TIPS FOR TEACHERS WHO ARE THINKING OF TEACHING OVERSEAS

Disclaimer: This is simply information for interest and entertainment purposes.  This article is not responsible for any decisions or consequences of those decisions if you decide to teach overseas. 

Firstly, and it seems a bit obvious - take time to consider a location that would realistically suit your personality. You may have a friend who is always having outlandish adventures or another who will not venture far. What is your comfort zone? For a first time teacher overseas, there are so many options further down the line, don't feel pressured right now into going on a 15 hour plane ride to reach your destination. Your new host country will be home for the next couple of years so make sure its one that's on your wish list and it's okay if its 4 hours away and closer to home than is expected. 

What if you are a bit of a home-bird?  What if you would like the adventure of teaching abroad but can't live without your creature comforts?

Start planning, if possible, a year before you apply. Take time to do some research. Check out hastags such as #teachingoverseas #expatteacher etc on instagram to follow teachers who are already doing what you plan to do and they often offer a wealth of advice.  Many have an 'ask me anything' section on their stories - this is a great opportunity to find out more.

Here are some important non-negotiables for working overseas. 

1.  A stable environment - Research the country or countries you are thinking of visiting are not going through some kind of political turmoil. This will affect your ability to explore your new home and there will be some restrictions. Even if a prospective school looks amazing and its reputation is excellent. This may be a cause for concern for a first time ex-pat teacher. Once you are in a school, you will find well travelled colleagues who will have arrived from all over the globe and will be able to let you know if a particular place is worth the move once you have finished your current contract.  It's always wise to start safe. 

2. Accommodation - Find out what accommodation is being offered by your new employer. Some provide teacher apartments paid by the school and some will provide an allowance. Check the prices of the local rental market as your allowance may not cover the rent.

 

Here is an example of an apartment I rented a few years ago overseas.

At this point, it was my fourth school location and I knew that I needed a well maintained home. If I had to pay a little more I was okay with that as it was in a safe area. However, my housing allowance did not cover the rent due to a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is down to an exchange rate issue, the area you choose to live in or simply that the landlord has increased the rent because he has estimated your salary and knows good accommodation is hard to come by in a particular city or compound.

This is an example of teacher accommodation of a well established reputable school I worked for. It was the first time to live on site and they treated the teachers exceptionally well.  

Other schools are not so prepared and teachers may have to put a lot of effort into their homes to making them homely.

Compound living is normal in some countries and has a reputation for being a little safer. This is something to especially take into consideration if you have a young family or a sole female renter. Some schools will have a housing department or an assigned person who can help you know a little more about the local area, the do's and don'ts and where is a great place to live. However, always cross check this.

My first apartment and my very first time working overseas was not what I had been expecting. Feeling settled and safe in your own space is the foundation of settling into your new job, country and community. Also check that you are not expected to share if you are on a singles contract. Some schools will try to save money this way.Are bills included? It is not everyone's cup of tea! Again, well established schools will offer you your own apartment. You will need a break from your colleagues unless you really hit it off with others during induction week! 

3. Medical - Good, well established schools do not scrimp on healthcare for their teachers. They will offer the best that they can afford. Check to see what is part of the package.  You may be overseas in one location longer than you think and medical emergencies do occur. You want to make sure you are covered. 

4. A way to get to work - some schools will provide transport, others will throw you in the deep end and you are obligated to make your own way there. Will you need an international driving license? Can you drive? All things to consider as it can impact your salary and your comfort zone. 

5. Length and terms of contract - be meticulous about reading the contract. Is there a probation to pass before you ship your belongings over. Also look into staff turnover. A school with staff that stay a long time does not indicate a stale school. overseas, it usually means that the school is well-established and staff are more than happy to stay. Often teachers leave and return to previous schools again after a bit of traveling and teaching overseas. 

Think about pay. How much of your salary is paid in local currency and how much is paid in your home currency? If the exchange rate changes over night - how will this affect your income. Do your research and find out if your school pay on time as well. Reputable schools always pay their staff on time except in exceptional circumstances beyond their control (extremely rare), but teachers are usually their first priority. If they are not, then it's a red flag. It is very easily to get emotionally attached to a school if your interview went well, but remember, you won't often see the the principal or headteacher on a day to day basis no matter how well you clicked, so the security of knowing what your obligations are and what you are to expect is important. 

6. Social - is there a strong school community? Abroad, your colleagues become your first social safety net. A good school have lots of groups that you can join (sports / activities / interests / parenting) or are you left to fend fo yourself. Well established schools understand the isolation that can be overwhelming for even the most intrepid traveller and ensure that until you find your feet, there is plenty to keep you in the social loop without being too much. 

7. Amenities - how close are you to the doctors? The nearest hospital? Dentist? Hairdressers / Barber? Supermarket? Shopping mall? Is there a store or shop selling imported goods so that you can get food from your home country when homesickness strikes?

You are going for a new cultural experience but you will want some comforts and items. What about your cell / mobile phone? Internet? Some schools will even provide you with a sim card as soon as you arrive so ensure your phone is unlocked. 

8. Personal safety - how safe it is to travel alone at night? I am not talking about sight seeing, but rather  if you need to go out to the local store / shop to pick up a few items or if you are meeting friends and need to get home. Life will not always exciting and mundane everyday tasks will be the norm during a working week (most likely). Doing some research into what you can personally consider acceptable is a good idea. If you are coming as a lone female teacher, how safe is it to live alone? (You may not think twice about this normally but in some countries this is can be very unusual). The school will be able to advise you on this and usually assign you a buddy type contact to quiz. If you are not able to do this forums such as the TES can be a wealth of knowledge and a place to ask relatively impartial questions. Here is a pdf to download that you can make some notes on if you have any questions to ask your school assigned buddy or if you are discussing matters with a new school if you wish.