When I think about this particular part of the page, I realise how all encompassing this is and how my list could be endless! I will try to note down the most significant things to help others…but I think this list will grow.
1. Don’t try to do everything, including every social event.
The process of moving can be disorientating, exhausting and sometimes upsetting. You may experience culture shock and anxiety. That said, often when you first arrive in addition to all the jobs you need to do such as sorting out a home, car, groceries, furniture, there maybe many social events organised. In two of my moves I endeavoured to attend these, tired and shall we say not at my best. In my third move I could not attend all of them, as I had a small child. These made me stop and think, is this right for her? I am frequently unable to ask this question of myself so moving with my little girl was actually a wonderful thing for my own personal development. I did not attend every quiz and activity and did it matter? Of course not. When school started I met people in small groups (which I prefer anyway). So don’t worry if you need down time, friends will come. And the closest, life long friends will come later.
A follow on from above, when you first arrive this is perhaps a main concern. Will I meet people that I like? I say chill and wait a while. Join clubs you are interested in, meet friends outside of work. If you have children, seek out the parent groups. That way you can socialise and have the kids entertained! In one role, a close friend was the librarian. You don’t only need to be friends with teachers as the outside community can be fantastic for helping you integrate and feel at home. Ask yourself, in my home country am I only friends with teachers?
3. Loved ones at ‘home’
When I left for Egypt, I left my sister and two young nieces in the UK. This was hard and it came at a time when Skype wasn’t really a big thing. I was glad at this point I lived within a relatively short distance of the UK (5 hour flight) so I could return at some point most summers and also for Christmas. Keep this in mind if you feel that time apart would be a struggle. They are grown up now and I live approximately a 24 hour trip door to door from both my South East family and North East family (UK). We travel home once a year and visit both. The spanner in the works here however is COVID19 and currently we have not been home in over a year. We don’t really know when we can return home. This is something to keep in mind when considering international teaching now. If there is another outbreak how would you cope if you could not return home?
Now this may be a big reason as to why you have left your home country to teach abroad. Packages which include housing, healthcare, flights and a good (at times) tax-free salary can be very appealing. When I first moved abroad, I travelled. And travelled. Every single holiday had something booked, usually in another country. After leaving Egypt, we repeated this in Vietnam. We saved very little. And then we changed to one salary and we began to cut back. Following our current move, we decided now was the time to save. In fact we should have started earlier. I recommend, when you start international teaching, or at the first point you can save, you should. And here’s why. The longer you save, the sooner to retirement, full stop. Being an international teacher will, most likely, mean that you will not have any kind of retirement plan as part of your workplace (with one exception I know as Malaysia). Therefore, you need to think how you will fund the 30+ years you may need for retirement.
This year I investigated investing, which would appear to me the best way to make genuine interest on your money. I read the entire: Andrew Hallam (2018) Millionare Expat book and I enlisted the services of Mark Zoril at PlanVision. This has been the best financial move I HAVE EVER MADE, even during COVID19 and stock market crash. I invest in ETFs, which place my money over around 100 companies therefore if some of them dip, I do not loose money. I now invest every month in both an ETF and also a bond. I have set up separate ones for my daughter also to get her foot in the investing market also.
5. Get involved
When things settle down at your school, look around. Ask yourself, what could be done to improve the school or my year group? Be an active voice. You may not always be heard, for example one school I offered guided reading workshops for parents and I was told that was only the job of my line manager. Now this can be frustrating, but try again and try other schools. In one school I saw a need and approached SLT with my solution. I faced a panel to discuss this (which yes was scary), the idea was loved but could not practically take place. A second idea was taken onboard. Not only will this support your own training and PD, but will make you feel more ‘useful’ or part of the running of the school. It is important to remember that your experiences in the UK or x,y,z country may have a valuable impact on the school you are currently in.
6. Explore, explore, then explore some more…
I can not emphasise this enough. You have been lucky enough to move countries, begin in a new school and receive a wonderful salary for it. Now get out and see the country! After you have settled a little of course. Do things you can not do in your own country, go watch people at the park, visit a night market, take an MRT and swim at the beach. Make sure you take advantage of all you can do there. I like feeling like a tourist in my own country. I look at lonely planet and google maps, visiting all those places of interest.
What I never knew could happen –
This obviously has had a huge impact on international moves. Now teachers are often being delayed on their move due to Visa Issues or travel restrictions. When they arrive they are likely placed in quarantine. Prior to moving and when you arrive, reach out to the school, see who is available to help and offer advice. In my school teachers volunteered to shop for those in quarantine and buy cooking items. Do not be afraid to ask for help as teachers undoubtedly understand what a huge strain a move is without the added complications of a quarantine start.