The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Harrow Haikou International School (Haikou, Hainan, China)

July 18, 2022


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 Harrow Haikou International School (Haikou, Hainan, China), described the way she gets to work as follows:

The road to Harrow Haikou International School in China

Haikou is the capital city of the smallest province in China, Hainan island. It is located in the South of China and has a comfortable tropical wet and dry climate. Haikou is also known as the “Coconut City”, displaying its charm with lots of little cafes and restaurants, lush green parks and vibrant life. With the sea on three sides, beaches, seaside resorts, wetlands and tropical wildlife, the city is the main port of Hainan.

“Harrow Haikou” school is a pertinent project for the Hainan government as they transform Haikou into an international education hub. The school is in the Jiandong New area, a major zone in Hainan Free Trade Port with new infrastructure in high-speed development. This area will be home to a new international trading hub for energy, shipping, commodities and financial instruments.

Harrow Teachers can rent apartments at the Kaiwei compound close to the school and a 6-km-long beach.

The teachers could also choose to live in the city, making their travel much longer yet more accessible to shopping malls, entertainment venues, bars and dining options.

I live in Kaiwei because it is convenient to commute to school. We have a little store here, and Guilinyang village with fruit & vegetables market is not so far away. There’s a children’s playground, a swimming pool and a beautiful golf course with walking paths around it.

As you get closer to school, it becomes less developed. The school is surrounded by a protected forest area which is quite pretty.

Many teachers who live in Kaiwei purchase an e-bike for the morning ride to school, which would take no longer than 7-8 minutes. Walking from Kaiwei to school or the local beach would take approximately 15-20 minutes. Three school buses take staff from different parts of the city to school and back, and one stops at Kaiwei.

In the morning, I wake up to this view, overlooking the city street from one side and the quad within the compound from the other.

I generally leave between 7:10 and 7:20 am to arrive at school before 7:30 am.

The traffic is usually smooth, with just a few vehicles and no rush. I feel safe as I use bike lanes. Only in case of heavy rain, it is more convenient for me to take the school bus. In the school’s underground parking, I can charge my e-bike for just 0,30 RMB, which will last me a week.

I love my morning e-bike ride to school because I can get there quickly, feeling the refreshing breeze and enjoying the beautiful greenery on the way.

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by an ISC member, Aleksandra Grbic. She is currently the Head of Music and Performance at Harrow Haikou International School. Aleksandra has been working in international schools for 15 years in Thailand, the UAE and China. You can find her on Linkedin.

What to know more about what it is like to visit and live in China?  Out of a total of 216 international schools that we have listed in China, 151 have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of them:

Access International Academy (Ningbo) (48 total comments)
Beanstalk International Bilingual School (Beijing) (59 total Comments)
Beijing BISS International School (79 total Comments)
Beijing International Bilingual Academy (118 total Comments)
Changchun American International School (157 total comments)
Concordia International School (Shanghai) (180 total Comments)
Guangdong Country Garden School (71 total Comments)
International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (88 total Comments)

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.

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The Journey to School

The Journey to School: American International School of Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)

March 20, 2022


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 at which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the American International School of Budapest (Budapest, Hungary), described the way she gets to work as follows:

The road to American International School of Budapest in Hungary

My journey to school each morning starts downtown in the heart of Budapest. Before it was united in 1873, Budapest used to be two smaller towns, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube river. Buda is the hilly more residential side to the west while Pest is the flatter, more touristy downtown to the east. Being a city person myself, there was no doubt that when I got a job at the American International School of Budapest, I would choose to live on the Pest side. One thing that was a tick in the “PRO” column for me in choosing to move to Budapest was that there is a great public transportation network that not only covered the entire city but could bring me all the way to the front gate of the school. (I did not want to get a car!) For the first half school year, I did take public transportation every morning and that took me just over an hour each way. I had to change two times though (tram + tram + bus), so that was not ideal. By the second semester, I had found myself a carpool saving me a significant amount of time each morning, but the need to get back home after school in a timely manner following various meetings and activities convinced me to finally buy a car in year two.

Of course, not everyone chooses to live so far from school. Many families live in the village of Nagykovácsi where our school is located and they are able to live in houses with big backyards and enjoy a commute that is under five minutes. Some even walk or bike to school. Other teachers choose to live on the Buda side but not quite so close to school. One popular area is near Széll Kálmán tér (circled on the map) which is a transportation hub making it easy to get to both school and the Pest side. Because the Buda side is very hilly, many of the apartments on this side offer lovely views.

Back to the journey . . .

This is the street where I live. I generally leave between 7:00 and 7:10 am. The drive takes about 30 minutes, and during that time, I catch up on podcast episodes.

One of the benefits of having to cross the river to get to school is getting to see this view every morning. It never gets old!

Here are some of the buildings I see along the way to school each day.

As you get closer to school, it becomes less developed. The school is surrounded by a protected forest area which is quite pretty.

On the final approach to school, you can see the campus off to the left. It really is a sight to see. All of this open area to the left here was recently purchased by AISB ensuring that a future development doesn’t come close to the school.

Finally, here is the entrance to the upper building of the school where the middle and high schools are located. (The elementary building is at the bottom of the hill and connected by a bridge.) I usually arrive around 7:40 a.m. Teachers have to be at school by 8:00 a.m., so this gives me a little bit of quiet time in my room before the day starts.

The drive home takes about 45 minutes on a good day. On a bad day it can be closer to an hour (occasionally more). Still, after eight years, I’ve never been convinced to move closer to school.

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by an ISC member, Lindsay Manzella. Lindsay has been working in international schools since 2010. You can find out more at her blog The Present Perfect or on Twitter @MsMTeachesELLs .

What to know more what it is like to visit and live in Hungary?  Out of a total of 6 international schools we have listed in Hungary, 4 have had comments submitted on them. Here they are:

American International School of Budapest (81 total comments)
Britannica International School Budapest (67 total Comments)
British International School Budapest (12 total Comments)
Greater Grace International School (7 total Comments)

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.

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Highlighted Articles

Making Friends Outside of Your International School is…

August 30, 2020


…HARD!

I don’t know about you, but I think making friends outside of your school community can be one of your biggest challenges when you live abroad.

International teachers hanging out in a bar

If you are an outgoing person, maybe it is a bit easier. However, if you are on an introverted side and also don’t know the local language, then you are up against a steep hill.

Either way, you could say that it is just safer and more comfortable to be friends with your colleagues at your international school. You usually have a lot in common with your colleagues as they also like adventure, share your love for traveling, and have the same vacation calendar as you.

But to get the most out of your international school teaching experience, the elusive goal of many international school teachers is to make some local friends, too.

Lonely expat on the street

If you don’t know the local language yet, then you are limited to the locals that are able to speak English (or your home language). Normally, these locals already have other foreigner friends and most likely have traveled internationally or had even lived abroad. These locals are easy to find as friends because you have a lot in common. For example, you probably have many places to go visit and hang out together in the city. If you are lucky, these locals are even available to do some traveling with you during your vacations.

To meet locals who don’t speak English and have a very tight-knit group of friends, let’s say, is a different story. To befriend the locals is typically easier if you have a partner or spouse that is also a local. If that is the case, then you have “a ticket in” to those exclusive groups of friends. Having these kinds of local friends really can give you the “VIP level” on the experience of the city and country that you are living in. These locals know what and where things are happening. International school teachers without these types of friends typically miss out on a number of cultural events and are left without a deep insight into the local lifestyle.

Expat friends talking

One of the ultimate events in your friendship with a local is to be invited over to their house, even better – for a meal. It can be that you invite a local to your house for dinner multiple times before finally, the stars align and they invite you back to their place. If you are at your international school for only two years, that might not be enough time for this to happen. Building this kind of relationship usually takes longer than that.

What is your experience with making friends in your host city/country? Logon to ISC and share what you know by submitting some comments on your school’s profile page.

When using the keyword search feature (premium membership required), we found 143 comments about friends. Read below a few that are connected to making friends outside of your international school.

Comments about Making Friends

“Leysin is a small mountain village and as a result, the community is limited. There is a definite LAS bubble and most of the staff spend time outside of work with each other. It is rare to meet and become friends with people outside of the school community unless you have worked here for many years. It isn’t easy being single here, but the lifestyle is worth it if you love the outdoors and the mountains. It is a quiet village and a great place to live if you don’t like the city.” – Leysin American School (113 total comments)

“I find my Albanian friends quite generous: they always fight to pay the bill in a coffee shop but also for lunch. It is a local tradition though, and keep in mind that, if you want to keep your friends close to you, next time will be your turn. It is important to understand quickly these cultural habits as it will allow you to make good friends. One thing that it is generally badly perceived is to be stingy in friendship.” – Albanian College Durres (111 total comments)

“The locals are very friendly and accommodating. We recently went on a one-day trip with a local tour company. As the only foreigners, we didn’t have much company at the beginning but we found out the locals on the trip actually spoke a very good level of English. By the end of the day, we made friends with many of them!” – Khartoum International Community School (153 total comments)

“Lots of people learning English in Saigon and they will all want to practice with you. Learning some Vietnamese helps with bonding and making local friends but generally, a lot of people speak or are learning to speak English.” – Renaissance International School Saigon (52 total comments)

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Discussion Topics

The Interview Process: Insight into 12 international schools on what they do

February 2, 2020


International School Community is full of tens of thousands of useful, informative comments…35536 comments (2 Feb. 2020) to be exact.

Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website. In one of the 66 comment topics, they are encouraged to share their experiences interviewing with international schools. How did it go? Was it easy to get? Recruitment fair or Skype? What did you have to do? Was the experience positive or less than ideal?

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most interesting and insightful about each school’s interview process.

1.

“Interviews are usually handled via Skype by the Head of School. HR manages the hiring process very well. Faculty recommendations for new staff are heavily considered.” –North Jakarta Intercultural School (99 total comments)

2.

“GIS uses renowned recruiting agencies and also posts its vacancies in its website. Candidates must send their CVs and educational statement to:
principal@issaopaulo.com.br . Initial contact is done via email, inviting candidate for skype/ whatsapp interview. Should they pass this phase, then they are interviewed by the educational consultant. Once both parties are happy, a letter of engagement is sent and visa process which is taken care of by the school is initiated. Teachers must have a fully qualified teaching degree and at least two years experience. The school is committed to offer PYP training.” –GIS – The International School of Sao Paulo (22 total comments)

3.

“I had a very positive interview experience, yet no job offer. The process was fast. I applied one day and the next was called for a skype interview. The next day I interviewed for a second time. No restrictions that I am aware of.” – Veritas International School (3 total comments)

4.

“I was interviewed by skype, first with 2 persons from my department, nearly a month later there was a 2nd interview with the school director.
The whole process lasted about 2 months.” – Euroamerican School of Monterrey (10 total comments)

5.

“Each interview comes with a demo lesson. The main purpose is to see if you click with the kids and can get their attention. The second main criterion is that you must be able to not be teacher-centered. Basic.” – Assumption College Sriracha (47 total comments)

6.

“Hiring is done through direct applications as well as through Search Associates. First interview is with the head of school (which they call “principal” here), followed by a second interview with the head of section (secondary, primary, or little KICS). No hiring restrictions I’m aware of, even age limit doesn’t seem to be a problem, although I’m not 100% sure on that one.” – Khartoum International Community School (116 total comments)

7.

“If you want to apply to NIST, prepare for it well in advance. Whether you go through ISS-Schrole or Search, have all your docs ready to upload and make sure your referees are ready to submit their recommendations online. There’s also a recorded safeguarding interview that you’ll have to complete as one of the final steps if you’re being considered for a position, so think about how you would answer questions related to that area.” – NIST International School (298 total comments)

8.

“The complete hiring took a pretty long time. I went through 4 interviews and had to do a very extensive background check. Make sure you apply with plenty of time. The interviews were pretty nice, people seemed always friendly and requested a live demo lesson.” – The Village School (24 total comments)

9.

“Religion is not discussed in hiring, except to ensure that potential staff members have read and are in agreement with their open and inclusive Religious Life policy. Interviews are far more focused on teaching (newly adopted MYP/DP means they’re looking for those with experience) and whether the active lifestyle (walking up and down the hilly campus) would be a good fit. Single parents would do well here; with a large of number of staff kids and the school’s activities, there would be a community of support.” – Woodstock School (128 total comments)

10.

“Once shortlisted, an applicant will be scheduled for a panel interview that consists of the headmaster, principal, assistant principal, and head of department via Skype. HR will contact the successful applicant with a job offer. Age restrictions have been relaxed.” – TEDA Global Academy (85 total comments)

11.

“CMIS advertises openings on the school website and TIE online. interview process is fairly direct, generally consisting of 2 to 3 interviews with section administrator and then the school superintendent.” – Chiang Mai International School (24 total comments)

12.

“I just interviewed with this school over Skype. There was the first interview with the actually staff that you would be working with, and then a follow up interview with the Principal/Head of School. Each interview lasted around 50 minutes. Just a note to consider, Singapore/the school doesn’t allow for non-teaching partners to get a work visa. They will need to get a work visa themselves if they want to work there, or they can also sign up and register a company (which I guess is easy to do and cheap) and then they can do work there.” – Nexus International School – Singapore (54 total comments)

If you have interviewed at an international school and know first hand knowledge about their interview process, log in to International School Community and submit your comment. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

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The Journey to School

The Journey to School: International School of Brussels

September 22, 2017


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 International School of Brussels (Belgium), described her way to work there as follows:

The road to International School of Brussels…

The International School of Brussels is located in a leafy suburb of Brussels and nestled along the ancient Forêt de Soignes which is filled with towering trees and a variety of paths.  The school began in an old chateau (that is still referred to as “the chateau”) but has since expanded to fill a campus that has separate buildings for each division and a variety of facilities.  Today, the chateau is the main physical symbol of the school and houses administration, human resources, admissions as well as key personnel such as the school’s director and team.

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Arrival at the school takes many different forms.  Some teachers have settled into local life and come by car while others take advantage of the free yearly transport pass and arrive by bus, metro or tram.  The location of your home will determine the best form of transport.  Many of the younger teachers prefer to live in the Ixelles area near the Flagey ponds where they are between the center and the school.  From Flagey, they can catch a 366 TEC bus that takes them in 20 minutes to the doorstep of the school.  Departure times during the school year are at 6:48, 7:30 and 7:50 am and teachers often sit together as they ride into school.  

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Flagey Ponds

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Bus stop next to Ponds

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TEC bus entering Watermael Boitfort

Another option from Ixelles or the other side of town in Woluwe St.  Pierre is the 94 tram which is more convenient for some as it leaves more frequently but it does require a 10 minute walk to school (The 94 tram cars are brand new and feature leather seats, laminate wood flooring and easy accessibility).  In the morning the walk from the tram stop at Delleur is a pleasant downhill stroll but in the afternoon, it can be a bit of a hike up.  The tram can be a bit slower than a bus, but it conveniently leaves at regular intervals.

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Some teachers also enjoy biking to school.  There are marked paths along most major routes and this is a mode of transport that’s becoming more popular.  While paths are marked, cyclists still need to be aware as drivers can sometimes get very close to the bike paths.  Biking along Franklin Roosevelt takes you past some beautiful embassy buildings as well as some architectural gems from the Art Nouveau era in Brussels.  There’s also an option to cycle on the winding roads that pass through the Bois de la Cambre, a serene manicured park on the edge of the city that connects to the more wild Forêt de Soignes.

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An area of growing popularity to live in has been the town where the school is located, Watermael Boitfort.  There is a lovely village and the walk to school is quick and pleasant.  This is a nice option if you’re actively involved in coaching and need to arrive at school early in the AM or if you want the shortest commute possible and a chance to run home if you’ve forgotten something.  Rent can be a bit more expensive in this area but the teachers who have moved there believe it’s worth it for the convenience.

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Parking on campus is getting more tight but there’s generally always space if you come by car.  Brussels is an easy city to own a car in.  Expenses such as taxes and insurance are relatively low and gas is manageable if you’re mostly using the car for commuting.  The school also offers financial assistance for kilometers traveled in lieu of the yearly Brussels transport pass as an option for drivers.

On a good day, I set my alarm for 6:15 so that I can leave my apartment in Ixelles with my car and arrive at school by 7 to get in a morning workout in the school fitness center.  The fitness center has showers so if there aren’t too many teachers working out, I can sneak in a quick shower before walking to my classroom by 8:10 to prepare for the start of the day at 8:40.  On a bad day (or after a late night), I can set my alarm for 7 and leave by 7:50 which gets me to school by 8:10 or 8:15.  Campus security has been beefed up after the terrorist attacks a few years ago so entering by the large double gates sometimes takes a few minutes if there is a line up of cars. Most teachers are on campus relatively early and until the late afternoon so in the darker winter months, everything is well-lit.  Some teachers stay later on campus taking advantage of faculty fitness classes or free language classes but others are just as eager to head out and try one of the many local beers.

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Back entrance to ISB Campus

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Morning sports practice on the upper field

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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 what it is like to visit and live in Western Europe?  Out of a total of 298 international schools we have listed in Western Europe, 137 that have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:

Metropolitan School Frankfurt (60 comments)
Bilingual European School of Milan (31 Comments)
American International School of Rotterdam (45 Comments)
Skagerak International School (42 Comments)
AMADEUS International School Vienna (70 Comments)
International School of Paphos (105 Comments)
Copenhagen International School (316 Comments)
International School of Helsinki (41 Comments)
Berlin British School (31 Comments)
International School of Stuttgart (61 Comments)

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.

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Information for Members

12 Submitted Comments About the “Excellent” Parts of Working at International Schools

September 12, 2017


International School Community is full of tens of thousands of useful, informative comments…22211 comments (12 Sept. 2017) to be exact.

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Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website and share what they know about what it is like working at a specific international school.

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most interesting and useful ones related to the “excellent” parts of working at international schools from across the globe.

12. Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.

“Currently, insurance is through Scholars International. Coverage for medical care in the United States is something like 70% (not great) but outside of the US, coverage is great. Local hospitals are excellent and many teachers have surgeries, medical treatments (including cancer treatments), ect here in Korea. Our school is close to an amazing International Hospital, Severance Hospital at Yonsei University. Many other hospitals in the area are also well-known and provide excellent care!” – Seoul Foreign School (South Korea, Seoul) – 133 Comments

11. Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

“Keystone was built in 2013/14 as a purpose-built school. It looks like a New England or UK boarding school. It’s facilities are excellent. There is a fabulous performing arts centre, lots of meeting areas and tons of classrooms. The sports facilities are also top-notch. The grounds are well-kept. The staff apartments are spacious and well-appointed. There are separate primary and middle/high school buildings as well as the sports hall, residences and the performing arts centre. The management is also upgrading and maintaining facilities as needed. The surrounding area is very suburban. This is not downtown Beijing. There are grocery stores close by as well as a couple of small shopping malls. There are stores catering to expats nearby too.” – Keystone Academy (China, Beijing) – 54 Comments

10. Name some special things about this school that makes it unique.

“Since 2010 there have been 2 Head Teachers, 2 Primary Heads and 2 Deputy Heads due to overarching management cost cutting and general incompetencies. As well as massive staff turnovers. People see out their contracts and don’t renew because money, housing and work life balance are better at other schools. However that being said, the teachers at the school both primary and secondary are excellent teachers. Very social, helpful and happy. They bind together and get along well. The teachers that have left have gone into fantastic things, probably because of the chaos that comes from management, has built these people to make it in the real world. Lasting friendships between the teachers and everyone looks after everyone. I did enjoy the comradary here.” – Jumeira Baccalaureate School (United Arab Emirates, Dubai) – 104 Comments

9. How have certain things improved since you started working there?

“The Academic Registrar for the past two years has done much to review, simplify and streamline processes. She has also maintained – latterly when support has been lacking – almost single-handedly excellent relations with staff, parents, students and the expatriate community when helping to market the school.” – The International School of Sanya (China, Sanya) – 29 Comments

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8.Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus..

“The school has a wonderful multistory building with fully equipped Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Computer Science laboratories. There is a gymnasium and multi cuisine food court as well. The auditorium of the school is excellent with a seating capacity of around 800.” – Gandhi Memorial International School (Indonesia, Jakarta) – 6 Comments

7. What types of sports programs and activities does the school offer? 

“Football is the main sport and both boys and girls are involved in football. Also basketball is popular, The school has excellent facilities.” – Colegio Los Nogales Bogota (Colombia, Bogota) – 33 Comments

6. In general, describe the demeanor of the students.

“Generally, excellent. 2013’s comment still stands; Wells is fortunate to have students from not the “richest” families of Bangkok, so a degree of humbleness still exists in most.” – Wells International School (Thailand) (Thailand, Bangkok) – 55 Comments

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5. Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.

“Health insurance provided. Taiwan has excellent and affordable national health insurance.” – Ivy Collegiate Academy (Taiwan, Taichung City) – 41 Comments

4. What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school?

“This is a good place to be in. The working atmosphere is excellent and as teachers we can do and suggest many things in order to help with the school’s normal development. We have reached to a point were we are stable in terms of foreign staff and locals do everything they can to help foreign teachers to feel as comfortable as possible.” – Changchun American International School (China, Changchun) – 71 Comments

3. Describe proximity of major airport hubs to the city center and give sample taxi, train, subway and/or bus fares to get there.

“Hong Kong has excellent public transport. You can check in at IFC in Central or Kowloon half a day before the flight and then take your time shopping, eating, or sightseeing. The express train to the airport is quick, comfortable, and inexpensive. There are numerous buses and the MTR. As well, taxis are readily available, as are hire cars.” – Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (China, Hong Kong) – 111 Comments

2. Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.

“More local teachers than expat. There are approximately 15-20 American teachers working at the school. Local teachers speak excellent English and are great colleagues.” – American School of Belo Horizonte (Brazil, Belo Horizonte) – 46 Comments

1. How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?

“Compared to teaching in the UK this is a dream, as long as you are prepared for the culture shock of living in a small village of thirteen million. Small classes, good behaviour and a genuine interest in study, excellent resources, great quality of life. Admin is less than in the UK although it is creeping up. Some of it good, some of it of limited value (just like the UK). I enjoy my teaching and the travel opportunities this place offers.” – Wellington College International Tianjin (China, Tianjin) – 54 Comments

If you have an interesting and useful comment to add related to the excellent parts at your school that you would like to share, log in to International School Community and submit your comments. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

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Surveys

New Survey: How does your international school compare to other schools in your city?

May 11, 2016


A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  How does your international school compare to other schools in your city?

Screenshot 2016-05-11 22.18.37

Once you move to a city to work at your new international school, you find out pretty soon how your school compares to the other ones in the same city. Who knows how that happens, but it does.

The teachers at the schools labeled the worst feel embarrassed to even bring up their international school in conversation with other international school educators in the area or even throughout the world. In comparison, the teachers at the school labelled the “top” school in the city can have their heads held up high.

So then the question is what makes a school get the top or the worst ranking in the city? At International School Community, we like to think that all schools have something cool about them that makes them unique; which in turn makes them have a great learning environment for their kids.

See our blog article called “What Makes Your International School Unique?” for a look at this topic and also some related comments about a number of international schools around the world.

But it is not just these unique things that get internationals schools to the top or the bottom of the list, it has to do with a combination of different factors. Factors that come into play are the current state of the school’s building and campus, the quality of teachers and teaching, the benefits package for the teacher (the salary), the professional development opportunities, etc.

Though it is true that some cities in the world only have one international school in them, which in turn, I guess makes them the best international school in the city. But other cities in the world (e.g. Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, etc.), there are many international schools to choose from (for both parents and teachers). These cities have international schools that are actively competing for the top spot!

So, how does your international school compare to other schools in your city? Please take a moment and submit your vote!

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We have a comment topic related to this survey, except it is comparing international schools with home country ones. It is called: “How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?

Here are a few sample comments from this comment topic:

“One of the biggest differences between the NIS schools and most other schools around the world is to do with vacations. In many countries, when students are not in school, neither are the teachers, with some exceptions for things like PD Days and report writing, etc.. This is not the case at NIS schools; regardless of whether the students are in school or not, teachers are expected to attend. If a teacher wishes to be absent, she or he must request leave – paid or unpaid. Given that international teachers have a total allowance of 56 days of paid leave (which includes weekend days if they are within the leave period), this can have a serious impact on vacations.” – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana (Astana, Kazakhstan)37 Comments

“It is very much based along English public school lines, but with a strong international flavour and ethos. There are many more nationalities present in the school than you would normally find in an English school.” – St. Julians School (Lisbon, Portugal)9 Comments

“Compared to teaching in the UK this is a dream, as long as you are prepared for the culture shock of living in a small village of thirteen million. Small classes, good behaviour and a genuine interest in study, excellent resources, great quality of life. Admin is less than in the UK although it is creeping up. Some of it good, some of it of limited value (just like the UK). I enjoy my teaching and the travel opportunities this place offers.” – Wellington College International Tianjin (Tianjin, China)54 Comments

“Different: The teacher’s salaries and the new teacher induction and support program are dismal. Same: Budget and lack of professional development opportunities within the school due to very strict labor laws.” – American School of Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain)26 Comments

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #19: Andrew Vivian (An veteran international teacher currently working at MV Education Services)

December 1, 2012


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Andrew Vivian:

(This member spotlight is a continuation from an interview we did earlier which can be found here.)

From there, we spent a year in Guangzhou, China, at Utahloy International School, with Helen as Primary Principal and me as Head of Science. Guangzhou, despite the air quality, was a really nice place to live. We started off in an apartment in town, while we looked for a place big enough to hold our material possessions – for us, home is where we live, and we take our furniture and everything with us, so relocation costs are substantial. We ended up in a ground-floor apartment out of town, but only a cheap 30-minute taxi ride to “the action”. The shopping was the main attraction, particularly for Helen,

We were asked to come and work at a school in Jakarta, and relocated, because we wanted to continue teacher training and we love Indonesia. Things didn’t work out, and we decided to try our hands at consulting, because we have a lot of connections with Indonesian private schools and Helen is a well-established Primary Years Programme workshop leader for the IB. After a year and a half for Helen, and a year for me, we are keeping the wolf from the door. Helen does a lot of IB workshops around Asia, and is working with the management of a school in East Jakarta. I’ve done one workshop for the IB, a few in Jakarta and one in Beijing. My main work has been a couple of tours doing school inspections in Dubai. I’ve done some course writing and prepared some teaching materials for a couple of organisations. We have just finalised our working visas and our Indonesian company, and will, hopefully, be expanding our business soon.

Teaching internationally has been great for us. We’ve had a few heartbreaks, but, overall we have been able to save money, travel, and every day brings a new experience. We have been to most of the countries in Asia, and some amazing places in them. We speak Bahasa Indonesia, so, when we see something interesting, we can ask questions. One of our delights in Surabaya was just walking through the villages behind us, and talking to the locals.

We’ve had a lot of funny experiences, and no really dangerous ones. For example, we were on a boat up river in Kalimantan, after visiting the orang-utan sanctuary, when the boat broke down, 50 km from the port. We literally hitch-hiked with a passing fisherman. Enroute to Tibet, we stopped in Chengdu, in China. We caught a taxi to a restaurant recommended in a guide book. Half-way there, we realised that we didn’t have the hotel’s card, so we had no way of knowing where to go back to or how to communicate it to anyone. After dinner it took us two taxi rides and a 1km walk before we recognised a landmark.

International schools are funny places – some are excellent. Also, the “true” international schools now make up only a fraction of the places in which you can teach internationally and in tougher economic times, in Asia, at least, they have increasing numbers of local students anyway. Overall the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. Our philosophy is that we want to make a difference, so that working in host-country schools that offer IB programmes is our preference. Not everyone is comfortable in these sort of schools, but they are the places that give real insight into other cultures.

Many people like to teach overseas for the change in locale. That is a factor for us, but it is more about the sort of school we work in. For us, working in IB schools has been fabulous. We have been to most of the regional conferences over the past ten years and have met so many talented, committed people. We get to visit schools and help teachers do it better. In the process, we keep learning something new about education most days.

One thing I would recommend is to get everything in writing and even then, depending on which country you are in, it doesn’t matter any way if someone decides to be unpleasant. If you are prepared to “roll with the punches”, while sticking to your principles, then teaching internationally can be amongst the best things you can do in education.

In 5 words: adventure, culture, education, difference, satisfaction.

Make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.

Thanks Andrew!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Guangzhou like Andrew?  Currently, we have 8 international schools listed in Guangzhou on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American International School of Guangzhou (12 Comments)
Guangzhou Nanhu International School (4 Comments)
Alcanta International College (6 Comments)
Guangzhou Huamei International School (5 Comments)
Clifford International School (8 Comments)
The Affiliated High School of SCNU (8 Comments)

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Highlighted Articles

Highlighted Article: An educator shares about his over 20 years of experience working at and with international schools (Part 1)

October 9, 2012


An educator shares about his experiences working over 20 years in and with international schools (Part 1)

I began teaching a long time ago, in a brand new high school, 35km south east of Melbourne, Australia. I was trained as a Science and Mathematics teacher, but, over the years, I’ve taught just about everything except Art – it has really helped to give me an understanding of how young people learn. I worked in secondary schools around Melbourne for a while, and had a stint as a government curriculum consultant in my district.

A friend had induced my former wife and I to go on a group tour to Bali, the first time I had been overseas (like many, many Australians). We then visited the same friend when she went to work in Penang, and then I was fortunate to be part of a trip to Los Angeles and Brazil through Rotary.

My former spotted an advertisement in the paper for Hiroshima International School. I applied, and got the job as the teacher of 25 grade 6 to 10 students. At that time, the school was in the process of planning a move from a small warehouse in the inner suburbs to a new school further out. We had two small children, and lived in a house about 1km up the hill (and there are plenty of them in Japan) from the school.

Living in Japan was wonderful, and we had a lot of amazing experiences. We made friends with our neighbours, even though only one of them spoke English, and we spoke virtually no Japanese. Everyone we met was very friendly. We returned to Melbourne after one year and resumed a normal suburban existence.

My true international career began much later, when things weren’t going that well in my life. I went to an information night for a recruiting agent. It was mentioned that Bali International School needed an IT person, so I went home, adjusted my CV accordingly, and got the job. I worked with some very talented teachers in a small school, and met my wife, Helen, there. During my fourth year, things didn’t quite go to plan, and I found myself helping a friend establish a small school, which became an economic casualty of the Bali bombing. It was at B.I.S. that I first became involved with the International Baccalaureate, through the Middle Years Programme. I really liked it, because it was in line with what we had been doing in secondary schools back in Australia. Bali was a good place to live, and we all worked hard and partied hard.

Helen and I found jobs at Sekolah Ciputra, in Surabaya. I was running their new international program, out of Melbourne, with 12 students out of 90 in Grade 12. Helen was a classroom teacher, but, during the break, successfully applied for the position of Elementary Principal. By the end of the first year, I found myself as Secondary Principal. We were there for seven years, and turned it into an excellent 3-programme IB school. A major factor was the professional development that we did with our colleagues every week. It was very difficult at first, because we were foreigners who were really changing the paradigms, but we persevered and still keep in touch with many of our Indonesian colleagues.

The school was in a large estate on the western outskirts of the city, and we had a great lifestyle, Golf, on a fabulous course, was part of the contracts, and we often hacked our way around. We could go for bicycle ride out through the villages on the weekends and there was enough to do in the city to keep us occupied.

Stay tuned next month for the 2nd part of this article.  In the meantime, make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.

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Discussion Topics

The Taxi-Lives of International School Teachers

February 4, 2012


I imagine it’s raining. There are way too many substances in my blood, and I can’t separate my alterations. One moment I’m high as a kite flying on happy bliss, the next I’m weary and tetchy. Did I mention it’s raining? I’m just hardly on my feet – is it true that a giraffe’s offspring learns to walk just hours after it’s born? – If so, I haven’t advanced past my fetus state. It’s colder than yesterday when it was the coldest since the day before; I see where this is going. Then my savior is there. Just two steps away. And inside, relaxed on the backseat, the taxi drives away. The city and all its shining lights merge, as Amsterdam disappears in the background. There’s too much laughter, too many dogs barking, too much purple prose, women in barely nothing, and the men that haunt them. There’s the man selling Chinese proverbs, the woman selling flowers, selling madrigals, selling good time. I usually never take a taxi home, but sometimes nightlife just creeps under your skin, and you just need to get away, get somewhere, and get home. Shake off the cold, the night, the many impressions, the stale smell of balcony smokers, men in Nixon masks, and the women that admire them. And as the taxi stops right outside my door. I swear, next time I’ll take a bus. I won’t drink so much, and when I see the receipt from Taxi Company on my credit card statement, I won’t even remember the taxi ride home.

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in the direction we are moving.” Goethe.

I imagine it’s early morning. I’m in my newly ironed suit; my tie matches my polished shoes that match the brief case. There’s a taxi right in front of my compound. I get in, quietly give the driver my destination in English (though he doesn’t speak English very well at all), lean back, and start reading the newspaper. It’s mainly the financials, but I discretely smile at the candor of the comic strip. I never speak to the driver; he’s just here to get me from one destination to the next, smoothly with no major interruptions. It’s the easiest way to get around Shanghai. I sometimes take notion of the skylines, the people on the street, and the people in other taxis, but mostly I just read the paper. When I arrive at the international school that I work at, the driver opens my door, nods, and drives away. During the day there are several meetings around town, several of new taxi encounters, but the same customary every time.

“Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.” Lou Erickson.

I imagine I’m late again. I’ll just tell my friends, “I took a cab.” He’s Armenian; his mother’s mother was an immigrant, who used to live in the Bronx, where she opened a small bakery. His dad was a son of a gun. It’s right next to the Guggenheim. I order a martini and soup. Next stop: my publisher somewhere on Manhattan. Some gypsy cab tries to convince me he’s cheaper, but I know better. She’s from Kansas, not much of a talker, her sign says Ada Mae. She tries to hard to hide the fact she’s not a New Yorker, but I know better. There’s a party tonight at some loft in Soho, “it’s better than New Year, it’s close to the metro, but just take a cab, it’s safer.” It’s the pre-release-party, but some bookstore in Brooklyn has already started selling the book, so I take a cab there, just to see my book in the window. I ask the driver to hold, but he’s very impatient. I eat half a cupcake I buy in some small coffee shop, the décor is very vintage, and I get the address to this flea market in Greenwich Village. If I hail a cab quickly, I can make it before I go home and get dressed for the party. The driver driving me to Soho is from Iraq, I don’t remember his name, but he quoted Mahatma Ghandi, something about happiness and harmony. I only have a few drinks, small talk with an architect who’s designing a new super mall in New Jersey, the florist who did the decoration, my publisher’s ex-wife who just shared a cab with Meryl Streep (they were apparently going in the same direction) and a woman I think I’ve dated a couple years ago. We share a taxi home.

“And a big yellow taxi took away my old man. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell.

Go ahead and send a private message regarding “transportation and the taxi-life” to one of our members that is currently living in one of the many different cities around the world represented on our website. International School Community’s current members work at or have worked at 100 international schools! Check out which schools here and start networking today!

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Great Resource

Great resource: Want to work at an international school in Germany?

October 21, 2011


The How To Germany website (www.howtogermany.com/pages/internationalschools.html) has some excellent insight on the many international schools in Germany.


There are many international educators interested in working at these schools.  Currently, there are 21 international schools listed under Germany on International School Community.  There are 20 international schools listed on the How To Germany website.  Some of the international schools listed on their website are:

Highlighted sections from their website:

There are compelling reasons why you might choose to send your children to one of Germany’s many fine international schools.

“Many English-speaking expatriates are educating their children at Germany’s international schools, and an education at such a school has numerous advantages.

There is, of course, instruction in the native language. And, since the student body is usually quite international, they expose the young people to a variety of cultures. They also do a better job than most German schools of introducing the students to computers, and the program of sports and extracurricular activities is more like what they are accustomed to at home.

Physical plants and facilities are usually quite modern, clean and comfortable, with new equipment more conducive to learning. And the curricula among international schools is uniform, allowing ease of transfer. They usually are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and normally offer the International Baccalaureate. They may also offer the American high school diploma, British A Levels and, sometimes, the GermanAbitur.

The costs vary from school to school and in some cases may approximate what a US college education commands: as much as €16,000 per high school student per year. Preschool and elementary school grades may cost 30 to 50 percent less. Additional costs could include transportation, lunches, class trips and various special activities.”

Berlin Brandenburg International School


“Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS), founded in 1990, is an inclusive, coeducational English language day and boarding school serving the internationally-minded community of Germany’s capital region and beyond. The BBIS campus is located in the village of Kleinmachnow, bordering the southwest of Berlin, on a large, quiet wooded hill known as the Seeberg.

BBIS offers an international education programme. An International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, BBIS is the first IB school in the world to be fully authorized by the International Baccalaureate organization in Geneva, Switzerland to teach all four IB programmes covering the 3 to19 year-old age range. The school is also fully accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

From Early Childhood to grade 12, BBIS is truly an international school, with 680 students representing 60 nationalities. Classes are small, usually with fewer than 18 students. The school offers excellent facilities and an extensive extracurricular programme for students of all ages. In addition, specific support is provided for students with special needs and those for whom English is not a first language.

In grades 11 and 12 students have the opportunity to earn the IB Diploma, a qualification recognized by top universities throughout the world, or the IB Career-related Certificate, an exciting new professionally-oriented programme that, with a flexible and individualized curriculum, aims at helping students develop a broad range of career-related competencies.

The BBIS boarding facility, located directly on the school campus, houses 30 international students from grades 9 through 12. It is the first international, English-language IB World Boarding School in all of Germany.   For more details please visit www.bbis.de.”

St. George’s International School


St. George’s International School has been an integral part of the international community in Nordrhein-Westfalen since 1985 when it was founded by an English family in Cologne. Since then, St. George’s has founded further schools in Duisburg (2002) and Aachen (2007). With over 1000 pupils in its three schools, St. George’s success lies in its aim to offer children happy school years.

St. George’s provides a full school day for pupils aged 3 to 18 and incorporates all school years including Nursery School and Reception Classes, Early Years, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School until A-Level or IB diploma. Both diplomas are accepted world-wide for university entrance.

Individual support and attention are placed on pupils in regard to their native school system thereby enabling them to return smoothly to their native country’s system if necessary. 45 % of St. George’s student body is comprised of German pupils and the rest comes from 35 different nations; hence integration is not only theory but is practiced on a daily basis. A school uniform further enhances integration and solidarity between pupils. All children are introduced and immersed in traditions, holidays and history of the local German culture.

It is St. George’s aim to achieve the highest possible academic standard by means of small classes (maximum 20 pupils per class), a dedicated and enthusiastic staff and a positive atmosphere throughout the school. The student-teacher ratio of 7.5 to 1 allows for individual attention to be placed on each pupil’s specific need, for stronger and weaker pupils alike. Non English speakers are given extra support through the ESL department. The first foreign language taught is German which is divided into German for native speakers and German for non-native speakers; the second foreign language taught is French. After school clubs are offered on a regular basis.

More information on the programs can be found at:
www.stgeorgesschoolcologne.de
www.stgeorgesschoolduisburg.de
www.stgeorgesschoolaachen.de

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of International School Teachers – “Backpacking Teacher”

May 28, 2011


Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Check out the experiences of another teacher from the moment they signed the contract to what they are writing about after a few years working abroad.

Our 2nd blog that we would like to highlight is called “Backpacking Teacher.”  What an interesting experience living in Saigon and working at a young school that is growing and expanding.

Entries we would like to highlight:

What do I expect from my new life in Saigon?
Before I head off for another overseas sojourn it’d be a nice idea to document what I’m expecting to find and what I’m looking forward to. That way, down the track, I can review my expectations against a future reality. Most of what I’m expecting is based upon what life was like when I lived in Indonesia.
I’m expecting:
The very poor and the very rich
A political system that exists largely in the background…

Worst thing that’s happened to you whilst traveling?
How about the time I worked in Indonesia managing a remote resort .. ah yes ..that one.  I managed this remote resort on the island of Java. The country was in upheaval, students had recently been shot on the streets of Jakarta and my security manager came into see me.  “Pak”, he says. “Bad news. The local people they not like the resort making money on their land. They coming tomorrow to burn it down”.  “ok”, says I, attempting to be calm. “time to put our contingency plans into gear”. Thinking all along how absurd it was that I had contingency plans, for rioting villagers, ready to go…

Reflections on my new school
The physical environment is superb with well appointed classrooms, interactive whiteboards in each classroom, air-conditioning and a management team that is very supportive of the teaching staff. The school has real potential and for a school this young it has made massive strides in it’s quest to be a leading school in Saigon. This can be shown by the number of teachers and students who have moved to the school from other international schools in town. It’s an exciting place to be and makes for an environment that’s both challenging and a pleasure to teach in. I’m certainly happy with my choice and enjoy working here.

The previous blog address of this teacher can be found here.  There are some great entries about the process a person goes through when searching for and getting a job at an international school.

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Highlighted Articles

From the Outside In – 10 Tips to Help You Adapt to Chinese Culture

November 3, 2020


Cultural integration in China may be the Holy Grail for many expats who head over to teach, live, and experience the country for a while. Although not impossible, reaching for ultimate integration is a highly challenging task and, if anything, it may just happen after years (if not decades) in the country.

Adapting to the local culture as a foreigner may be a more realistic aim, especially if you’re heading to China to teach for the very first time. Give yourself some time to adjust to the culture-shock, follow Western International School of Shanghai’s ten tips to help you adapt to Chinese culture, and you’re guaranteed to be on the right path.

1. Learn a little about Chinese culture and history before you even arrive

Alright, cram-studying China’s entire cultural history before you arrive might be impossible. After all, this is the longest-living culture in the world! Yet what you can do and what helps expats better assimilate in China is getting a general overview of how the country has evolved over the last few centuries. Knowing how China got to where it’s at now means you’ll understand the country’s sensitive subjects (leave the Free Tibet T-shirt at home, please), and that will help you behave in a more culturally appropriate way. Moreover, learning about China beforehand will help blunt that dreaded culture-shock!

2. Leave your preconceived notions about China at home and pack only an open mind

It’s fair to say that everything you think you know about China has been influenced by foreign media. To this end, the most important thing you shouldn’t forget to pack is an open mind. Nothing about this beautiful country and its immensely hospitable people has ever been rightly depicted abroad, so take that as the single most invaluable tip.

The very best way to integrate into Chinese culture, as an expat, is to know the real story.

3. Learn (at least some) of the language

Taking Mandarin lessons is the most important “first step” to finding your place in Chinese culture, and this is one thing you can start doing before you even travel. Linguistic fluency takes many (many) years, yet even just getting a grasp of the basics (like appropriate greetings) will go a long way to helping you assimilate in your new home. Being able to chit-chat in Mandarin and the local dialect of wherever you happen to be (there are thousands!) will earn you respect from colleagues and locals you meet, and this will, in turn, help you with the next tip.

If you’re bringing children over, international Schools in China will ensure that they learn Mandarin as part of their curriculum too, allowing them to really fit in and make friends across cultural lines.

4. Understand the Chinese culture of “saving face”

Showing up a colleague and even your boss in front of others may be acceptable in some countries, but it certainly isn’t in China. Saving face and protecting one’s reputation is critical in the local culture. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to navigate your way through social and work situations much better. For example, a teacher who wants to resign because they just don’t get along with their colleagues may simply cite ‘personal reasons’ for leaving. The fastest way to ruin any relationship with local Chinese is to embarrass or criticize them in any way, especially in public.

5. Find your voice: assertiveness and confidence are key

China is no place for a wallflower, and if there’s ever a teaching destination that downright demands assertiveness, this would have to be it. To outsiders, Chinese locals may come off as blunt or rude, but in reality, they live in a fast-paced world that requires very little fluffing about. So get with the program, be ready to stand up for yourself when the need arises (with your employer or landlord, for example), and don’t let anyone walk all over you or be a pushover.

Respectful assertiveness (back to #4) is the name of the game and, if you can find that much-coveted balance, you’ll do just fine in China.

6. Show respect to elders

Respecting your elders is immensely important in the local culture. You’ll soon discover that, in China, the polite form of you (nín) is even used within the family unit – not only for older aunties and grandparents but also among siblings of varying ages. Usually, titles are preferred to first names so, when in doubt, always ask a local friend how you should refer to people before you’re even introduced to them.

Oh! That brings us to our next point…

7. Make local friends and don’t get stuck in an expat bubble

It’s far too easy to get stuck in an expat bubble in China, a country whose culture can be overwhelmingly foreign for so many expats. But fight that urge and immerse yourself in local social groups instead, and you’ll benefit from endless rewards. Your first local contacts will undoubtedly be work colleagues, and this is an amazing chance to make new friends immediately. Understand the ‘give and take’ of Chinese social etiquette (they invite you out for a restaurant meal, so why not cook them a dish from your country at home?), and you may just cement some of the most rewarding and valuable friendships of all.

8. Hugs and kisses are frowned upon – keep your hands to yourself!

In local Chinese culture, public displays of affection aren’t often seen even among couples, let alone friends. Don’t embarrass your new local friends by giving them a hug or kiss on the cheek! Once friendships are cemented, of course, the Chinese can be just as affectionate as other cultures, but you do need to let them call the shots on this one.

9. Skip the Western restaurant chains and eat like a local instead

Not only will this save you some pretty pennies, but it’ll also show you how outstanding real Chinese cuisine is. Not sure how to choose a hole in the wall on your next lunch out in town? Ask that new local friend to show you their favorite haunt, enjoy what is bound to be an awesome meal and, to show your appreciation, pay for their meal. That’s a 3-in-1 win!

10. Find your own local family!

Marrying a Chinese local to better assimilate into the culture may be a bit drastic, we admit, yet accepting that invitation to visit a new friend’s family would be just perfect. Many big-city dwellers come from small rural villages, and they often return home on special holidays, like Chinese New Year. It isn’t uncommon for a new foreign friend to be invited to come along, and this is one invite you’ll never want to turn down. The unique experience will likely be an absolute highlight for you and, who knows, you may gain a new local family of your own. Moving to China and trying to integrate into the local culture may seem like an impossible task to foreigners. But it needn’t be! Simply follow some tried-and-true tips from those who’ve come before you, and you’ll soon feel right at home.

This article was submitted by Western International School in Shanghai. Check out more about this school by clicking on the following links: https://www.wiss.cn/welcome/work-at-wiss/ https://www.wiss.cn/welcome/our-team/post=8128&action=edit

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Photo Contests

Top Three Photos For How Does Your Host Country Recycle: And the winners are…

May 4, 2018


We’re happy to announce the winners of our latest Photo Contest: How Does Your Host Country Recycle?

First Place“At our school, we lead up to Earth Day with a week-long event called Sustainable Solutions. Innovators and activists from around the world, as well as Green School and local students, present different thoughts, ideas, and projects on making our planet more sustainable. One part of it is The Trash Walk. Staff and students spend part of each day with the school’s founder, John Hardy, walking through villages and rice fields collecting trash. Then it’s recycled through the school’s recycling center called Kembali.

Here in Bali recycling is still a work in progress. There are recycling bins on many street corners, but the education surrounding the need and importance of recycling are still not in place. Many of these bins are full of trash that is not separated or is not recyclable. Green School is trying to get the word out one village at a time through what we call “pilot villages.” Green School students and local students work together, one village at a time, to raise awareness and provide sustainable solutions to plastics use, trash dumping, and practical recycling.”

host country

Congratulations, Tom South! He currently works at Green School Bali

Prize awarded: Premium membership for TWO YEARS on our website!

Second Place: “Bangladesh recycles in the most beautiful way.  Women take worn, ripped sarees that can no longer be worn and stack them together in layers to make a soft blanket.  Hand-stitched together with rows and rows of colored thread and with patches of patterned fabric to cover holes or stains, they take something old and create a beautiful new product.”

host country

Congratulations, Annie Tunheim! She currently works at American International School Dhaka.

Prize awarded: Premium membership for ONE YEAR on our website!

Third Place“Although Thailand does not have a formal and official recycling or waste management program for all the households, some apartments and condos do have their recycling program that is administrated by the main office. All the recycling materials are divided by categories and it is weighted monthly. The income generated by the householders is used to improve the quality and conditions of common areas such as swimming pool, playground, and library.”

host country

Congratulations, Mariano Zuk!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for SIX MONTHS on our website!

Thanks to everyone who participated!  We have awarded everyone else ONE WEEK of premium membership for participating in this photo contest.

Stay tuned for our next photo contest. Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

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Highlighted Articles

Is the Expat Bubble Inescapable?

December 11, 2015


Expats in general often talk about getting outside of the bubble.  Sometimes we even complain about the factors of a society that prevent us from doing so.  I have mixed feelings on the concept of escaping the expat bubble. Authentic, non-expatriate experiences are out there.  We just have to go on the other side of the wall to get there.  Living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I could go eat local foods, such as ugali, beans and rice, stewed bananas, or greens cooked in coconut milk, any time I choose.  The thing is, I don’t choose to do so.  Far more often than not, I eat pizza, hamburgers, pasta with tomato sauce, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and barbecued pork.  The foods, and all of the cultural experiences connected to food, are there.  I just don’t go to them.

IMG_20150920_111234The local language, Swahili, is a learnable language, and there are several language schools out there competing for the business of expats.  Over the course of history Swahili has been scribed into both Arabic and English written forms.  Lessons are available in your home, if you want them, and they are not expensive.  The language is all around me on billboards, menus, bumper stickers, and political advertisements.  The language, and all of the cultural experiences connected to understanding it, is there.  I haven’t tried in earnest to learn it.  That’s why, two and a half years into my stay in Tanzania, I can still only say thank you, and hello and goodbye in a variety of ways.  I just haven’t done it.

But here’s the catch.

For one weekend, I exposed myself to a way of living that I did not even know existed. Some friends from work and I visited Maasai homes in the inner Tanzanian countryside.  The homes are literally made of branches and mud. The surrounding villages all draw from one isolated well for their drinking water. The well is hand-dug, open to the elements, has sloped mud sides and requires climbing into and out of with buckets of muddy water on one’s head. There is no electricity out there. Paved roads are few and far between. Petrol is sold in used water bottles. The local market is just an open dusty field full of cattle trucks, people selling their goods off of blankets on the ground, and open fires cooking freshly slaughtered beef and serving it on banana leaves.

I was out of the bubble!  Wasn’t I?  Well, I was still trapped inside my English-speaking bubble, which limited my interactions greatly, so maybe I wasn’t outside of the bubble in any way beyond my geographic location.  Did I really do anything more than drive far away from my neighborhood?

IMG_4851The biggest issue with the bubble is this.  After just two nights in a place that was almost as far from my previous life experiences as I could get, my friends and I got into our 4×4 Toyotas imported from Japan, we left behind several large bottles of water, because we could just buy more at the shop around the corner once we got home, and we drove back to our concrete homes with 8 foot high security walls, internet, running hot water, gas stoves, ovens, beds, mattresses, mosquito nets, electricity, furniture, electrical appliances, air conditioning, a deeply stocked pantry and refrigerator, and a hundred other small comforts I don’t really think about until I look back at homes made of sticks and mud, a lifestyle centered around keeping cattle alive in a dry and dusty landscape, and having to climb down a steep, muddy wall to get thick, muddy water.

I can always just drive home.  That is my bubble, a bubble of privilege based almost solely on being born where I was as who I am.  I won’t ever be able to get away from that.

In response to the question of escaping the expat bubble

Shortly after posing the question, “Is the expat bubble inescapable?” on my own blog, Two Years and Counting . . ., my good friend, Lindsay Rowland, sent me a reply. While working in Barcelona, Lindsay met and became dear friends with a woman from Barcelona named Aurora. Some time after Lindsay moved away, Aurora had to be hospitalized due to sudden and severe medical issues. Lindsay took time off of work and went back to Barcelona to be there for her. It says a lot about the depth of their friendship. I think it says even more about the expat bubble. Here are her thoughts.

lind P7250258I think I would say that curiosity and empathy allow you to poke your head out of the bubble, but love will pop it. Human interaction is the key in both cases, but once you have made a true, real friend in the other culture, that is when the bubble begins to disintegrate. In Spain, I could speak the language reasonably well, ate the food, lived in a similar standard…but I did not really embrace the culture or begin to understand it or separate myself from my own until my friendship with Aurora, and mostly AFTER I left! Through her eyes and her experiences and perspectives and because I love her so much and strive to understand her, my eyes and heart began to be able to take in what it meant to be Spanish. And then through what has happened to her, me visiting the hospital and being embraced by the family (they have even invited me to spend Christmas with them) and all the hospital staff and being daily present in the midst of it—and all this happened because THEN I had a motivation outside of myself, outside of the “shoulds”—(I SHOULD be curious about other cultures, I SHOULD open myself to new experiences, I SHOULD learn the language) to finding the motivation from need because of love—I want to communicate with this person I love so dearly, to understand, to help, to contribute…learning becomes natural and a priority and acceptance is instantaneous because people know your efforts are genuine and you’re committed and invested.

This is not to say I change my identity but my comfort level is definitely compromised—I give up control over, not so much material things like I would in Africa, but rather my control of time if we’re talking about Spanish culture. I’m still the American in the room…but I’m the American who has shed the protective bubble of being with other Americans and eating American food and operating on American time and schedules and efficiency and methodology…and not always liking it, but doing it anyway and not complaining about it or demand that those around me conform to ME…I think that is what it means. But again, I think it’s an easier transition in this example. I don’t see how anyone would logically give up privilege comforts to drink dirty water and live in a mud hut…unless I had become true friends with someone and that person embraced me and there were some reasonable context that I would be visiting and needed…then I think I would be willing to do all: learn the language, live in the hut, etc, for as long as it took…other than drinking the water…amoebic dysentery sounds pretty horrible. But you don’t know what you’ll do until you’re in a situation, right?

Well, there you have it. As I told Lindsay, well said, and well felt. What do you think?

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This article was submitted by a veteran international school teacher and International School Community member, Jonathan Park.

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