Becoming an expat: As a teacher, depending on the school you teach in, and the person that you are, you either are one that stays in the same school as it’s convenient to where you live, or the role is one that satisfies you, or you decide to progress and move when a professional development opportunity comes up in another teaching establishment. Generally, the international teaching community is another area that people either dive head first into or they stay away from. However some of you may have been lucky enough to dip in and out of it and landed on your feet with jobs being available as and when you have wanted them in your desired place of interest.
This is my first year being part of the International Teaching Network as I am now working in a British International School in Spain. It was a big decision to leave my school in Wales, where there was a tight knit community, I had good friendship circles and was a member of many sports teams. My biggest worries about moving was “will I like it?” “Will I settle?” “Will it be what I expect?” “Will I cope with the change?” “Can I afford it?” However, I couldn’t let all these questions weigh me down. I didn’t want that to stop me from exploring the international world of teaching and what other schools and cultures had to offer. I can honestly say I am loving Spanish life, and I am certainly not planning on moving on from here at the moment, as there is still so much for me to see and do. However, as the school year begins to get to that point where people consider their options for the following academic year and school jobs begin to fill, I thought I would just give some of my experiences regarding moving to a new country, although these may be pretty obvious!
A couple of tips
Do your research – what I mean by that is, make sure you understand the schools aims and they are something that matches with you and your beliefs. Make sure you also look into the length of the school day, the pay, the other staff, the students and their background and the school community, the lesson cover procedure and your number of PPAs sessions, your necessary involvement in extracurricular, the learning walks and observation process, and of course – the holidays. International schools are not the same as government run schools in the UK and each school has its own way of running. If you have the chance go and visit the school, I’d highly recommend this. It was a lot more comfortable moving in August as I had used the May half term to get my bearings and meet some key staff members. This made my first day slightly less terrifying, and I actually could remember a few names too.
Language Barriers – something to be prepared for, depending on where you are moving to. There could be a significant language barrier. I highly recommend the Duolingo app (duolingo.com) to help eliminate this stumbling block. It really helped me with some beginner Spanish and you’d be pleasantly surprised how much you can learn from 5 minutes a day. Take up lessons as soon as you can, if it is something you feel you can cope with. I’m trying my best, but I am still translating food labels in supermarkets using Google – what else is technology for? It’s all part of the fun!
Culture & Lifestyle – The culture is definitely going to be something that takes some getting used to, but that is an aspect that you just have to embrace. In terms of lifestyle, as an outdoors person, I am in my element – with the beach a 10 minute walk away, and the ski slopes an hours drive away, I can choose how to spend my weekend! You need to make sure that you can and will enjoy what is around you! To be honest, there is nothing I love more after doing sport than almuerzo (lunch) and a little siesta on a Sunday. Depending on where you’re thinking of ending up, you will have your own adaptations to life! Again, if you read up on this beforehand it will certainly help you prepare and settle in. Although its not as simple to get your leg of lamb for your Sunday roast it’s certainly not impossible – if you are one who likes your home comforts.
Moving away is not a decision to be taken lightly, it’s a big step, but I’m so glad I took the leap, I feel I have come here to develop as a person, not just as a teacher or a professional; and I’m loving every minute. “We only regret the chances we didn’t take” – Lewis Carroll
Jade Lewis-Jones is a Business Studies teacher working in a British International school in Valencia. She is an enthusiastic practitioner always looking to share & learn anything educational or motivational to benefit both students and staff through her Twitter @JLJbusinessed.