Comment Topic Highlight

Using Health Insurance While Teaching Abroad: Delightful or Nightmare?

January 19, 2020


Getting good health care is important, especially while living in a foreign country. You get used to the health insurance plan and coverage so much growing up in your home country that sometimes you can’t even think of another way to have it.

Living in the United States my whole life, I thought that it was normal to pay deductibles and co-payments. I even had heard that teachers working at US schools get one of the best health insurance plans (when compared to other professions), so I was quite content. And true to my experience and now looking back on it, I was pleased with many aspects of my coverage.

But living abroad had afforded me different experiences, from socialized medicine to full-coverage private insurance plans. And I would say that both of those experiences had their pros and cons and some aspects were better or a bit worse than my experience living in the United States.

Regardless of the plan that I have living abroad, it is definitely nice to not have to pay out of pocket expenses for my health insurance. So plans that pay everything for you up front are the best ones in my opinion. I also have appreciated having health insurance that has world coverage as we international school teachers do like the travel a lot and of course go back to our home country once or twice a year.

The issue of waiting time often comes up. All health insurance coverages include some time waiting to get seen and for getting an appointment, especially with a specialist doctor, etc. It is true that some insurance plans get you those appointments faster. I know that in some European countries the wait for a specialist doctor can take many weeks, but one way to get around this is to pay a little bit from your pay check for a private insurance. With this, you can get your appointments assigned to you much faster!

Paying for your prescriptions can be a pain on your wallet as well depending on which coverage you have. With one private insurance plan I had in Asia, I didn’t have pay any out of pocket money for all prescriptions. That was amazing! I can imagine though that in many insurance plans, you are expected to pay at least something for your prescriptions.

On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.” There have been 992 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:

“Medical insurance is through a Chinese company. This is not ideal for several reasons: We live in Viet nam not China, and the package, compared to other countries, is basic. Very basic by international school standards, expect a lot of out of pocket, paying in advance, claiming back which takes a long time as language barrier (Mandarin speakers might do well), and submitting forms makes it a deterrent to claim back or even try.” – International School of Vietnam

“Everyone receives medical card on arrival. This gives you access to local hospital services. In our experiences this is fine for woman bit not for men.
Once you receive your company private insurance you pay QAR 50 for your initial consultation and then the rest s free form there. On larger more emergency cases you sometimes have to pay a deposit until the approval is given from the insurance which can take a few hours. This has never been an issue and always resolved in the teachers favour. Private care is very clean, as is local care. Health care for women in Qatar is very good.” – The English Modern School (Doha)

“The Health Insurance is not very good. It used to be through a reputable international provider and is now through a sub-standard Chinese company. The cover is global (non-US) but is not 100% and is only available at selected providers. If you are in an emergency situation and do not go to a pre-authorised hospital, it won’t be covered.” – The British International School of Kuala Lumpur

“The insurance is quite good in Maracaibo and in the USA. The doctors are trained, but hospitals are not equipped to serve patients right now. The price for medical care has increased by 10 fold in one year. It is a terrible situation for Venezuelans and foreigners who get sick.” – Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo

What has been your experience using the health insurance benefits at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!

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Information for Members

The Total Comments in All the City Information Sections: 5518!

January 14, 2020


As all International School Community members know, each of the 2120+ school profile pages on our website has four comments and information sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information.  Our members are encouraged to submit comments and information on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past.  It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other new teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you automatically get one free month of premium membership added on to your account!  The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!

FOR UNLIMITED FREE MEMBERSHIP, BECOME A MAYOR OF A SCHOOL TODAY!

So, what are the recent statistics about the City Information sections on all the school profile pages?  The current total number of submitted comments in the City Information sections is 5518 (out of a total of 35256+ comments); up 1134 comments since February 2019.

There are 17 subtopics in the City Information section on each school profile page.  Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out out the total number of comments in that specific subtopic and also an example comment that has been submitted there.

• Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city. (599 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Going to check out and relax in the church that was made in rock (Temppeliaukio) is a great things to do on a rainy (or sunny) day. They play relaxing music as you just sit in one of the pews and looks up to see the copper designed ceiling. So beautiful!” – Helsinki International School (Helsinki, Finland) – 41 Comments

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• Locations in the city geared towards the expat lifestyle (grocery stores, bars, etc.). (516 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Taipa has a lot geared towards expat. The local Park’n’Shop grocery store is full of imported things.” – The School of the Nations (Macao, China) – 20 Comments

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• Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc. (525 Total Comments)

Example comment: “You could definitely get a good main dish at a nice restaurant for 6-8 EUR. The public transportation is free for the locals, but for tourists, it is .80 to 1.60 EUR a ride. Of course there are cheaper tickets, like days passes, etc.” – International School of Estonia (Tallinn, Estonia) – 22 Comments

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• Detailed info about lifestyles: singles vs. couples, gay vs. straight, nightlife vs. quiet and big city vs nature. (423 Total Comments)

Example comment: “If you like riding your bike around everywhere, there aren’t always the best bike paths in the city. In turn, you need to be alert at all times! With regards to nature, there are super green parks spotted all around the city center. There is also the Wisla river has some “beach” areas where people hang out on a warm day. It is a bit smelly there, but still nice.” – American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland) – 143 Comments

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• Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there. (533 Total Comments)

Example comment: “On a scale from 1 to 5, English level is somewhere around 3+. Not everyone speaks English, so knowing German is a big advantage.” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 46 Comments

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• Sample activities that you can do around the city? Including ones that you can do with a family (children)? (373 Total Comments)

Example comment: “During the summer don’t miss out on Treptower park with Badeschiff (not good for those with children). There is an artificial tropical island not far away from Berlin and many people take their kids there during winter, or to Wannsee during summer. Should you want to go and do the recreational swimming, Berlin Bade Betrieb is there for you on numerous locations.” – Berlin International School (Berlin, Germany) – 12 Comments

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• Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year. (578 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Nov. 15 – March 15 is when the government heat is on in the apartments. That’s pretty much when temperatures are below freezing all the time. Over the weekend the weather changed to 5 – 10 degrees above freezing. Spring is about six weeks long. Then summer is hot.” – Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 158 Comments

• Places, markets and stores where you can find really good deals. (266 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Walmart and Kalea (like Ikea) has just about everything you’ll need to set up house. El Martially in zona 14 sells used furniture but bring a Guatemalan friend to negotiate for you. You can also by hand-made furniture off the street very cheaply.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala) – 75 Comments

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• Describe a funny culture shock moment that you’ve had recently in this city. (122 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Babies and toddlers with open butt pants and shorts are always fun to see pee all over the place. Trying to cross the street without getting killed is fun as well.” – QSI International School of Dongguan (Dongguan, China) – 64 Comments

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• Where did the school take you in the city when you first arrived? What were some staff outings/party locations? (170 Total Comments)

Example comment: “When you first arrive, the school sets up a week-long itinerary. . .shopping at many shops, eating at a variety of restaurants. It’s one of the highlights of coming here. Many of the places seen during orientation are too expensive for people to return to often.” – The American School of Kinshasa (Kinshasa, Congo (DRC)) – 59 Comments

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What is the best part of living in this city for you? (268 Total Comments)

Example comment: “I love the ease of getting what you want, when you want.” – Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China) – 145 Comments

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What advice can you give on how to set things up like internet, phone, experience dealing with landlord, etc.? (224 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Internet’s been funky lately but that’s just the new reality in China at the moment. Nobody can do anything about it.” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 436 Comments

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• Tell your experience moving your items to this city. What company, insurance policy, etc. did you use? (89 Total Comments)

Example comment: “SOS International is a popular choice and you can use it at their clinics here. It’s pricey, though.” – Orchlon School (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia) – 76 Comments

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• Tell about your experience with the local banks and dealing with multiple currencies. (228 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Most local banks charge $10-$20 for an account. The government now also charges 10% of any fees charged by the bank. Most banks then charge you 1% to withdraw dollars, even if you have a dollar account. This is because their exchange rate is horrible, so people take out the money in dollars then walk to an exchange bureau and get a much better rate. IST has a few agreements in place so that the first $1000 a month does not get charged the fee. Other than that, the banks are okay. Nothing to write home about and you have to watch for random fees, but you can usually get it sorted. Some people just use overseas accounts and you can get money from the ATM, but people often find thousands of dollars missing from accounts when they do that.” – International School of Tanganyika (Dar es salaam, Tanzania) – 171 Comments

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• What are some locals customs (regarding eating, drinking and going out, family, socializing, etc.) that you find interesting for expats to know about? (157 Total Comments)

Example comment: “When you receive something in person, from somebody else, it is best to take it using both hands, not just one. Do it with two hands to show respect and appreciation.” – Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong, China) – 67 Comments

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• Tell about your experiences in the local grocery stores. What can you get or cannot get? Which ones are your favorites. (192 Total Comments)

Example comment: “If you are from an Asian country I would suggest finding an H Mart. The Buford Highway farmers market has country specific named aisles with all of the countries. The Dekalb farmers market has a lot of unique fruits (think durian) and vegetables that you won’t find in a typical grocery store as well. All of these markets are worth a visit, especially the Dekalb Farmers Market (don’t go on a weekend!) and are huge.” – Atlanta International School (Atlanta, United States) – 31 Comments

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• What is the most challenging/difficult part of living in the city? (255 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The Spanish spoken here is very difficult to understand. There is a lot of slang and people speak very fast.” –Santiago College (Santiago, Chile) – 24 Comments

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News Reports about your Host Country

The News Reports about your Host Country Don’t Always Match the Reality of your Daily Life

January 8, 2020


Living abroad can be full of many surprises. Even more so when your host country is in the current world news (typically for something unfortunate). What happens then is that your friends and family from your home country (or other countries around the world where your international school friends live) write to you to see if you are safe or to ask how things are going there.

In this entry, we have 4 international school teachers sharing what is going in their host countries. They also share details about what they are experiencing and how they see things from their perspective.

Hong Kong

“I recently returned to busy Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (my home for nearly 6 years), after three weeks away for Winter Break. The roads were packed with shoppers, outside vendors, and people enjoying chestnuts and sweet potatoes on the street corner. These are not the media images shown these days about Hong Kong. Yes, a lot has been going on in this city during the past 7 months, but depending where you live, you may see very little of the chaos. My school is on the south side of Hong Kong island where (as far as I know) there has been zero protest activity. The majority of our student population live in this area as do many teachers. Life carries on as usual for the most part in this part of Hong Kong. I, on the other hand, live where most large scales demonstrations begin and where there has been much protest activity and police presence. Despite this, I can sometimes go for weeks without feeling the affects of the protests. When my family and friends see the violence in the news, they are surprised to hear that most of the time, it is business as usual here in Hong Kong. Most pro-democracy/anti-government gatherings are easy to avoid if you choose to do so.

My first night back in Hong Kong in 2020, I went to dinner in Wan Chai. Restaurants were full and all felt normal- though normal has a different feel here these days.”

Australia

“There is a lot of news coverage about the bushfires in Australia these past few weeks, and there are definitely tremendous problems associated with them. There are numerous areas in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia that are being destroyed by all of these fires. They are still going on at the moment, with barely any relief (like rain) on the way. I have been traveling around many of these states for the past month, and I must say that I haven’t seen or gone through the parts of those states that have been damaged or destroyed. Life goes on pretty much as normal in all the parts that I’ve visited recently. Many of my friends and family abroad have messaged me about my safety and if I’m near the fires. I tell them no, and that I’m safe. When I turn on BBC and CNN, I can see why they would think I’m in trouble here as their reports are indeed showing a lot of danger and devastation. But people do need to realise that Australia is a huge country. And even though the fires are in numerous locations, they are not in the big city metropolises that the majority of Australians are living in. That is not to say these big cities aren’t feeling the effects of the fires. On certain days, the fire smoke is definitely hovering over the cities here and causing a lot of air pollution. Some days the air pollution is worse than cities in nations like India and China, but it is only at that level a day or two and then the air quality usually returns back to safer levels.

It is important to mention though, yesterday at a store in Sydney, I overhead two people saying things like “I didn’t think these fires were going to affect me and my house, and then it did…” it made it more real to me hearing that story in person and that these fires are indeed affecting many people here.”

Qatar

“I have been living in Qatar with my family for 9 years. Originally moved here as my husband was offered a job (he is in construction) and I found a teaching job at one of the many international schools here. My school is located in the West Bay area where a lot of expats live and is surrounded by tall buildings, offices, hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls.

Two years ago, an air, land and sea blockade was imposed on Qatar by four other neighbouring countries which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha. About 60% of Qatar’s food supplies came from the countries causing the blockade. There was chaos at the supermarkets at the time. Shelves were emptied fast. While Qatar was trying to figure out alternative ways to import goods people were finding it difficult to find certain foods at the supermarket including milk. I remembered it last yesterday that I struggled, at that time, to find milk for my kids. It was a crazy couple of months.

Qatar actually imported tens of thousands of cows to ensure milk supplies.”

Cambodia

“Cambodia. The first thing I hear is “where?”  Then I hear, “oh, yeah, Tomb Raider, right?” But my everyday life as a principal is so much more than ruins (although we’ve got plenty).  Regular life is the open-air tuk-tuk rides to school, counting dogs with my six year old daughter.  Regular life is using smiles and a mix of Khmer and English to negotiate for fresh vegetables for dinner.  It’s the warm greetings from the owner of our favorite restaurant when we make our weekly visit, and the warm croissants from the corner bakery.  It’s having friends from all over the world, who teach my daughter new words in their languages and invite us to their homelands for holidays.  Most of all, my regular Cambodian life is about balance, because I can leave work at work, and enjoy my family and friends.  Cambodia may be challenging in some ways, but it ultimately is about being able to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the ride (especially in a tuk-tuk).”

If your host country is in the world news at the moment and your family and friends are contacting you about what’s happening, please write to us and share your experience for an upcoming article in the blog series. We’d love to know what it is really like living in these countries all around the world. You will receive 6 months of premium membership for contributing 1-2 paragraphs about your host country.

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Information for Members

‘Where Our Members Have Worked’ update: Check out the latest stats!

January 2, 2020


Our 17847 current members (up 3500 members from December 2018) work at or have worked at 1200+ international schools.

How amazing is that?!  In just over nine years now, our “international school community” has grown into an excellent network of international school teachers.  With so much experience and knowledge about life working at over 1200 international schools on our website, the other members are able to stay updated and informed about the schools at which they are interested in working.  Additionally, now it is even easier to find the right members to contact for networking purposes and for gathering more information about the specific questions you may have about working at a certain international school.

Which international schools on our website have the most members you ask?  Here are our top 10 schools:

American International School in Egypt
(27) members

Copenhagen International School
(23) members

Western International School of Shanghai 
(22) members

International School of Kuala Lumpur
(22) members

International School Manila
(21) members

Jakarta Intercultural School
(19) members

MEF International School (Istanbul)
(19) members

Seoul Foreign School
(19) members

International School of Tanganyika
(18) members

Brent International School Manila
(17) members

Want to see the rest of the top 40 list of schools with the most members?  Check out this page which displays the names and avatar pictures of each member that either currently works at that school now or has worked there in the past.

So take a moment to browse our School list page, over members have worked at over 1200 international school from all over the world. Maybe you will find that we have some members who know about the international school about which you are looking to gain more information.

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Melbourne, Australia (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

December 26, 2019


Traveling Around: Melbourne, Australia

Can you relate?

  • learning a bunch a new words that are just abbreviations of words you already know in English.
  • eating out at restaurants and finding that there are all cuisines on offer in the city, so diverse!
  • taking a day trip to Phillip Island to find those fairy penguins, but also enjoy the lovely summer day full of sunshine.
  • having an encounter with a mob of 15 wild kangaroos by yourself with no one else around.
  • being amazed by all the different kinds of animals in the wild that many countries don’t have.
  • being shocked by how much the temperature can change from day to day, sometimes with a 20+C difference!
  • thinking that the prices for food at restaurants look expensive, but after converting the price into my host country current, realizing it is kind cheap here.
  • wanting to catch up with a local (a person I worked with at one of my past international schools) but finding out it wasn’t going to work out do to that person being too busy during the holiday season.
  • meeting up with a friend who just moved there and finding out all the details about the pros and cons of living and working there.
  • renting a car and finding it not that stressful to drive on the other side of the road.
  • going to a restaurant of your partner’s home country cuisine and talking to the servers and owner who were also from that country.
  • checking out places that you didn’t visit the first time that you were in Melbourne (Luna Park, the bathing houses, Flinders Station, etc.)
  • walking into the National Library and being amazed by the architecture of the place.
  • not buying one souvenir, but taking lots of pictures of all the unique buildings, both old and new.
  • being disappointed when arriving at a favorited restaurant to realize it was closed for the holiday season, then checking ahead of time if the next restaurants were open for future meals.
  • seeing a near crash between car and tram, ‘trams can’t swerve’ said the sign!
  • loving that the trams in the CBD are free to use for everyone, every day!

Currently, we have 31 international schools listed in Oceania on International School Community. 8 of them have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of those schools:

Kwajalein Senior High School24 Comments
Woodford International School12 Comments
International School Nadi9 Comments
Majuro Cooperative School8 Comments
Port Moresby International School8 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us here with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!

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