice is yours. You can focus on the negative and frustrate yourself until your blood pressure is off the charts, or you can choose to accept and work with the situation.

Is the glass half full or half empty? That’s open to debate and, to me, it kinda depends on what, exactly, is in that glass. My best advice:  Stay Positive!

Sincerely,

B.

ISR Invites your comments

From the Fish Bowl Into the Ocean

Hello ISR, My 15-year-old stepson, who has never traveled a day in his life, is flying to Bangkok this week to live with my husband and me. Indefinitely!

Without airing family laundry, the gist of the story is that some months ago it was decided Clive (not his real name) would be best served if he came to live with his dad and me. His mother has adult issues to work through and we’ve all agreed there’s no reason to drag Clive through it.

Clive is your stereotypical, insular, home-grown teenager from small-town Alabama. I would venture to guess his only experience with anything international is ordering a “taco” from the “gringo” at the local “Mexican” food place. Just the thought of him landing in Bangkok in two weeks  is….well…..overwhelming. For starters, our school in Bangkok hosts 30+ nationalities.

I’m hoping when Clive gets here he’ll love it just as much as we do, and the many other students having a first-time overseas experience. He won’t be alone. Our students are warm and welcoming. I know they will accept him and help smooth his transition.

Immersing in this exotic, vibrant culture and making friends from around the world will be a pivotal experience in Clive’s life. Still, I can’t help worrying about taking him out of the fish bowl and throwing him into the ocean, so to speak. Our director is working with us and helping to pave the way for a successful transition. I’m sincerely glad for that!

Have any ISR readers been through a similar experience? Any suggestions, strategies, plans? I could use some input about now.

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Takeaways from My Past Year Teaching Overseas

Let sleeping dogs lie. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Any port in the storm. Proverbial phrases all share one thing in common — they’re all profound commentaries on life & each came about through lessons learned, usually the long, hard way.

International Teaching is certainly no exception when it comes to learning lessons. If asked to reflect on YOUR past academic year overseas & to distill that experience into one or more concise proverbial takeaways, what would that look like?

For me it looks like this:

New-found faculty friendships are like an egg teetering at the edge of an unstable table. 

Clothes don’t make the wo/man nor do professional titles make a school leader.

There’s no such thing as a secret at an International School if more than one teacher knows it.

Of course I didn’t arrive at these takeaways within days, weeks or even months after arrival to my new school. As the school year progressed, however, repeated incidents, experiences & observations soon jelled into solid conclusions about life at this overseas school. It was an eye-opening year & I’m all wiser for it.

ISR Says:  Now it’s your turn. What intrinsic understanding of the overseas teaching experience did you glean this past year overseas that can be distilled into concise proverbial wisdom & passed on to colleagues, some new & some not so new to the overseas teaching experience? Please Share!

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Feeling More at Home in My Host Country than My Own

Hello ISR, I’m an American expat who has been living and teaching in Sweden for the past 6 years. I find many aspects of life here much like how I previously viewed my own country: Open, liberal, and in many respects, progressive.

I love Sweden. From their stance on education, alternative energy, abortion and health care, to support for the arts, a free press and immigration, Sweden embodies what I’ve always loved so dearly about America.

The conservative wave, however, sweeping America since the advent of the Trump administration leaves me conflicted, frustrated and anxious. Yes, I am a liberal and I’m feeling exceptionally apprehensive about returning to America for the summer vacation.

Watching from overseas I have felt somehow immune to the turmoil I’ve been witnessing in America.  Distance seems to soften the blow and even allows me to tell myself it’s not as bad as it looks. Of course, there are people who welcome these changes and loss of freedoms, and this worries me.

The atrocious assault on women and the environment, the senseless and accepted mass murder of school children by gun lobbies, talk of war with Iraq, removal of funding for the arts, poor treatment of military veterans and the complete lack of decorum on the part of our president is upsetting to me, to say the very least.

Since when has the free press been the “enemy of the people?” Not since Hitler, as far as I know. Since when is investigation termed as spying? Since when did the health and welfare of big corporations take precedent over the people of a nation? Our Constitution has been breached by the very people tasked with defending it. The America I love is being eroded.

This week I’m flying home to visit family in mid-America. I’m having a hard time dealing with the thought I will be immersing myself in a country that is far different from when I left Her. I normally avoid traveling to countries that abuse its citizens’ rights and here I am travelling to my own country that is quickly falling into that category.

ISR, I’m asking if you would post my thoughts as I would like to hear from expats and educators dealing with the same conflicting thoughts as me. I know there are people who will tell me that if I love Sweden so very much, why don’t I just stay there? I’ve had that thought and am entertaining it. So thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Sincerely,
An anxious expat

ISR Note: Bashing, name-calling or criticizing this author or the political views of participants in this discussion will result in an immediate and permanent ban from our Discussion Boards. We ask you stick to the topic. This is not a discussion on the pros and cons of the Trump administration. Please remember, we are educators!

Surviving Summer Without a Housing Allowance

More than just a few things bother me about my current school. But the one that irks me most is that the housing allowance covers only 9 months. This leaves teachers with 2 choices:  1). Give up your apartment when summer rolls around & find another one when you return. Or, 2). Take what amounts to a month’s salary & hand it over to your landlord to cover June, July & August.  I opted to move.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just pay the rent & spend the summer months in-country? Believe me, I would if I could, but I’m driven to go home & spend time with my aging parents & a handful of longtime friends. Like most international educators, I live in two worlds. I have a life back home & among other things, I continue to have financial responsibilities. Student loans are a biggie for me. Throwing away good money on an empty apartment is simply not an option.

The school does allow us to store our belongings in empty classrooms while we’re gone. The problem is, all summer long the maintenance people & who-knows-who-else have complete access to these classrooms. Leaving anything of value for 3 months unsecured is not a good idea. Renting a storage facility (in scarce supply) or taking really valuable stuff with you could be the way to go. But what a hassle!

The practice of creating homeless teachers at the start of each school year throws all our lives into turmoil & severely diminishes the level of instruction. Personally, I’m not at my best when I’m preoccupied with getting my living situation in order. For those who haven’t found an apartment by the first day of school, admin recommends staying in a hotel (expensive) or bunking with a friend (problematic). It’s no wonder this school doesn’t hire many couples & absolutely no couples with kids. I can’t imagine what that would be like!

I do love it here. I have wonderful students & parents, & the city offers an endless array of cultural attractions. The school, unfortunately, is owned by a tight-wad. Still, I’m willing to put up with him, at least this one last time. Yes, I must be a glutton for punishment ’cause I signed on for a third year!

Has anyone dealt with this situation? Does anyone have a creative solution?

Signed:  Movin’ Man

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