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The Journey to School: Dulwich College Suzhou (Suzhou, China)

May 25, 2015

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who worked at the Dulwich College Suzhou (Suzhou, China), described her way to work there as follows:

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One of the first things most of us did when we got up in the morning and opened the curtains was to check out how bad the fog of air pollution was. If I couldn’t see the lake past the tower blocks of my compound it was pretty usual, if I couldn’t see the apartments opposite me I knew it was really bad and people would be wearing masks to catch the coach. When I checked the AQI index on my phone, and if it was above 250 pmi, then I knew we wouldn’t be letting the children outside at the breaks or lunch-time. Thankfully the school has installed air purifiers in all classrooms though.

I lived on the 18th floor of a 30-story tower block and sometimes it would take a while for one of the two elevators to reach me. It was a pretty walk through the gardens surrounding the towers, I enjoyed watching people walking backwards to exercise and beating their arms to increase their circulation. After a cheery ‘Ni Hao’ to the security guards, I would join my colleagues waiting for the bus. Dulwich spread its staff out amongst approximately ten compounds with no more than two to a tower and no-one on the same floor as you, for privacy. It was always good to chat and pass the time in the morning. Soon the big red maroon coach would pull up and once again there would be a chorus of ‘Good Mornings’ as we climbed on board. There were four coaches assigned to pick up staff from various areas of Suzhou.

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The temperature on the bus never seemed right, either it would be much too warm with the heating on and the windows steamed up with condensation or we’d be cold. Suzhou, inland from Shanghai is definitely in an area with four seasons. I would amuse myself admiring the canals beside the roads with weeping willows and flowering shrubs and sometimes the odd boat. Within twenty minutes or so we’d be pulling up at the Senior School, then it was in through the gates with more ‘Ni Haos’ and sometimes a salute from the guards (depending on who you were with) and I’d look up at the iconic Dulwich tower as I stepped into the foyer and went over to the Coffee Bar to get my morning café latte.

The coaches only had one pick-up time at the compounds and if you missed it (which I often did) you had to hail a taxi. The school provided us with taxi cards for most places in Suzhou, including the school, in Mandarin, so it was easy to direct the taxi-driver who often didn’t speak English, 25 RMB and twenty minutes later I’d be at school exiting the cab saying ‘Xie xie’.

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I soon tired of missing the bus and paying for taxis and bought myself an electric bike. This is when the journey to school became fun! I’d go down into the parking garage below my apartment building and unplug the charger. After putting my helmet on I’d steer it up the narrow slope to the compound roads. Then climb on and off I went. My bright blue ebike reached a top speed of about 42 mph and I felt safe on it because in SIP, where I lived, there were separate bike lanes. It was when I zipped along on the ebike that I really discovered Suzhou. I found I left earlier in the morning on the ebike and I enjoyed steering round the water trucks cleaning the roads, or the people sweeping up. Often as I passed a shopping mall there would be a large group of people doing Tai Chi in beautiful silk clothes, or a group of women doing a fan dance. One morning I stopped to watch a man leaping and spinning with a silver sword. The Chinese schools started earlier than we did and I would enjoy watching the whole student body line up in disciplined military rows as the Chinese flag was raised and the national anthem was played. I didn’t enjoy seeing the conditions the migrant workers lived in when I passed the large compounds of blue and white two-storey buildings where they lived, because then I would see garbage, dirty children and stray dogs which I always felt sorry for.

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Soon though I would pulling in to the industrial park where the school is situated, and after passing through the electric gate controlled by the security guard I’d be parking my ebike in the underground garage and charging it up ready for the journey home. Another day at Dulwich College Suzhou had begun.

This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member: Sara Lynn Burrough. Check our her personal blog here.  It is called Travelling Teacher.

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn six free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

The Journey to School
Dulwich College Suzhou, international school, international schools in suzhou, journey to work, life of an international school teacher, teaching abroad, teaching in suzhou, the walk to school,

The Journey to School: Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China)

March 23, 2015

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China) described her way to work as follows:

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Leaving my apartment (which is very downtown near to the Causeway Bay MTR stop), I need to take an elevator down to the ground floor.  Many people live above the 20th floor in the apartment buildings here. They are so tall!  Luckily, in my building, there is an express elevator that skips a lot of the lower-numbered floors so I can get to the ground level faster.

I get on the MTR Island line and go to the end of the line which is Chai Wan. The journey can take around 15 minutes or so. There are definitely may other people on the metro, all with heads down, of course, looking at their smart phones.

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Once I get to Chai Wan, then I hop on a small bus. From there it is a quick transfer down the escalator to Bus 16. It is on its way to Stanley, but makes a stop at Tai Tam Reservoir Road which is right by Hong Kong International School. It is a windy ride, so everyone on the bus has to hold on to the handle of the chair in front of us. This part of the journey takes around 10 minutes.

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From there I just walk down the hill to the front gate of HKIS. These pictures show me looking back though towards the bus stop, which is going UP the hill (the journey back to my apartment, after school is over-with for the day, definitely gets your heart pumping a bit…though it’s not that steep). On this road down to the school entrance, you can also see the apartments of many staff members.  They can just walk to work in a minute!  At the end of the road, you see the school…the huge school campus. But first, you need to scan yourself in through the security gates.

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The campus is super cool with many nice views to be had. On a nice day, the trees, the mountains and the sea all look so beautiful!

Currently, we have 29 international schools listed in Bangkok on our website.  17 of them have had comments submitted on them by our members. Check out which ones here by using our school search feature and ticking the box ‘schools with comments’.  Hong Kong International School is a popular school profile page on our website.  It has 62 total comments on it.  It also has eight members that either currently work there now or have worked there in the past.

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So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn six free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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The Journey to School: NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand)

February 9, 2015

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers, when looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

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One of our members, who works at the NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) described her way to work as follows:

DSC_9540In February, it isn’t so hot in the morning. Still though, you might still be wearing shorts as you walk to work.

Not many people are out on the street that the school is on just yet, but there are some people getting things prepared for the day. There are a number of hotels nearby so there are taxis and their drivers waiting next to their cars. If the taxi isn’t moving around though, this typically means that the taxi guy is off-duty.  Off-duty can only take you somewhere without the meter on, meaning you will have to bargain the price.

There are motor scooter darting through the narrow street as well, so make sure you look both ways before crossing the street to the other side.

Actually, you should always watch what is going around you wheel walking on this street because the pavement can be uneven. There can also be some mysterious smells and puddles on the ground that you would do best to avoid.

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There are some secret entrances that you can get a glimpse at if you walk a bit slower and take a peek. Who knows what really inside those areas though. These areas, guarded only by light metal doors, don’t looks like much as you can see what looks like a bunch of nothing and garbage all over the ground.

You can see many of the locals preparing their food carts. Actually, a number of NIST students go to these stands to get their lunch for the day. Great business opportunity for the locals.

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And I think they are quite happy for the business from the NIST staff and students because you can see many smiles on locals’ faces, even in such early hours of the morning.  I guess the smells of good Thai food is better than the random smell of the rotten garbage just down the street before the food cart area.

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There are many beautiful colors in the Thai design to look at as well. Even the gates to some of the apartment buildings are quite nice to look at and appreciated.

As you get closer and closer to NIST, you can see that many of the locally hired people are all busy, getting ready for the rush of students that are to come. There are many locally hired folks that work at NIST to help each day run smoothly!

The entrance to NIST is a long walkway, ending in a beautifully designed mosaic. The NIST campus is one to be proud off. It is quite welcoming and you can feel the excitement from the staff and kids, all wanting to have a great day!

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Currently, we have 49 international schools listed in Bangkok on our website.  22 of them have had comments submitted on them by our members. Check out which ones here by using our school search feature and ticking the box ‘schools with comments’.  NIST International School is a popular school profile page on our website.  It has 65 total comments on it.  It also has 3 members that either currently work there or have worked there in the past.

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So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn 6 free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

The Journey to School
international school, international schools in Bangkok, journey to work, life of an international school teacher, NIST International School, teaching abroad, teaching in bangkok, the walk to school,

The Journey to School: International School of Tanganyika (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

October 19, 2014

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers, when looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

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One of our members, who works at the International School of Tanganyika (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) described her way to work as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 1.27.23 PMYou either walk, drive your SUV, or ride your bike to school. It all depends on where you live and what you prefer to have/use.

If you do decide to walk to work and have to carry something, it should be in a small plastic sac (like what you would get when grocery shopping). Don’t carry a bag that looks like it has something valuable in it (Ipad, computer, etc.)!

I personally drive to work.

On the side of the road, the “African mommas” can be found with their pots making coffee out of (possibly) not the cleanest water.  But boiled long enough, maybe it is just fine. They heat the pots by using actual fire that they have made themselves using wood.

You also see Daladalas going by, the name for the localScreen Shot 2014-10-19 at 1.27.00 PM buses here.  There is always somebody hanging out the window/door of the bus.  He says, “Hey, Hey!” really loudly trying to get people’s attention and to see who wants to get on to the bus.

There are also many locals on bikes passing you by with high-stacked food items on the back or front of the bike; like eggs maybe.  Other bikes have many water bottles hanging off the side. Sometimes you can see ones with fish or sticks of wood.

The extreme bounciness of the road is something you can’t ignore during your short 3-5 minute journey.  Though not the best road in the world, it can be good wake-you-up in the morning, bouncing around so much!

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 1.26.42 PMOn good days with the sun out, there is a nice breeze in the air (like in October). The soft sound of the wind is blowing through the tree leaves. Lovely!

Currently, we have 12 international schools listed in Tanzania on our website.  5 of them have had comments submitted on them by our members. Check out which ones here by using our school search feature and ticking the box ‘schools with comments’.  International School of Tanganyika is a popular school profile page on our website.  It has 59 total comments on it.  It also has 6 members that either currently work there or have worked there in the past.

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So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn 6 free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

The Journey to School
international school, International School of Tanganyika, international schools in tanzania, journey to work, life of an international school teacher, teaching abroad, teaching in tanzania, the walk to school,

The Journey to School: Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark)

August 28, 2014

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers, when looking for jobs at schools and cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) described his way to work as follows:

2014-08-28 07.57.59-2In August, there is plenty of light in the morning; always good for putting a smile on your face and good thoughts in your mind. Also the weather is a bit fresh already in the morning, meaning you need a light jacket on during this time of the year.  As I leave my apartment building, I see a sea of bikes and people on bikes zooming by me. Gotta keep a keen eye on the street and the sidewalk to check for other pedestrians and bike riders otherwise you will be run over!

Next I get on my bike, glad that it wasn’t stolen the night before. I choose to leave my bike (locked) on the sidewalk every night, even though it is very common to get your bike stolen in Copenhagen. I have a place to put it inside my building, but it is more convenient to just leave it on the sidewalk. Also, I have never got my bike stolen, but many…many people here do. I got my bike for free actually (It was gifted to me when a colleague left the school to move back to his home country), so I’m not too worried about it getting stolen. It is definitely not the first bike that a stealer would choose to steal as it is pretty old looking.

2014-08-28 07.58.17As much as I would like to ride my bike all the way to school, I choose to just ride my bike to the nearest train station (a 2-minute ride). If I do ride my bike all the way to school, it would take around 25-30 minutes.  In a few minutes, I am at the train station. There is usually a space to park and lock my bike nearby. Then I walk up a few steps to get to a long bridge-like walkway.  The walkway spans 8 tracks I think. It is a big station. There are two ways I can get to the train station near to my school (Hellerup), the S-train and the regional train.  If you miss one train, there is always another one coming soon. The regional train might be a bit faster because it doesn’t make any stops to Hellerup, the S-train stops at two train stations in between my station and Hellerup.

The S-train can have a lot of people, so it can be crowded (not so fun), so when I can get on the regional train, I do that instead. The train ride is maybe 4-6 minutes long and then I’m at Hellerup. Many people get off here as it is another hub for many trains.  Typically I run into other staff members on the train or getting off at Hellerup.  We say good morning and then walk together to get to the school campus.  The walk from Hellerup to the campus is like 1 minute.  The current school location is VERY convenient to public transportation; super important when working at an international school.

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My total journey to work, if I time everything right, is between 12-15 minutes. Super convenient. I forgot to mention that I could also take a nearby bus to work, but that would not be the best choice.  The bus can be very crowded as well and the journey is longer, maybe 20-25 minutes.

2012-05-29 18.35.40When it is a sunny morning (which it usually is during this time of the year), the journey to Copenhagen International School is a really great one. It is so relaxing usually and oh I forgot to mention you can watch the sea go by as you look out the window of the train!

Copenhagen International School is actually building a whole new, purpose-built school. It is going to be located even closer to my apartment!  The best part of this new school campus is its location.  The new location will be on the water. I can’t wait!!

Currently, we have 14 international schools listed in Denmark on our website.  6 of them have had comments submitted on them by our members. Check out which ones here by using our school search feature and ticking the box ‘schools with comments’.  Copenhagen International School is a very popular school profile page on our website.  It has 183 total comments on it (one of the most on our website so far).  It also has 11 members that either currently work there or have worked there in the past (which is the 2nd highest number of members for a school profile page).

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So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn 6 free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

The Journey to School
Copenhagen international school, international school, international schools in denmark, journey to work, life of an international school teacher, teaching abroad, teaching in copenhagen, teaching in denmark, the walk to school,

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