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Looking After Teachers, However Far They Go

May 1, 2019


Knowing that you have extra support in staying happy and healthy can play a key role in successfully settling into life as an expat teacher, says Mitesh Patel.

Career development, a completely new culture, better work-life balance – there are lots of factors that make teaching overseas a very attractive proposition. Good health care packages also play a part in tempting new talent to international schools as well as making sure staff stay safe and well once they’re there. After all, it can be stressful enough moving home to an area you know well, let alone to a country you may never have visited before.

Recently, there has been a noticeable shift in how international schools are turning their attention to supporting teachers’ mental and physical wellbeing in new and better ways. Finding a school that prioritises this can considerably improve your ‘settling in’ process. It’s also a sign of a school that places an emphasis on a happy and healthy learning environment, as anything that negatively impacts teachers can also negatively influence student wellbeing and progress.

When you move abroad, it’s of paramount importance to know where to turn when things don’t go to plan with your health. Getting food poisoning, for example, is never much fun but if you don’t know where to get help it can become downright scary. Unfortunately, there might also be occasions when you are faced with an emergency, such as discovering that the shortness of breath you’ve been suffering from whilst teaching in Baku is actually a symptom of something much more serious. Should this happen, knowing that every effort would be made to keep you in a familiar place with the support of your friends can be tremendously reassuring at an otherwise traumatic time.

In fact, when you are a long way from home, feeling cut off from your loved ones can really take its toll on mental and emotional health. For example, one of our member schools in China told us that their expat staff were finding life very difficult. Many were at the start of their careers, didn’t speak the local language and had moved abroad for the first time. Unfortunately, feelings of stress and isolation had begun to spread.

We quickly set up a dedicated crisis line for staff, giving them direct access to expert support with whom they could chat in their native language. We also helped the school to promote the line internally, to ensure teachers felt comfortable making that all-important call. It meant a negative spiral was nipped in the bud, and the new recruits could relax and enjoy their time.

It goes to show that it’s always possible to intervene and ensure your experience abroad is a roaring success. Remember, the first port of call is to check with your new school and see what resources and support they offer to help you look after your health and wellbeing.

Mitesh Patel is medical director at Aetna International. For more information, please contact emea_marketing@aetna.com or visit www.aetnainternational.com .