How to assess if you’re ready to teach overseas
If you are considering teaching overseas, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking the leap. It can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. Before you pack your bags and jet off to live and work in a foreign land, you should take a good, hard look at yourself first.
Know if you’re ready for an international school adventure
- Do you have the travel bug or yearn for adventure in unknown parts?
Teaching overseas offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, try new foods, and explore new places. It’s important to have an open mind and a sense of curiosity about the world. Would you be willing to learn from your new community?
- Do you want to experience more than the same daily routine?
Teaching overseas can be a refreshing change of pace, but it also requires adaptability and flexibility. You’ll need to be comfortable with uncertainty and willing to learn and adapt to a new environment.
- Do you have a great sense of humour, flexibility, and the ability to cope in any situation?
Teachers who do well don’t take themselves or their surroundings too seriously. They can find the funny side to any situation. This helps diffuse tense situations and improve mental health!
- Do you feel secure in your teaching work and commitment to a school?
You’ll need to be a dedicated and committed teacher, with a strong work ethic and the ability to work independently. Teaching overseas may require learning new teaching methods or adapting to different curriculums. Be prepared to put in the extra effort to become an effective teacher in your new environment. You’ll need to be able to cope with the challenges of living and working in a new environment, including language barriers and cultural differences.
- Can you survive, and thrive, without your friends and family, for extended periods of time?
Living overseas can be lonely and isolating at times, especially if you’re far from loved ones. You’ll need to make an effort to build a support network while staing connected with friends and family back home.
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then teaching overseas could be an incredible opportunity for you. Keep in mind that there will be challenges along the way, and you’ll need to have a variety of coping mechanisms in place.
Don’t forget your partner/family! They need to be interested too! It’s also important to consider your personal life when deciding whether teaching overseas is right for you. If you have a partner or family, it’s crucial that they are on board with the idea and willing to make the move with you.
There are some general expectations that will be required of you when teaching internationally
What is important to you – what are your ‘deal breakers’?
- Do you want to make some extra dollars? International schools usually offer free housing, medical insurance, and flights home.
- Are you planning to travel around Europe or Asia or the Middle East? Think about how many plane trips you will need to take to get to different countries, especially if you are travelling with children. When some of those countries are ‘next door’, travel plans become easier.
- How important is the weather to you? If you can’t see yourself living in heat and humidity, or extreme weather conditions, rethink where you might be willing to go.
- Is a ‘for profit’ school vs a ‘not- for- profit’ school important to you?
- Do you need a large expat community in an established city or would a small school in a developing country, maybe even a rural boarding school, suit you better?
- What are your thoughts on access to hospitals, clean air, savings potential, etc?
Then start planning
Get some help
Find an organisation with a proven track record of placing teachers in quality schools. The growth in international schools around the world has been massive – currently, there are over 13,000 international schools, although fewer than a quarter of those offer overseas-hire contracts. Conditions and benefits vary greatly. You need someone who can help you sort out which schools are worth applying for and someone who will look after you if times get tough. The Search Associates comprehensive database is a great way to find out more about international schools.
Or go it alone
You can choose to ‘cold call’ schools yourself, but be aware that you will go into the pool with thousands of other teachers. Recruiters at international schools are usually the Head of School. They often don’t get time to read resumes thoroughly and appreciate using a company like Search Associates. We screen teachers and prepare them for life overseas.
Networking is so important
Talk to as many people as you can for personal recommendations and to bounce ideas off others. A contact already overseas will offer invaluable information. Also check out online advice groups such as International School Educators and Global Educator Collective
Attend a seminar or recruiting fair (virtual or in-person)
Seminars and recruiting fairs, both in-person and virtual, are wonderful opportunities to learn about living overseas as schools run information presentations. You have the chance to meet associates and school principals in person and get your questions answered.
Seek the advice of a reputable financial advisor
Try to find someone who has experience with expat taxation issues. Prior knowledge can save you thousands of dollars when it comes to learning about taxation as a resident/non–resident, its impact on earnings within the country, and how to maximise the savings made whilst overseas.
Being proactive in preparing for a career teaching internationally can be a daunting task, but it is the chance of a lifetime to immerse yourself in a new country and a new culture. To see new places, learn new things, and re-invent yourself.
Relocating overseas is an experience that changes your life, in both expected and surprising ways, but it is not for the faint-hearted. Will you embrace the opportunities to explore and travel in your new home? Will you take advantage of the chance to see new sights, try new foods, and experience new cultures?
Some teachers take their first position abroad thinking that it will be their last. However once started on the ‘international circuit’, many teachers make international education an extended career choice for the excitement, discovery, and fulfillment offered. Almost always the students are incredibly positive and exciting to work with. Consequently, competition is fierce. If you are ready to work in an international school, start researching opportunities and prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime!