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The Journey to School: Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

January 31, 2016

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 Ruamrudee International School Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand), described her way to work there as follows:

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When you think of Bangkok you automatically think of bustling and busy streets which are lined with vendors with their food carts hawking their wares.  Well, when I travelled to Thailand as a tourist, that was the image that I had of living here.  So in January 2015 when I signed a contract to move to Bangkok from Dubai I thought I knew what I was moving into to.  How wrong could I have been….

Ruamrudee International School is not in downtown Bangkok, it is out towards the airport in an area known as Minburi.  A taxi to the airport might take about 20 minutes if the traffic is in your favour – a godsend when you are doing boarding pick ups the weekend before school starts and you have to go back and forth as the flights never seem to align where you can pick up more than one airline’s arrival…On the other hand, to get downtown in a taxi could take up to two hours.  The main road through Minburi is Ramkhamhaeng and it is a really busy road.  A couple of Friday nights ago it took us 70 minutes to travel about 6km – the traffic was insane – on the way back the same trip took 10 minutes.  But traffic flows eventually – there is no beeping like in Ho Chi Min or Beijing and the drivers are nowhere near as crazy as what we encountered in Dubai… these drivers just take it in their stride and no one gets upset – everyone lets everyone else merge without any problems…

Some teachers chose to live downtown, they have regular drivers who pick them up and drop them off each day.  They have to leave as soon as they are able as any delay could mean hours added to their drive home time. 

I chose to live in the community near the school – Perfect Place 2.  Perfect Place is a large secure community with wide leafy streets.  Within the community there are plenty of parks and lakes to walk around and most parks have exercise equipment available to use.  I have seen groups doing some kind of tai chi style exercise at sunset by the lake and it looks so peaceful and calming to the spirit.

imageLots of teachers use scooters to get around although some, like me, have hired electric golf carts – they can be driven around the community, as long as you don’t go out onto Ramkhamhaeng Road, they are perfectly acceptable. Plus, there isn’t that much road traffic in the community.  Once you get into the Pak Soi (where all the shops, restaurants and food carts are), traffic starts to build up as it waits to get onto Ramkhamhaeng Road.

I work in Boarding so I do crazy hours – no day is the same as the one before.  I work weekends and have other days off to compensate.  I might go in at noon but either not come home til noon the next day or if someone else is covering the overnight, I might leave at 10.30pm.  The journey is still the same regardless what time it is.  Traffic in the community isn’t an issue so I know I can leave any time and it will only take 7 minutes to get to school.

So, when I leave my house, I find myself in a quiet street (except for the dogs… not soi dogs – they all have homes, but they all bark).

A couple of turns and I say goodbye to the guards at the entrance to Perfect Place 2 – they click their heels and salute every entry and departure.

A left turn onto Ramkhamhaeng Soi 174 and I’m off….

The wide streets are incredibly clean – maybe something to do with the fact that every 500m there is a cleaner assigned to keeping her part of the street clean.

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We have a lady who walks up and down our streets in PP2 and sweeps up all the leaves and dirt off the street.

Through another security gate (it only takes about 3 mins to get to this point) and you are at the Clubhouse, overlooking the lake, it is a private gym and infinity pool but the space also houses a restaurant, coffee shop, hair salon (150 baht to wash and blow dry your hair) and the local 7-11 (they are everywhere….).

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Round the corner and its a lovely drive along the lake.

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Some days the fountain is working and it is really pretty.  There is another smaller lake on the opposite side of the road when you get to the end

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and at that point it’s a left turn into the road that finally takes you to the school’s entrance,

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albeit the one at the rear of the school, but that’s where the staff parking is located.

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The car park is full of bikes and scooters but very few cars.  Who needs a car when you can fit 5 on a bike… I wish I had a photo to share but it does happen all the time – 3 and 4 people on a scooter is a very common sight.

So, you’re now at school, ready to engage with whatever new challenges come your way.

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member.

What to know more about the many international schools in Bangkok?  Check out our blog article called – Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Bangkok, Thailand.

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free 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
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The Journey to School: Western International School of Shanghai

October 7, 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 Western International School of Shanghai (China), described his way to work there as follows:

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Shanghai, the East’s equivalent of New York. The city runs 24/7, nightlife is rampant, traffic induces headaches, and glamour seems to be always in the spotlight. That is usually the thrill behind the city’s most vibrant areas such as the French Concession and the Bund. All of which is exciting to your common expat. That of course is if you are an expat living around these areas.

Most international schools in Shanghai exist around the peripheral suburbs of the city and for many new teachers entering the school they are given an interesting choice. One can either live near the school in bang-for-your-buck valued houses usually in areas with relatively limited entertainment or live in the downtown where the action is. As you probably can insinuate on your own, it is usually the young single people who trade-off for the longer commute and smaller apartments in order to have a larger selection of nearby restaurants, bars, and social gatherings.

I on the other hand belong to the group that lives in compounds near the school I work at, Western International School of Shanghai. Now this area is not as boring as I may have indicated as it has become a bit of a development zone for the never-ending expansion of Shanghai. Part of the reason being that the area we are in, Qingpu, is the location of several of the well-known international schools in Shanghai, and developers are aiming at them as their audience. In the last 2 years I have seen a great Italian restaurant open up down the street, a whole new nightlife commercial area has come about by Jinfeng Road, and a few imported grocery stores have popped up. We might not have the adrenaline of downtown, but at least we are being well fed!

From my home the school is less than a 10-minute bus ride (or in my case a 10-minute e-bike ride) away. Having two school-aged children, this location is a solid choice for housing, given its lower monthly rent (compared to apartments downtown), spacious and safe environment where kids can play with their friends without constant supervision, and most importantly the ability to wake up later on schoolday mornings. A perk that I don’t take for granted and often poke fun at one of my young colleagues in the math department about.

My school day usually starts off with a 5am wake-up, which at times means a quick morning bike ride to get the blood flowing and other times it gives the opportunity to check e-mails and get some quiet time before the start of another busy day.

At about 6:30, which is the same time most of my downtown colleagues start walking out of their apartments toward their bus pick-up points, I wake up the kiddos, throw them in the shower and take a shower myself. Cereal for the kids, bacon & eggs for daddy and walk outside at about 7:40. If weather permits we hop on the e-bike and off to school we go.

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On the way to school we pass by the well-known “corner store”, the one right outside the compound gates. After a quick right turn the scooter takes is into the already buzzing Ming Zhu road. On weekdays the traffic is usually busy, drivers tend to ignore most traffic rules, e-bikes go in all sorts of direction without much concern for red lights or other vehicles. It sometimes feels like a game of chicken while driving. Experience has taught me that it is best to adopt the local culture and go with the flow.

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Within the first kilometer we pass by a building that houses the strange combination of a dodgy KTV on its second floor with a wet market on its first floor. The road nearby this building gets extremely busy resulting in traffic jams almost daily, thanks to cars making illegal U-turns without signaling or other scooters pulling a left or right without looking in their rearview mirrors. Sometimes I question myself on whether it was the safest idea to get my own scooter. But at least the ride to work gets my blood pumping enough where I consider skipping my morning coffee.

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Beyond this madness, the road gets a bit less congested. Crossing the Huqingping highway can also be intimidating to many but the traffic light is mostly followed there. In this area there are several newly opened compounds with real estate agents already standing outside with their signs advertising apartments for rent or sale. I always find it curious just how desperate they are to sell leases. I wonder how many houses are actually occupied.

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Once we passed these compounds we see the friendly faces of the security guards greeting us at the main gate of the school. The entire journey from door to door takes less than 10 minutes for us living nearby the school, while others may spend as much as 50-60 minutes on the faculty bus coming to work day after day. Either way, we all end up at the school we love, doing the work we enjoy!

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member: Denes Tilistyak. Check our his HighFour competition website here.

What to know more about the many international schools in Shanghai?  Check out our blog article called – Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Shanghai, China.

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
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The Journey to School: Chatsworth International School (Singapore)

July 10, 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 Chatsworth International School (Singapore), described her way to work there as follows:

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At 5 am the loud whoop-whoop-whoop call of the Asian Koel bird echoes through the condo grounds waking me for another day in Singapore. I enjoy drinking a cup of tea, looking out the floor to ceiling windows as the sun comes up over the park between a couple of tower-blocks. Eighty percent of people here live in apartments or ‘flats’ as they call them. I take the elevator eight floors down and as I step out of the air-conditioning, the heat and humidity immediately hit me. I always enjoy walking through the gardens, past the tennis courts where there is usually a gentleman doing tai-chi or a couple of ladies doing chi-gong. As I step out of the side-gate, the calming notes of a Chinese flute float on the air from the HDB (Housing Development Board) across the road and I always wonder who plays so beautifully?

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It’s a short walk along the sidewalk under the lush canopy of beautiful trees to the pedestrian bridge over the road, where I’m usually lazy and take the elevator up. As I cross the bridge I admire the beautiful pink flowers on the bridge. I always feel at home in Singapore as someone who grew up in the UK because there are many reminders of this city-state’s former status as a British colony – like the double-decker busses passing below me.

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Singapore is a very safe, orderly society and they queue up even better than the Brits. People line up one behind the other and wait for people to get off the bus or train. I swipe my pass at the gates of the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) station which is like the London underground, Paris Metro or New York Subway. I’m lucky I live on two lines – the yellow Circle line and the red North-South line. Down the escalators I go and line up on the red arrows indicating each door waiting for my train. The computer-controlled trains run like clockwork almost every minute, so there’s not long to wait till the glass safety doors open.  Then the train doors open and people exit between the green lines and then the red-coated attendants urge us politely to “move to the centre please.” The trains travel at an enormous speed and I always have to hold on, but the Singaporeans seem to balance effortlessly as they read their papers or check their phones. Singapore is an incredibly diverse society, and I enjoy the bright colours of the Indian ladies in kurtas and the Indonesian ladies with their headscarfs. As we pass through the stations if an elderly person or pregnant lady get on people immediately stand up for them to have a seat. There are also announcements in English, Mandarin, Malay and Indonesian “mind the platform gap”, “if you see any suspicious persons or packages please notify station personnel.”

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Twenty minutes later I get a kick out of getting out at ‘ Somerset ‘ MRT. Up the escalators into the shopping centre I join everyone else getting my morning coffee and breakfast to go: I enjoy Costa coffee from the UK where the guys know I like a “medium latte to go lah?” Everyone speaks English but It took me a while to get used to the ‘lah’ added on to many phrases here. That and the ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ for positive or negative answers. After picking up my favourite mushroom bun from the Swiss Marche bakery, I’m out onto busy Orchard Road, a world-famous shopping street with stand-alone luxury stores.

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Chatsworth International School’s Orchard campus is in a prime downtown location. The blue and white buildings are a historic property, originally a private home for the founder of Orchard Road and then the first Chinese Girls School. I don’t usually go in the front gates past the security guard. Instead I prefer walking up lovely Emerald Hill Road looking at the historic Peranakan shop–houses to the back-gate. I swipe my pass in the electronic lock and another day at CIS has begun.

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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
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: 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 31 international schools listed in Hong Kong on our website.  20 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 83 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.

The Journey to School
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