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Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school

May 18, 2015


Many international schools ofter 1-2 year initial contracts for new hires. But does that mean that most international school teachers leave after that initial contract?

We all know some teachers do exactly that. They leave after 1-2 years of working at their new international school. The reasons they leave are varied, and many of those reasons are out of their control.

It is true, though, that some international school teachers leave too soon. Leaving too soon can be good or bad, depending on your situation.  But maybe, just maybe there are very positive things that can happen if the stars align for you to stay longer than four years.

So, what are the Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You get more fluent in the local language.

Sometimes it is hard to get yourself to attend language classes when you first arrive. It is difficult giving up two evenings of your work week to go to these classes. Waiting a few years until you are more established into your new life in your host country is sometimes a better option for some international school teachers.  Although it is not the case with everyone, staying longer in the host country will also provide you with more authentic opportunities to acquire new words and phrases.  You never know when you will learn your next new words, but if you provide yourself with more opportunities and put yourself in more situations with the local people, you will certainly learn more of the host country language.

#2 – You make more long-lasting local friends.

In so many countries, it is down right a challenge to make local friends. Many international school teachers just find friends among other international school teachers at their school. The reason being that it is sometimes scary and nerve-racking to get yourself out there and meet the locals. Additionally, you got to get yourself out and get to know A LOT of locals too because we all know that you can’t be everyone’s friend that you meet.  You have to meet a lot to find a few good ones.  You don’t always find a good match every time you are out and about in your host city.  Also, locals don’t necessarily want to invest their friend-time with foreigners that are going to be leaving in a year or two. If you are staying around, that makes you more desirable in terms of friendship material.

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#3 – You save more money.

Your first and second years at an international school can indeed be costly ones. You need to buy so many things (excuse me…did somebody say IKEA?) for your new home.  You also make some stupid purchases during these first few years when you don’t know the best places to go and get the best deal.  The longer you stay could equal the better savings in your bank account, especially if your international school is giving you a great salary with excellent benefits. Why leave when you’re potentially making the most money in your teaching career?!

#4 – You get to do more special projects at your school.

When you first start at an international school, you are just getting your feet on the ground. Because everything is new, you typically stick to doing what you know and that’s that. You are still doing a good job, but you find it a challenge to start any special projects.  After your third and fourth year, you have more ownership in the school. Being more familiar and comfortable with your international school allows you to be more creative and make some of your ideas come true. Once you have built a strong trust, after a couple of years with your administration and the PTA, they will then support you in these new ideas.  The key is to keep the ideas and inspiration flowing. Here is one special project idea as an example: why not get beekeeping started up at your school?

#5 – You build stronger collaborative partners at work.

Some research related to co-teaching in schools state that it can take a good two to three years to get to a high level of collaboration.  You need time to build those collaborative relationships, and sometimes one to two years is not enough.  Also, if you stay at an international school for longer than two years, you also get to know your colleagues better, both professionally and on a personal level.  All of that teaching at a specific international school then is time well-spent, as it will only strengthen your collaborative relationships.

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#6 – More time for more of your home country family and friends to visit you. 

Why is it so hard for some of your family and friends to get their act together and visit you?  The fact is that many of those friends and family need time to plan. They need time to save their money, find the right time to visit you, and get the time off of their work. Many people are simply not able to figure that all out in one to two years. By the third and fourth year, the stars will align for some of them to finally visit you.  What a shame if there is a missed opportunity for your friends and family to check out a potential new place in the world!  The best part is that they won’t even have to pay for a hotel or guide services as they will have your place to stay at and you to happily show them around.

#7 – You get more time to travel around your host country and visit all the spots you’ve been wanting to see.

During your holidays, it is easy to forget about checking out more of your host country. Indeed, you are too busy planning to see the other countries that surround your host country.  If you are not on a tropical island, buying a ticket to one sounds more appealing then just staying in your host country.  Even if your host country is a small one, there are still countless cities to go visit.  The more you see of your host country, the better appreciation you have for it.  You learn more about your host country culture as well and how the locals are living in different parts of the country.  Traveling around to more parts of your host country also helps to you feel more like a local too because you know more about them and their culture.

#8 – You get to make your home more yours.

It takes awhile to make a home your home. In some countries, you are placed into a furnished house/apartment. Making other people’s furniture your furniture takes time. If you move into an unfurnished place, then you must buy stuff to put in there. If it is new, then that stuff also takes time to then make your home your home.  Sure, some international school teachers ship their own furniture to their new host country and they need less time to cozy up to their new surroundings, but a home is indeed more than just furniture. It takes time for memories to be created in your apartment/house.

#9 – You get more time to eat out at your favorite restaurants and find new ones that open up.

It is the best feeling to go out for dinner in your host country. Going out and enjoying really tasty food at your favorite restaurant, yes! What a shame to find that one place after a year, and then leave the following year. And then if you leave after only two years, you are maybe not there enough to check out the new ones that pop up. Then you hear from your ex-colleagues that they are still going to your favorite restaurant and you get those seconds thoughts of did I leave that city too soon?

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#10 – You finally get to see and work in your school’s new, amazing, purpose-built school building that it finally made.

We have all worked at international schools that have a grand plan to make a new building. If you have had this experience, then you know for sure that two things happen: either the new school building just simply never gets built or that is does get built but only after years and years of planning and waiting. Staying longer than four years gives ample time for you to actually get the chance to work in this new, amazing building!

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