For teachers considering working overseas, the possibilities seem endless, exciting, and possibly overwhelming. For teachers who are single parents, overseas teaching might be a dream deferred. But it doesn’t have to be. As overseas teachers who are parenting will tell you, life overseas can be wonderful for a family. This includes families with one parent.
Among the many reasons to consider raising children overseas, there are three main ones: 1) improved quality of life; 2) chance to raise globally-savvy, world citizens; and 3) potential for an improved financial situation. Let’s explore each.
Quality of Life. Does life in the U.S. (or substitute your home country) seem to be a constant rush—too many choices and activities and too little time? For many families it does. Most countries have a slower pace of living than the US. In many countries, work is less consuming, commutes are shorter, social/extracurricular options are limited, and a priority on family time is common.
Parents’ and children’s lives are much more intertwined overseas, with more activities and friends in common. Most consider this an advantage. Many educators in the U.S. don’t teach at the same school their child attends. Overseas, most teachers are on the same campus as their children with P-12 schools all on one campus. So a high school teacher can pop in and see her pre-school son’s monthly assembly or a middle school teacher can stop by the cafeteria and have lunch with his elementary daughter. Riding to and from school is a family function. While some children may not agree, parents like that they know much more about their son/daughter’s school life and choices of friends overseas.
Daily living is easier overseas. For me, hiring a nanny/housekeeper for less than $300 a month is an enormous benefit. When I get home from work, I have no cooking, cleaning, or laundry responsibilities—hooray! My time can be devoted to family. Hiring an affordable driver/taxi or using good public transportation makes getting around easier, too. This ease in daily living is a perk. For many overseas educators, these factors result in what they consider an improved quality of life.
Raising Global Citizens. Who doesn’t want increased understanding and compassion between cultures? What better time for this to begin than childhood, when humans tend to be more accepting of differences and when new languages are acquired with more ease than in adulthood? Many overseas schools are culturally diverse, with a rainbow of nationalities represented. My children have been exposed to foods, languages, and customs that never would have been available in their U.S. home. Eating sushi at their Korean friend’s house, hearing Norwegian spoken between classmates, participating in cultural fairs and having Indian mothers paint delicate henna designs on their hands…just a sampling of the “normal” childhood overseas.
Travel to other countries for vacations is also a common part of life overseas. As children grow up in schools that resemble mini-United Nations, they see that our differences are to be celebrated and our commonalities are far greater than the differences. We hope these experiences will help them guide our world to the universal peace and health we wish for all.
Improved Finances. There seem to be a constant onslaught of expenses and bills in the U.S. Overseas, housing and tuition for children are often included as benefits. This leaves costs to be food, travel, entertainment, and extras. U.S. products overseas can be costly because of import expenses. So many overseas educators buy food and home supplies locally, usually at prices equal or less to the U.S. and purchase less than they would at home. While we may still “shop until we drop” when we’re home for summer breaks, we tend to become more conscious of our purchases and, as a result, buy less as we follow the example of our host country peers. In almost any country, teachers can come away with annual savings. Some teachers come back to the U.S. and pay cash for a new home! This is a rare possibility for those who don’t go overseas and aren’t afforded the same opportunity to conserve and save.
Improving quality of life, raising global citizens, and saving money all sound positive. So what does a family need to be considering when looking overseas? Rather than asking, “Could it possibly work for me to take my child/ren overseas as a single parent?”, below are some questions you might want to ask:
• Does the country I’m considering have a slower lifestyle that emphasizes more family time?
• Are there medical and dental facilities that meet my family’s needs?
• Is there an acceptable level of stability/safety?
• Is affordable childcare/nannies available?
• Does the community have a good public transportation system or affordable drivers or taxis?
• Does the school I’m considering include dependents’ tuition, insurance, and home visits in .the benefits package?
• Is the faculty inclusive and supportive of colleagues? … have programs that meet my child’s needs? … have administration that is ‘family-friendly’ in terms of supporting teachers when family needs arise?
• Is overseas living something that my family (and ex-spouse, if applicable) would support?
• Do I have a sense of adventure that would allow me to enjoy leading my family into new experiences?
Having worked in two overseas positions as a single parent, I can tell you that I would recommend this lifestyle wholeheartedly to ANY family that sees the world as a diverse wonder to be savored and explored. Having also worked and parented in the U.S., there is no comparison for me. Overseas life is significantly slower and easier and affords me much more time with my family. The school communities overseas have been “homes away from home” and generously fill the void of extended family back home in terms of support and friendships. So, yes! Overseas teaching is a great choice for all types of families. Give overseas living a try and find out for yourself!