Abbie Reich shares her experience finding a job
Abbie is a 2nd grade teacher from North Carolina who’s moving to Cairo, Egypt.
Click Episode 7 | of the Teachers Talk Travel podcast to listen or see the transcript below.
“Abbie shares the ins and outs of working with an agency like Search Associates, as well as the ups and downs of planning the move during a time of uncertainty.
After deciding to look for a position overseas, Abbie had many questions. Here’s what she said.
How do I find out about jobs abroad? Where do I look? Who do I go through? Should I go through an agency? Is it a waste of money?
“I’m really glad I went through an agency. For me, it was worth the money because they handle literally everything. I went with Search Associates. It was recommended by the person who oversaw my student teaching abroad in college. I called him up and I asked, “Hey, you know I want to teach abroad? I want to do this. How can I start?” He recommended Search Associates and he also recommended ISS, which is another agency. I went with Search Associates because they’re family-owned and again it was super, super easy to work through them. Their website is set up really well and they walk you through all the steps. You have to get recommendation letters from your current supervisors; I had to do a background check with the FBI, so I feel like putting the money forward, in the beginning, is really great because the schools’ Search Associates work with are the real deal. They’re the ones that are going to pay for your housing, they’re the ones that are going to really take care of you with health care (that was super important to me) and I felt like the quality of schools that I got through my agency were really, really good.
What I like about Search Associates is that they assign you an associate so you have your very own person that you can talk with and bounce questions off.
If you visit a job fair, they will usually be at the job fair and you can schedule times to meet with them and kind of go over how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking. Job fairs are extremely overwhelming; about 48 hours of pure chaos, so having someone there to help me process my feelings and process what was going on was super, super helpful. They’re kind of non-biased so they’re there to support you, but they’re also going to let you know the reality too. So, I definitely recommend Search Associates.
I’m happy to share the fee. The fee for me was US$225 and that included everything. I think my FBI background check was around $40, so I did that as well. I’m really pleased with my results and the level of service that I got from Search Associates. Generally, you look for a school that will cover Visa fees for you. Search Associates has profiles of all their schools on their website and you can scroll through and it lists everything. Is there a housing stipend? It will say yes or no. Is it tax-free? Yes or no. Do they cover all traveling expenses? Will they help your spouse find work? You can get really nitty-gritty with that and really kind of tailor your school list to the schools that are going to best fit your needs.
A lot of times we don’t even see the potential limitations, barriers, and expenses until we get there, and then having someone to walk you through it is so critical especially for something as big as a move, because there are so many unknowns. So, to have that assurance of like OK I’m going to save myself hours of researching and comparing because someone already did that for me, yeah, I think that’s definitely worth the money. I mean $US225 is really nothing when you think of it like that!
How did I make that final decision? I was kind of looking for a place to save money. I booked my ticket to the Boston job fair. I live in Charlotte so I traveled to Boston on my own dime (but I do have a travel credit card the Chase Sapphire preferred), so the flight was free. I got the list of the schools that were going to be at the job fair and so I researched them. I was pretty much open to any place in the world. I think it’s kind of well known throughout the agencies that Europe is, of course, the most wanted position. Everyone will always go to Europe’s table first. If there’s a school from Rome expect the line to be really, really long! But I knew that European schools generally are high in taxes and you won’t be taking home as much, so I wanted to see what school would give me the most money and where I could have the best quality of life, so I looked at a YouTube video from a teacher in Egypt and saw how well she was doing there. When I approached the table of the school I ended up choosing, they were just so open and so excited to be there, and it just kind of felt like it was going to work. It felt like magic honestly! I didn’t really have that spark with other schools, but I did go to them for the interview experience; that’s the best part about these job fairs. Even if you don’t get a job, you get so much incredible interview experience. I interviewed with schools in Nigeria, Kuwait, Columbia. I had three schools in Egypt that I interviewed with and Bahrain. I interviewed with schools in countries that I wouldn’t think of normally. I just talked with them and learned that oh well, this country isn’t going to be the best fit for me. My last interview of the day was actually the school I accepted a job offer with, and it was phenomenal. The conversation flowed really well; we got along really well and again it just kind of felt like magic.
Around Thanksgiving break, after I called my professor, my profile was online within a week. Then Search Associates extended an invitation to their job fair in Boston which was January 20th or so. Between November to the end of January I was getting daily emails for job openings which I was applying to, but generally, if you want to get to see the schools in person you want to go to a job fair. I had my job offer by 10 PM on that Saturday night in January. It was awesome and I didn’t have to pay extra for the job fair as it was included in my registration. I did have to pay for the hotel and a flight however they covered some food and all the materials so it’s definitely something you want to look at.
The statistics for the Boston job fair is about 80% of participants receive an offer at the fair.
The school I’m currently at, we’ve been shut down since March 13th but I’ve really been thinking about what I want right now in this moment. Do I want to move abroad? Do I want to have that experience? I’ve had to kind of give myself a little pep talk. Facebook groups have been fantastic – Women expats in Cairo have been very welcoming, and I could tell them how I was feeling and my worries.
If you wait for that perfect moment to take a risk, in anything in life, there’s always going to be an apprehension of the unknown and the what-ifs, so you have to just listen to your heart and trust the research that’s been done and the dreams and desires that you are fulfilling in these new roles and just go for it. Take a leap of faith and see what happens. In the worst-case scenario, I come home. My school understands -they’ve been operating for over 30 years with international teachers and they understand that the Middle East is maybe not the best place for everyone and so in the contract, they have a release clause.
I really enjoy challenging myself, so this will be a new continent, a new culture, a new school, and a new grade level! I have done a lot of pros and cons lists, so if you’re really going back and forth about a decision you can be really honest with yourself and I think that getting it down on paper will help you see if it’s the right choice. Teachers can really struggle with doing what they want because we are always told to do right by the kids, or think about the school or think about others and it is definitely good to think about others, but when it comes down to it, you’re signing the contract; it’s you who’s showing up every day and it’s your life that’s changing.
I ask myself is what I’m doing really aligned with who I am, what I want, what I feel my purpose in life is? Everything flows from here.”