International school orientation must-have for new teachers #4: Help finding a place to live!
September 20, 2012
In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part of your start at your new school, in your new host country.
Must-have #4: Help finding a place to live!
Finding a place to live in any country can be a headache! When you involve different languages, different cultural traditions and norms, etc. finding an apartment can be even more of a headache. In turn, it is much appreciated if the administration/business staff at your new school can help you out.
Some international schools just place you in a compound that the school owns and you must live there for the whole length of your time working at that school. Other international schools don’t own or have a relationship with buildings or complexes through the city and you are meant to search and get your own place completely on your own. But there are more than just two kinds of experiences when it comes to where you will end up living after moving to your new international school. There are some that state you must live in a certain apartment for the entire first year you work at a school. After your first year, then you are allowed to find and move to a completely different apartment of your choice. Other international schools ask their current staff who are leaving if they can help to set up a new teacher to take over their apartment or they might even send out an email to the current staff asking around if any current teachers are looking for a roommate. If there are some options, then these schools will usually help to make the right connections so that you can immediately move into your new place with your new roommate.
If there aren’t any options for you and the school just places you in a specific place, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about as you know you will immediately have a place to live when you arrive without much of a headache. If there are options for you, you need to be prepared for potential headaches, unknowns and possible disappointments when you arrive. Additionally, you might need to be prepared to move two or three times during your first year. Your first place might be completely opposite to what you were thinking it would be!
If you can work it out and are lucky enough to visit the location that you will be moving to, then of course you can get some of the apartment searching done in person. How ideal would that be? I have a colleague that made a point to make a visit to their future city during the beginning part of the summer (before they officially moved there later that summer). They got the opportunity to view some apartments that the school had recommended to them in person. Not all of us can be so lucky though as to make a pre-move trip to check out possible living situations, but if you are able to, then for sure that would be beneficial.
A good international school will make sure to answer all your questions that you have about your future living situation. They should send pictures if applicable of your future apartment. They should request answers to a housing survey that they send to you, so that they can better gauge what type of place best suits your needs and wants (that is if the school does indeed help to find you a place). They should have language support available to you if you need some interpreting or translating of the rental documents. Good schools would even help you out to pay the sometimes high cost of a rental deposit (e.g apartments in Western Europe).
There are many international school teachers experiencing a wide range of experiences related to how they found a place to live.
Here are some firsthand accounts of how these international schools teachers found a place to live in the city they just moved to (and whether or not their new school helped them out or not):
“The Canadian Academy has a first year rule: all new teacher must live in school accommodations for the first year. This includes a variety of apartments and houses both on and off campus, and options depending on the number of dependents. All in all, they took care of everything, and it made it the best transition we’ve ever had. Besides getting a futon with pillows, sheets, and blankets, we had a stocked fridge, a basket of cleaning supplies and toiletries, snacks, a phone, a fax machine, furniture, and many more items. While I wouldn’t describe it as moving into a furnished place, it did have all the essentials. Also, after the first year, we’re free to move to our own choice of accommodations or select a new school housing option. Very user-friendly. A teacher from Canadian Academy (Kobe).
“My current school offered to help find an apartment, however I was more interested in finding share accommodation as I find that’s a nice quick way to make new friends and to always have someone on hand who know’s the area you live in. They put me onto a website for share housing and also asked around the school to see if anyone was interested in having a new teacher share with them. Someone did and now I share a house with two other people in a beautiful, artfully decorated place 3 minutes walk from school and town and for half the rent I would pay to live in a place on my own. I also didn’t need to pay any deposit. They’re happy for it to be short-term in case I decide to move into my own place later, but I’m thinking that staying here is a good thing. I would personally recommend seeking share housing to anyone (not in a couple) who is open to the idea. I’ve also experienced living in my own apartment straight out, but became bored with that after a year and moved into a new place with 2 other friends. It can also be a pain setting up a new apartment in terms of buying furniture, crockery and connecting the internet.” A teacher from The Bermuda High School for Girls.
“The school helps you find your first apartment before you arrive. Actually, all new teachers move into a gated community called Shanghai Gardens when I worked there. Basically all new teachers need to live there their first year. After that first year, then you can use the allotted housing if you decide to move and find your own place. When I moved into the apartment at Shanghai Gardens, it had all the furniture you would need. The school also left a ‘survival’ package of things to get you started (e.g. pots and pans, sheets, etc.). I was appreciative of the school helping to place new teachers in this building complex and the apartment; many of the staff in the business office could also speak English which was a perk. On the other hand, many teachers had a negative experience living at Shanghai Gardens. There were problems with the apartments sometimes (as some of them were owned by different owners). There were also problems with your bills at time, some of them being way too high from the price they should’ve been. I was quite happy to find a different apartment my second year there.” A teacher from Shanghai Rego International School.
“ACS Hillingdon was great to us in helping us find a place to live. They have a staff member, Maxine, who is there all year, including during the summer, and she worked with a local estate agent to help us find a flat that fit our needs, location, and price range. I know she drove several of even the pickiest people around to multiple places, and she knows the areas where the school’s bus routes go for those of us who don’t have a car.
The school even helped a newly hired couple whose flat was damaged by fire in the London riots of 2011 by giving them extra time off, arranging a place to stay while they looked for a new permanent residence, and even donating money from an emergency fund while insurance agencies worked through their claims.
A+ all the way around.” A teacher from Acs International School – Hillingdon Campus.
In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to housing – Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance.
Log-on today to check out the hundreds of comments and information submitted in this section topic! Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding a place in your new city.
So, does your school provide help for new teachers to find a place to live? Please share your experiences!