What Expats Must Endure

A visit to the immigration office

November 18, 2019


Last week I had to go and ask for a re-entry permit at a local immigration office. It is an integral part of life for most of expats to pay a visit to this place every now and then. The immigration office is usually the only governmental institution that we can turn to when we need a document or a service.

I had an appointment for the document that I needed to get, and I arrived on time for this appointment with all my application documents filled out correctly. And, of course, my non-expired passport with many blank pages for my re-entry permit.

The office looked nice and bright, and the wait was surprisingly not long at all. That made me feel like the government is taking care of me almost as good as of all the citizens of my host country. As soon as they called my number, I handed over the paperwork to the agent only to be told (to my great shock and disappointment) that I was in the wrong place!

The “right” place

As I was taking the metro across town to get to the other foreigners’ centre, I felt upset about wasting my time; especially because I was clearly following all the rules I found on the ministry’s website.

Finally, I arrived to the other immigration centre where I could get what I needed. This building looked nothing like the first one. It was in a dark alley, looking old and unpleasant. The air in it was stuffy and there were tons of people from all over the world and from all walks of life, including kids and babies that were watching cartoons in one corner (and other being rather loud!) of this big waiting room. Not a place you’d want to visit after a long day at work!

People seemed confused about what they should do, although the guards were trying to guide them through the ticketing and waiting system. The overall experience looked like pure agony not only for the clients, but for the employees of this place as well. I was thinking about what the clerks really thought of us (the immigrants in ‘their’ country). Did they take this job to help and support us or does this experience make them more anti-immigrant?

Why are expats so different?

After 45 minutes of wait, I finally got what I needed and walked out of this room. It was already dark outside, but I decided to walk home. I needed some fresh air after that stuffy, crowded place, not to mention the stress of all of this nonsense. I couldn’t help but wonder why does the government need to treat non-citizens so differently? Such is the case in probably many of our home countries as well.

Expats are just as hard-working, tax-paying and law-abiding members of society just like the actual citizens, so don’t they deserve the level of service that is just as high as everyone else? I can’t find a proper reason why would the governments constantly try to remind us that we are not equal to their citizens. Maybe it is just an issue of lack-of-funding, constantly changing immigration laws, or maybe the current politicians don’t care about us because we don’t have the right to vote.

What are your experiences that you must endure being an expat in your host country? Share your story by submitting an article for this blog series by contacting us here.

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Information for Members

Top 40 International Schools with the Most ISC Members (Update)

November 12, 2019


How many times have you applied to a school wishing that you knew somebody that worked there?

Knowing somebody and getting the ‘inside scoop’ on an international school could definitely help you in your quest to set up an interview there.

At International School Community, we made that search for ‘informed people’ even easier with our Top 40 Schools with the Most Members page.

international schools

Currently, our top 40 international schools with the most members are (12 November, 2019):

26 members – American International School in Egypt

international schools

24 members – Copenhagen International School
22 members – Western International School of Shanghai
22 members International School of Kuala Lumpur
21 members – International School Manila
19 members – Jakarta Intercultural School
18 members – MEF International School Istanbul
18 members – International School of Tanganyika
17 members – Seoul International School
16 members – International School Bangkok
16 members – American School Foundation of Mexico City
16 members – Graded School Sao Paulo
16 members – American School of Barcelona
16 members – United Nations International School (Vietnam)
13 members – Shanghai United International School (Hongqiao)
16 members – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana
15 members – Brent International School Manila
15 members – Seoul Foreign School
15 members – Fairview International School
15 members – Shanghai Community International School
14 membersAmerican International School (Vietnam)
14 members – Cairo American College
14 members NIST International School
14 members – Qatar Academy (Doha)
14 members – American School of Dubai
14 members – Singapore American School
14 members – Istanbul International Community School
13 members – Anglo-American School of Moscow
13 membersAmerican School of Kuwait
13 membersGood Shepherd International School
13 members – KIS International School (Bangkok)
13 members – Hong Kong International School
13 members – International School Beijing
13 members – American International School of Johannesburg
12 membersAmerican International School Dhaka
12 membersBilkent Laboratory & International School
12 members – Shanghai American School – Puxi
12 membersInternational School Dhaka
12 members – Shanghai American School – Pudong
12 members – Canadian International School (Singapore)

With 100-200 new members joining each month, this list will continue to grow and grow; with even more members showing up as potential people to network with.

It is simple to network on our website: just click on a member and then click on the ‘Contact this member’ button (premium member feature).  Then write him/her a message.  When your message is sent, the other member will get an email alert letting them know that they have a new message waiting for them on our website (so, hopefully he/she will get back to you in a timely manner!). Numerous International School Community members have already taken advantage of this unique feature on our website!

international schools

As far as we know, International School Community is the one of the only websites where you can quickly and easily network with real people at a specific international school.  Meaning, if you want to get in touch with somebody from Suzhou Singapore International School in China and you are currently a premium member of International School Community, you now have 12 members that you can contact on our website that either work there now or have worked there in the past.  Get the answers to your questions; now that is easy networking!

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Information for Members

All of ISC’s Many Unique Features

November 4, 2019


So many prospective international school teachers are always looking to answer these two questions: “What is it like working at XXX school?” and “What is it like living in XXX country/city?”

It is not so easy though to find answers to these questions.

At ISC, our mission is to show that information to these prospective international school teachers in a clear, easy to find format that is hopefully very informative to them.

But we don’t just stop there, we have added many unique features that make finding their answers faster, more interesting and fun. In this article, we would like to give an overview of the many unique features that ISC has to offer to its premium members.

School Comparison: School vs. School

Around two years ago, our dream came true when we launched our School Comparison page.

We placed each school’s submitted comments side by side, so that our members could make an easy comparison. It is a common request to know “which school is better?”, especially if you are considering two job offers at two sometimes very different schools.

The School Comparison page does just that. It places two schools “against” each other to see which one comes out on top. We are not aware of another website that does this!

Compare School Salaries

The number one thing prospective teachers want to know about is “How much money will I make working at XXX school?”

Why then is it almost impossible to find information about salaries before you are offered the position?

Yes, we have 1000s of comments about the salary details of 100s of international schools on the ISC website. However, we took it further and made a unique page so that our members can compare these school salary details side by side with other schools. If you are considering working in Shanghai, China, you can now easily search for only schools in Shanghai on this page and quickly compare which school has the better salary package for you.

School Vacancies History

Many website deal with posting job vacancies at international schools, but ISC has brought this to the next level as we leave expired vacancies on our website so that you can see which vacancies has been posted on a specific school over time.

If you really want to work at a specific international school and you see that they have recently hired your position during the last school year, it could give you some more insight about whether that position will be available for the next school year.

Comment Search Feature

Only ISC allows its members to search for specific comments. We have over 34000 comments that have been submitted on 1100+ international schools, but sometimes you just want to search for specific comments on a number of international schools, especially if you are open to working at a number of international schools in different parts of the world.

If you are looking for a school that often hires teaching couples, you can easily search those keywords to find 100s of comments related to that topic. Or if you are a single international school teacher, you might want to search these keywords as well to see which schools that might discriminate against single teachers and that prfioritize hiring teaching couples.

ISC actually has even more unique features, but here are four that really make our website standout. Of course, new features are always in the works. If you have a suggestion for another feature for the ISC website, contact us here. Otherwise, stay tuned for more unique features in the near future.

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Information for Members

ISC Introduces the Newest Comments Page!

October 27, 2019


On of the most visited pages on ISC is our Recently Updated Schools page. It shows the international schools that were most recently updated with new comments.

Now there is a faster way to find those new comments with the Newest Comments link on each school’s profile page. It is located just under the Overview link in the left column of a school’s profile page.

The Newest Comment page lists the last 20 comments that were submitted on that school.

Each of those 20 comments shows the date it was submitted, the Comment Topic Section and Comment Topic it was submitted in. And, of course, the new comment itself.

Once you are finished checking out the last 20 comments to be submitted on a school, then you can read the rest of the comments by clicking on the Comment Topic sections in the left column (School Information, Benefits Information, City Information, Travel Information).

It is what makes ISC so unique. Our mission was to have our members share information about the international schools they know about. But instead of having that information hiding in long paragraphs, etc. we’ve organized all of the information to be easily found into 66 comment topics. This organization helps our members find the information they are looking for faster!

Also, one of the best ISC features is the ability to see how the submitted comments in one comment topic have changed over time. Here is an example from Western International School of Shanghai’s profile page about housing allowances, etc.:

ISC is always looking to improve the user experience of our members. If you have other ideas for improvement or new feature ideas, please send us a message here.

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Discussion Topics

Where Do International Educators Go When They Need a Break?

October 22, 2019


“Taking a year on” is what principal Nichole Schmidt called the time away from her international school position in the article “Taking a Year.” Schmidt, with her husband and sons, packed up to travel around parts of Africa for a ten-month adventure. Isn’t it more inspiring “to take a year on” than needing to take a year off?  

What about retirement? In “The Power of Time Off,” Stefan Sagmeister shares his scheduled year off every seven years to work on projects he is unable to pursue during his regular year. Sagmeister breaks down a worker’s lifetime into nearly 25 years of learning, 40 years of working, and for those lucky enough to live to the age of 65, 15 years of retirement. Why wait for retirement? 

What follows are a few opportunities available to U.S. citizens to take a year on while staying abroad.

Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching: U.S. American primary and secondary teachers interested in making a move to overseas schools, but not ready to commit to an initial 2-year contract can apply for short term (2-6 weeks) or semester-length programs (3-6 months). As part of the program, teachers can pursue individual projects, conduct research, take courses for professional development and actively share their experiences with local teachers in schools, teacher training colleges, government ministries, and educational NGOs. To review eligibility criteria: https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/fulbright-distinguished-awards-teaching-us-teachers.

Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program is a year-long professional development opportunity open to primary and secondary school teachers interested in developing skills to prepare students for a competitive global economy.   

For those trained to teach English language learners, the U.S. Department of State sponsors the English Language Fellowship and Specialist Programs. This role advertises a new challenge or a life-changing career move for TESOL trained teachers to teach in new contexts and gain unique international experience. https://elprograms.org

Peace Corps Response positions are open to U.S. Citizens with significant professional experience, not just former Peace Corp Volunteers. Positions vary from 6 to12 months, may have a language requirement, and include position titles such as educational specialists, special education advisors, deaf education specialists, environmental education teacher trainer, health facilitator, literacy coordinator, e-learning specialist, math education or science instructor, primary education curriculum and design specialist, and more. Visit for more information: https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openingshttps://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openings/.

I took a “year on “working as a TEFL Teacher with Fulbright Taiwan. To learn about this opportunity, visit here.

A few months into my year on, I have to say I do miss some things: the academic calendar, full salary, and benefits, connecting with fellow international educators, and the bonds that come from working with students in the classroom. 

What I am gaining this year is an opportunity to provide teacher training to local teachers and frequent travel opportunities as I give workshops at various schools in Taiwan. While not working, I have had the chance to pursue other interests, such as writing more as I spend less time grading.   

While the opportunities shared may be limited to U.S. Citizens, what opportunities are out there to other nationalities?  

Articles Cited

Sagmeister, Stefan. “The Power of Time Off.” TED, www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off#t-206460.

“Taking a Year.” Taking a Year | The International Educator (TIE Online), www.tieonline.com/article/2375/taking-a-year.

This article was submitted by ISC member Ellen Johnston. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact here her. Check our her other submitted article on the ISC blog here – The Journey to School: Tarsus American College (Turkey),

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