6 ways to make the most of your time at an International School
You’ve secured your perfect international job. You’ve arrived in your new home country, met some people and are starting to enjoy yourself. What else can you do to make the most of this incredible opportunity and truly get all the advantages of your international school job and your time in a great location?
Friendships forged while you’re abroad working in an international school can last a lifetime. You’re an expat, possibly far from home. Those around you become your firm friends. From my life working abroad I now have lifelong friends living on every continent of the world.
Treasure the simple moments. One of my favourite times was in Thailand cooking a barbecue with an international group of friends. But who was the best from nations (and men) proud of their skills with a flame: a Brazilian churrasco? A South African Brai? An Aussie barbie? Or a humble British banger? Well I can confirm (and have deliciously reconfirmed many times since): a Brazilian preparing you a steak is a moment to treasure!
Opportunities to travel are likely to be high on every expat teacher’s priority list. If you’re living in a new region of the world, the experiences can be amazing and endless. Local food markets on your doorstep; mountains, beaches, or lakes scattered across your beautiful country; exotic bucket-list destinations just a short flight away.
Sometimes you don’t even need to travel to gain wonderful experiences. One school we recently talked to in southern Europe knows that one way to attract new teachers is to advertise that they can learn to windsurf almost on their doorstep! (Public job ad boards aren’t great for that, but Searchality.com allows schools to keep details private except for teachers that match their needs).
Learn the language
Learn the local language! We can’t stress this enough. In some places – if you are teaching off the regular tourist route – you will need to speak the language to ease your way. If you’re in a larger city (and many international schools are), you might be able to get away without learning much. But don’t do that. In one of my international jobs, I expected to stay 2 years. To begin I made a concerted effort to learn the language (Thai) and it certainly helped. I got better prices in the market and could ask a taxi to actually take me home. However, I stopped putting the effort in after a while. Little did I know I’d still be there 6 years later.
Learn the local language: it’s rewarding, amazing, beneficial, and gets you discounts!
Embrace the culture
Wherever you are in the world, there’s a rich difference between your wonderful home country and your proud host nation. Festivals, foods, traditions, superstitions, and behaviours: the world has some amazing celebrations.
The wonderful thing about teaching at an International School is that you will likely be exposed to many of them through the school year. Lunar New Year, Carnaval, Hogmanay, Diwali. An English teenager I know still fondly recounts the Vietnamese tale of the man in the moon and the tree that took him there.
Your school will have local staff working alongside you. Find out which festivals matter most to them, their families, and the country.
Yes, you’re far from home, travelling to discover the wonders of your new region, and spending money enjoying yourself. However, while you’re having fun, also take time to save and plan for a far off retirement future. Discover how one teacher, Andrew Hallam, did that so successfully that he became a millionaire in his 30s. He first wrote Millionaire Teacher to help others to follow in his footsteps. Find Andrew’s latest book (called Millionaire Expat at the time of writing this). Read it!
To motivate you, consider this: if you save and invest 500 a month, in 30 years time you could have close to 3/4 million. (This is driven by average stock market returns – see Andrew’s book – and the power of compound interest).
Enhance your career
Wherever you are in your career, international experience will add immensely. There are so many advantages of an international school job.
We’ve written elsewhere about the skills needed to be a great international school leader.
In any teaching position the opportunities for personal learning are immense: different students, different colleagues, and different educational regimes. It is likely that you will learn as much about teaching in your first two years in an international school as you did in your first two years learning to be a teacher!
What’s great about International School teaching
If you’re already teaching an international school, we’d love to hear from you. What are the experiences you’ve gained from your time abroad? What are the benefits (especially unexpected ones) that you’ve gained? Do let us know here.
If you’re still planning a move into an international school, we can help. We’ve designed Searchality to make the search for a new school job much simpler, faster, and better. If you’re looking for your next role, read more about how we help candidates.
As you might have noticed, the title of this article talks about ‘only’ 6 ways to make the most of your time abroad. In reality we know that the list of benefits, experiences, and opportunities is actually so limitless that we’d also love you to let us know what else we should add!
We’d highly recommend finding a teaching job abroad! Just remember that, to begin, it can be hard to adjust to a new country and culture. All the benefits await you, but it’s also worth reading this too: what you need to know before you get your first international school job abroad.