If you are a young, single teacher, you should seriously consider getting a job teaching at an international school…no kidding. There are a few criteria, but once you are in, you’re in. If you’re teaching at a public school in the states and you are young and single you’ve got to be crazy. I’m serious. Do yourself a favor and sign up for one of the ISS or Search Associates job fairs, and get out while you can. Recruiting schedule. There is so much more life and so much more to do overseas that you really owe it to yourself to check it out.
I’m 24 and this is my first international school assignment. My first two years teaching were in the US. I taught in a wealthy suburb. Being single there was strictly for the birds. The only single people my age were single for a reason, if you know what I’m driving at. I mean, I have nothing against Star Trek, but it’s not real. Not real.
Anyhow, I got wise and went abroad after a couple years of working 15 hours a day and eating grubs and berries. I’m still single, in spite of the fact that I have been actively interviewing for the right person. Needless to say, I am busting at the seams with valuable insight, and that is what this article is all about. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing a country, city, and school in a foreign country.
Go somewhere that has a truly different culture. You want to know you aren’t in Kansas anymore. That’s part of the experience that makes it really exciting. Try to find an international school in a country where the basic way of life is different – a place where you shop at neighborhood markets and bazaars rather than at the local Walmart (hopefully, because there is no Walmart). Romani, for instance, is a city of 12 million, but most people do their shopping at small local shops and markets.
The best international school placements are places that you have to get used to. If I walked out on my balcony in Romania, I could throw a rock and hit the nearest park (something that I never did, for the record). Close proximity to a park or other attracton means people and events and the opportunity to get involved with the people in the community during their leisure time.
Go somewhere where you will stand out. You are making the big step of leaving the comfort of your home country, so why not go all the way. Standing out means lots of attention. It means being noticed, and as long as you aren’t a clown, this is a good thing. Many young, single men and women find that their personal lives improve immensely. I have a good friend in the international school circuit who calls this the “freak effect.” Call it what you will, it’s a free ace that you can keep in your sleeve, in your purse, on your nightstand.
Go somewhere where there are lots of people. You can always visit Switzerland, hike the Alps, and breathe in the fresh cow essence. But don’t go there to live and teach. If you do, you will do lots of hiking alone, and probably half-cocked. Trust me on that one. What you want to find is a medium to large city in a vibrant country. The country doesn’t have to be particularly pro-America/UK/Canada, but it doesn’t hurt. Naturally, you want to steer clear of places where you can’t date the locals. That would defeat the purpose entirely. If you want that sort of social life, find a rich suburb in the States.
Be open to trying new things. During the Christmas season in Transylvania, for instance, people get in groups and go door-to-door Christmas caroling – for drinks. It sounds crazy, but it’s really a lot of fun. It takes the whole Christmas cheer thing to a different level entirely. Many of the songs are the same, but in Romanian. So, if you don’t know any Romanian, just hum along. In any case, after a couple hours no one knows whether they are on foot or horseback, so it won’t really matter.
If you are reading this article in the first place, you are probably at least considering going abroad to teach at an international school. Good for you. It’s a decision that you will not regret (unless you are a fundamentally bitter and angry person). Many of you are probably already international teachers. The message still applies. Don’t be afraid to put your hands up in the dark mysteries of life. I have seen plenty of teachers at international schools who try to design their lives abroad to approximate their lives at home in the States, Canada, UK, NZ. If you do that, you will miss everything that makes an international placement what it is.