I always hope that somebody will care every year I go home, but every year most of them don’t. (Ha ha!)
It is not because they really don’t care though, it is mostly because they just don’t fully understand or connect to the international/expat life you are living. When visiting family and friends in my home country, very rarely do the conversations relate to my life living abroad. Hardly do we even talk about the amazing trips that I have been on the past year! (Oh, the things I have seen!) It is hard to talk about your trips without giving an impression of bragging though.
International school teachers indeed live a life that is a foreign world to our old friends, so different from where we were born and raised. Additionally, so many people in this world still just stay living close to where they were raised. When I look at my home-country friends and relatives, most are living in the same city they grew up in or in the city just next to that one. (Side note: Why do we feel the need to escape our hometowns?)
And of course, quite a large percentage of people in the United States are without a passport (is that true for the Americans YOU know??). Being that these friends and family that you know maybe haven’t had so much experience living abroad or even traveling abroad, you would think that would make them even more interested in your international life…but that isn’t always the case.
I guess when you go home, you spend most of your time just reminiscing about the good times of the past, of when you used to live there maybe. Most of the conversations you have also are just normal ones, talking about day-to-day things (e.g. the weather, etc.).
Sometimes your friends and family dominate the conversation with updates from their life, which of course you are curious about as well. You want to get the lowdown on their lives being that you are only there visiting with them for typically such a short time. I mean they haven’t seen you in a while as well, and they are excited to see you and catch you up on their lives.
Though it is truly so nice to go back home and catch up with everyone, little do your friends and family realize or understand the reverse culture shock you may be experiencing when you go back home, even if it is the 8th time you have come home in 10 years (let’s say) that you’ve been abroad.
International school teachers live a dual life basically. The fact is…that we live most of the year in our host country; eating our host country food, hanging out with our host country friends, being surrounded by a foreign language and culture, living in our host country apartment, using and thinking in a foreign currency, etc. When you visit your home country, you really want to tell people in your host country about those things! Some will listen though when it comes up naturally in the conversation, but it is usually a fleeting moment…not giving you enough time to share as much as you would like.
This article is not meant to make fun of or hate on our home country friends and family, but it is meant to express our feelings about how an expat teacher might feel and how they might think in their head as they go home for the summer. When you are living abroad for so long, it is so nice (and important) to see and catch up with your family and old friends.
How do you feel when you go home to your host country? Are you able to have conversations with your friends and family about your life living abroad?
This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.continue reading
Let’s hope that all of our host countries recycle in some way. If they do, then certainly the ways they do it will be different and interesting, and also affect the international school at which you are working.
Many international school teachers are interested in living a sustainable life in a country that supports that lifestyle. Not all countries are the same, of course, and they are unable to put their current focus on recycling. For some international educators, this might be a deal-breaker.
If your new host country does recycle, figuring out how your host country recycles is another thing. If the directions or letters you receive are in a language you can’t read and understand, then it can definitely be a challenge. But asking around your international school, and maybe even calling on your neighbors can help.
What will you be able to recycle when living in your new apartment building or house? Will you be able to recycle plastic, metal, batteries, glass, bio waste, carton, paper, etc.? If you can recycle these things, how easy will it be to do just that?
Maybe you pay some sort of a deposit when you buy something at a store that comes in a plastic bottle. Then you need to find the place where you can return these bottles and get your deposit back (sometimes it is the same store). In other countries, you don’t pay a deposit and thus all your plastic bottles might just go into one big garbage bag. In both cases, there might also be people going around to different dumpsters and garbage cans around the city looking for those recyclables and doing the recycling for you.
Then again, there might be an easy way to recycle most of the things you are using, but you just haven’t figured it out yet. Years can pass with you not recycling the best way that you can in your host country. Once you find out the way, then you might feel a bit stupid that you haven’t been doing it that way since you first moved there!
The ways your host country recycles might be a bit inconvenient for you (or really easy!), but once you get it to be part of your new routine of living there, then it is typically a snap to recycle all the time.
At ISC, we are really curious to see how progressive your host countries does with recycling. Login today and share what you know. The new comment topic is located in the City Information section of all school profile pages.continue reading
My name is Sorcha Coyle and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the last 8 years. I have always taught local students and I love the unique cultural insight that this has given me. Outside work, I love travelling (not at the moment, of course! #flattenthecurve) and the sunny expat lifestyle! In my time abroad, I have been fortunate enough to save six figures, which I have used to purchase 2 properties (a 4-bedroomed house in my home country and a 3-bed apartment in Spain), start a profitable investment portfolio, complete my Masters, set up a side business, and travel the world. Today I will talk about my “why” and how it pushes me to save more and more each year. Then I will share my “how” with you, so you can boost your savings too!
9 years ago, when I lived in the UK, I was working at a lovely school but because of my long hours and low pay, I was incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. I was spending well over 50% of my salary on rent (in a shared apartment) and after council tax and bills; I was barely breaking even each month. Meanwhile back in my home country of Ireland, we were facing our worst economic crash. In 2008, the construction industry collapsed. Businesses went bankrupt. Property values plummeted. Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of citizens lost their jobs. Honest hardworking people couldn’t repay their mortgages. Many lost their homes. From that moment on, I swore to myself that I would be financially empowered. I wanted to have peace of mind no matter the state of the economy. Soon I realised that I had to take a drastic step to fulfill this goal, so after much research, I moved to the Gulf region in 2011. As an expat there, I have job security, a great salary, zero rent, and zero tax- what is not to love about it?
It is true that the expat life has so many wonderful aspects- the high salary, the job security, the sun, and the standard of living. However, it has one downside- it is unpredictable. We might plan to teach here forever with its tax-free salary and perks, but life here can change in the blink of an eye. We might lose our job (sadly more common since COVID reared its ugly head), do something silly and get deported, or we may have to go home for family reasons. Whatever the reason, we want to have something to show for all our hard work.
Moreover, many of us are no longer paying into our private teaching pension at home, which means we must have alternative methods to fund a comfortable retirement that will allow us to lead the kind of life we have now. Speaking of pensions, right now we have longer to work before retirement (until 68 instead of 65) to qualify for the state pension. Unfortunately, by the time we get closer to retirement, the state pension age may even have been pushed up to 74 years.
From the day I began teaching abroad, I realised the incredible saving potential that this situation gave me and made a decision there and then to maximise it to its fullest.
Regardless of where we work, us single teachers have a great opportunity to save tonnes and set ourselves up for life, financially.
How much you save all depends on 2 factors:
1) How much you want and plan to save
2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can
Let me go into more detail…
1) How much you want and plan to save
Saving does not happen by chance; you must absolutely plan for it. You need to set a financial goal, make a budget, and then work hard to stick to it to achieve it. I highly recommend setting SMART financial goals. This means that your goals are:
From Day 1 in Qatar, I told myself I’d save €100,000 before I turned 30. I don’t even know where I plucked that number from- it just seemed like a nice round number! By having this SMART financial goal, I was focused and knew that I had to save a certain amount each month. It also continuously motivated me as I would have a competition with myself and try to beat my previous month’s savings! I was 25 when I moved to Doha and I managed to smash that goal when I left 4 years later at the grand old age of 29. However, I didn’t reach my savings goal just from sticking to a budget and saving as much of my teaching salary as possible. I knew that if I wanted to accelerate my ability to save, I would have to increase my (streams of) income! Read more below….
2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can
In addition to saving as much of my teaching salary as possible, I do a few more things too…
All those actions above have helped me reach my target of saving six figures in 8 years, so these small “sacrifices” are 100% worth it! What can you do this year to boost your savings?
As well as teaching full-time, I am also the founder of Empowering Expat Teachers and my mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives! Follow me on Facebook, IG, and my blog for lots of helpful tips and advice to help you become an empowered expat teacher too! I have recently set up the Financially Empowered Expat IG that focuses exclusively on saving more, earning more, and retiring with more and you can find me @thefinanciallyempoweredexpat on IG!continue reading
Most people can probably relate to the fact that you don’t get to travel the world very much when you are a teacher in your home country (and definitely before you start your career in teaching). For me personally, I had only been able to travel to 10 different countries before I moved away to start my first international school teaching placement.
Of course, I realize that ten countries might be a lot for the majority of the world’s citizens. Most people would be lucky to have the chance and money to travel to that many countries in the world. But for some people, it only makes them desire to see even more!
There is something addictive about traveling to and experiencing firsthand the many different countries in this world. You do see a lot of similarities (i.e. there’s always a fruit seller selling his/her fruit, the local barber has some shop cutting people’s hair, etc.), but the fun part is seeing the different things or even how each countries does that same things slightly differently.
Now you might be wondering how did I get to those ten countries before I started working at international schools, being that I hadn’t started my career yet or was only making a state school’s salary for a teacher just starting out. The first one was because I decided to do a study abroad program through my university, to Spain. I believe I was a junior at the time. Even though I went to that country to study for only 2.5 months, I made sure to visit two of the neighboring countries during my time there (France and Portugal). So, now I was up three countries visited in just one year! It was in Europe too, before the Euro currency had taken over, so I feel lucky that I got the chance to see those countries before the big change. Because this was a study abroad program through my university, I did have to pay for this “trip”, but it would have been a very similar amount if I had just stayed at my university to study there instead.
Just a year later after that study abroad experience, I found another program that would take me to another country, and a very unique and interesting one at that…Russia! I went through a program called Camp Counselors USA. You do have a pay some money to go on this program, but it wasn’t that much and many people also got paid some money while they were there. Basically, you have to work and teach English at one of the many summer camps all around Russia (a popular tradition there). This adventure was the first time I could experience being completely immersed in a language that wasn’t my home language. Though stressful at times, I have many wonderful memories of that trip. Russia is a country that many people just simply don’t know that much about. I’m so lucky to get a chance to have an insight into this beautiful country and its lovely people.
That’s now four countries, in total.
Then many years passed until I had my next foreign country adventure. I thank the big tax refund that I received that year which allowed me to buy a ticket to Colombia! I decided to go there because one of my friends was living there. You guessed it, she was working at an international school there. You are simply a fool if you do not go and visit your friend when they are living abroad. Traveling to a foreign country can be scary. But if you have a friend there, there is simply nothing to worry about any more because they know the way around there and know what to do and what not to do. Another big money saver is that you can just stay at their place while you’re visiting. Now we are at five countries!
A few years after Colombia, a friend tipped me off to another program for teachers. One where you could travel completely for free, all expenses paid for a three-week trip. The program was called People to People Student Ambassador Program. My first placement with them was to travel to all four countries of the British Isles. Even though it was a free trip doing amazing things traveling around these countries, your main job is to be a chaperone to 30-40 middle or high school students. But it isn’t that bad at all. Looking back, you really get to do very unique things that you probably wouldn’t have done traveling there by yourself. You also stay at quite nice hotels that you probably wouldn’t have booked and paid for if the money was coming out of your own wallet! The total countries visited now is up to nine.
The last country that I visited before I took my first international school job was to Australia. It was a dream to go there! And I got to go there for free as well, through the same People to People Student Ambassador Program. Three weeks traveling around Eastern Australia was definitely a dream come true! Back then, no way did I have the money to fund this kind of trip if I was going to travel there on my own. Australia was country number 10!
Once that country visit was over with, a few weeks after actually, I hopped onto an airplane to start my first international school teaching placement. I have worked at three international schools in total now. Throughout those 10+ years working at international schools, I have now visited over 70 countries!
Have I visited enough now and is my desire to explore the world waning? I don’t think so. The dream to experience different countries and cultures firsthand is still pretty strong. Even if I moved back to my home country and ran out of “extra” money to traveling with, I’m certain I would find some ways again to explore new countries for free or for very cheap means. There are probably even more programs out there nowadays, especially for teachers. Luckily, my international school teacher/expat lifestyle is still affording me the opportunity to travel on my own and/or with my partner. It still gets me excited to open up Kayak.com and start searching for my next trip/adventure!
This article was submitted to us by a guest author and ISC member.continue reading
We’re happy to announce the winners of our latest Photo Contest: Your Best Jump Shot While Traveling
First Place: “Jumping in the Atacama Desert, Moon Valley, Chile”
Congratulations, Kimberlee Peters!
Prize awarded: Premium membership for TWO YEARS on our website!
Second Place: “#pacificcoast #nwusa #americanbeaches”
Prize awarded: Premium membership for ONE YEAR on our website!
Third Place: “Memorable walk on an isolated beach in southern Italy a few year ago. To get a good jump picture it usually takes a few jumps, but believe it or not, this one was the first jump!”
Congratulations, Mario Arana!
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.continue reading