Discussion Topics

Summer Shopping: What products do you stock up on in your home country?

July 11, 2022

“How many suitcases should I bring home???” thinks an international school teacher who is traveling home for summer vacation.  Inside though this teacher knows what they will end up doing during their trip back home. Even though it might cost them in the end when they pay for the extra weight of one or more of their suitcases or when they pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline they are flying on.  It’s a pity that many airlines are now only allowing one free suitcase for an economy ticket, even on international flights!

The allure of home products is too strong though.  When living abroad as an expat, it is almost vitally important to have some things around you that are familiar in your home abroad.  Sometimes I open up one of my kitchen cabinets and because of the many home products that I see, it could be me opening a cupboard in my old home in my home country.  Surely the first and second year abroad you might do this, stocking your cupboards full of home products, but doing this in your third or fourth (or tenth or more) year…. is it time to “let go?”

I heard one international teacher say that after eight years of living abroad she now refuses to buy products at home when she can find the exact same thing or something comparable in her host country.  That would most likely save her in the long run on baggage fees, even if the product is a little bit more expensive than in her home country.  However, sometimes we just want to have our favorite brand that we were using all the time when we lived in our home country, even if we can find something exactly the same (minus the brand name that we have “grown to trust”) in our current country.  This is the dilemma then, to buy or not to buy??!

This year I personally decided to only take one suitcase back home for the summer.  Well if I am being completely honest, I still did bring a carry-on travel backpack…in the hopes that I could squeeze in a few more of my favorite things to take with me on my flight back home. It was very difficult to limit myself.  The mantra that I kept repeating in my head “Can I get this where I live now?” If the answer was yes, I reluctantly didn’t buy it.

It is fun to shop in other countries.  Exploring grocery stores in other countries is one of my most favorite things to do actually (though I find it equally enjoyable to shop in my old grocery stores at home, too)!  You never know what you will find.  Well actually you do end up seeing some products from your home country in foreign grocery stores, but countries obviously have many of their own products as well.  As you try new products, you are bound to find new favorites.

Sometimes if you see products that look familiar, they have a different language on the packages.  Some even try and display messages in English that seem a bit funny to you.  I’m not for sure the Lays company would put the same phrase “best with cold drinks” on their United States packages…maybe though.  Also, foreign countries have people with different tastes, so you might find potato chip flavors like Chili Chinese with Schezwan Sauce and Seaweed Pringles….probably wouldn’t be popular flavors in United States.  One thing that is hard to find living abroad is proper potato or tortilla chips; that aisle in a United States grocery store is a long one with many different brands and options!

Another factor to consider when buying foreign products is when you are trying to read the ingredients; this is where many international school teachers draw the line.  Many, many people nowadays need to know exactly each ingredient that is in a product. And when you have to do this in a second language (in which you likely only know a few words in total), you might find yourself being drawn to bring back more of your home country’s products.  Knowing the ingredients is very important.  Sometimes even on imported products in your host country, the country itself covers up the English ingredients list by putting a sticker over it listing the ingredients in the host language. It is can be frustrating for sure!

Interesting story….I just witnessed an international school teacher lug up three boxes of home country goods to her apartment.  When I asked her where did she get these boxes, she said that she got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country.  After living abroad for a while and meeting embassy workers, we maybe don’t all know one of the perks they get.  They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship them over to you.  I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher friend!  I didn’t see all the different kinds of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some boxes of Duncan Hines cake boxes from the USA!  You might be able to find easy-to-bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those products that are only available at grocery stores in the United States.

Go ahead…continue to go home and stock up on all your favorite things.  However, don’t forget to keep your eye out in the local grocery stores where you are living.  Try a few new things every 1-2 weeks.  There are most likely some amazing products that you didn’t know about.  Some things though you just might want to pass on, like whatever kind of meat this is in the display case and what ever kind of product that is on a certain shelf.  Sometime the risk is too great on your wallet to try out new (and strange) products and foods!

If you are an international school teacher, please share what you stock up on when you return to your home country!  How many suitcases do you bring home?

If you’d like to share your story and earn free premium membership to ISC, please send us a message here.

continue reading

Information for Members

22000 Members Milestone: 25% off Premium Subscriptions!

October 30, 2021

It is a time of celebration for International School Community as we now have over 22000 members on our website!

To celebrate our 22000+ members, all members can get 25% off of all premium membership subscriptions from 30 Oct – 5 Nov, 2021 (ending 23:59 PST on 5 Nov, 2020).

The 25% off coupon code is: OKT2122K

Even if you are a member with Premium Membership already right now, you can still add more premium membership during this promotion. Just login to our website and go to the Manage Subscription page, choose the membership option that you’d like and then enter this coupon code (OKT2122K)Next click on the Make a Payment button to pay either with your PayPal account or without logging in to PayPal and just paying with your credit card.

Once you have premium membership access, please take this time to submit some comments on the schools you know about on our website. For every 10 comments you submit, your account will automatically be updated with one free month of premium membership. There is no limit, too. So if you submit 40 comments, then you will get four months of premium membership added to your account for free!

International School Community’s website launched back in February 2011.  When our first newsletter came out in May 2011, we only had 49 members!  On average, we have been getting over 300-400 people signing up to become new members each month.  We hope this trend continues!  The more members we have, the more people you have to network with.

International School Community’s goal is to be the largest online community for international schools educators.  Our website provides a useful, informative and celebratory environment for networking with other international school teachers and learning about different international schools around the world.

We created a website that would highlight the ins and outs of working at international schools (the benefits, the school itself, the city and travel information, etc.).

Another major goal for this website is to provide experienced teachers the platform to share what they know so that prospective and seasoned international school teachers can make more informed decisions as they venture out to a new international school.  Making connections and gathering information about international schools in our community has never been easier!  Whether you are looking to make new friends, network with other international school teachers or learn more about the wonderful world of teaching at international schools, International School Community is the place to be.

We want members to provide real information that is specific; information that is related to all the different topics we need to know about before signing a contract. International School Community offers up-to-date information in a highly organized, easy-to-use manner.

We also offer a vast amount of information and links related to the world of teaching at international schools and education in general via our blog.

You can search our vast collection of international school profile pages to find that specific international school you want to know about. You can also search our member profiles and be able to find a contact to send a private message to so that you can get firsthand information about a school that member has worked at.

While the focus of the site is to serve the international school teaching community by providing real and useful information about international schools, we have specifically organized our website to promote our members to leave comments and information that are useful for everyone.  Enjoy being an active member of our website!

We strive to have the largest collection of resources and services for the international teaching community.  International School Community really wants to take writing reviews and comments about international schools to the next level.

Here are what some of our current members are saying about International School Community:

“It’s really useful…it’s a really good way to find out practical info about schools when you’re looking for jobs. If you are interested in particular schools, you can just contact any member from that school to find out insider info! It’s also good if you just want to find out what life is like for teachers in other cities! Really unique idea!” (An international teacher in China)

“International School Community is a great resource for international school teachers. Whether you are doing research for a new job, or just connecting with other teachers, this site is has a plethora of great information. I especially love that this site has a positive feel to it, rather than a place for teachers to vent. I really recommend registering to be a part of this great idea.” (An international teacher in South Korea)

“You have an amazingly wonderful website and seeing these comments is extremely helpful to me.” (A teacher looking to teach abroad at international schools)

“I am very impressed for a website to take the time to do this. You have a great resource that I certainly could have used when I first set off overseas teaching in 1998!! The site works well and it is nice to get a good background on almost every school I’d wish to work in. You are doing a fantastic job with your website, keep it up!” (A veteran international school teacher)

“I truly love being an international educator and researching and comparing schools, as well as discovering great schools that aren’t as well-known. I am grateful for ISC having a platform that makes it all so easy.” (Another veteran international school teacher)

continue reading

Discussion Topics

Where Do International Educators Go When They Need a Break?

October 22, 2019

“Taking a year on” is what principal Nichole Schmidt called the time away from her international school position in the article “Taking a Year.” Schmidt, with her husband and sons, packed up to travel around parts of Africa for a ten-month adventure. Isn’t it more inspiring “to take a year on” than needing to take a year off?  

What about retirement? In “The Power of Time Off,” Stefan Sagmeister shares his scheduled year off every seven years to work on projects he is unable to pursue during his regular year. Sagmeister breaks down a worker’s lifetime into nearly 25 years of learning, 40 years of working, and for those lucky enough to live to the age of 65, 15 years of retirement. Why wait for retirement? 

What follows are a few opportunities available to U.S. citizens to take a year on while staying abroad.

Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching: U.S. American primary and secondary teachers interested in making a move to overseas schools, but not ready to commit to an initial 2-year contract can apply for short term (2-6 weeks) or semester-length programs (3-6 months). As part of the program, teachers can pursue individual projects, conduct research, take courses for professional development and actively share their experiences with local teachers in schools, teacher training colleges, government ministries, and educational NGOs. To review eligibility criteria: https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/fulbright-distinguished-awards-teaching-us-teachers.

Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program is a year-long professional development opportunity open to primary and secondary school teachers interested in developing skills to prepare students for a competitive global economy.   

For those trained to teach English language learners, the U.S. Department of State sponsors the English Language Fellowship and Specialist Programs. This role advertises a new challenge or a life-changing career move for TESOL trained teachers to teach in new contexts and gain unique international experience. https://elprograms.org

Peace Corps Response positions are open to U.S. Citizens with significant professional experience, not just former Peace Corp Volunteers. Positions vary from 6 to12 months, may have a language requirement, and include position titles such as educational specialists, special education advisors, deaf education specialists, environmental education teacher trainer, health facilitator, literacy coordinator, e-learning specialist, math education or science instructor, primary education curriculum and design specialist, and more. Visit for more information: https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openingshttps://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openings/.

I took a “year on “working as a TEFL Teacher with Fulbright Taiwan. To learn about this opportunity, visit here.

A few months into my year on, I have to say I do miss some things: the academic calendar, full salary, and benefits, connecting with fellow international educators, and the bonds that come from working with students in the classroom. 

What I am gaining this year is an opportunity to provide teacher training to local teachers and frequent travel opportunities as I give workshops at various schools in Taiwan. While not working, I have had the chance to pursue other interests, such as writing more as I spend less time grading.   

While the opportunities shared may be limited to U.S. Citizens, what opportunities are out there to other nationalities?  

Articles Cited

Sagmeister, Stefan. “The Power of Time Off.” TED, www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off#t-206460.

“Taking a Year.” Taking a Year | The International Educator (TIE Online), www.tieonline.com/article/2375/taking-a-year.

This article was submitted by ISC member Ellen Johnston. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact here her. Check our her other submitted article on the ISC blog here – The Journey to School: Tarsus American College (Turkey),

continue reading

For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #3: Bring It On!

February 16, 2014

“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.”

Jodi Picoult, Handle With Care

Recruitment season is now in full swing. So it´s time to finally get down to business. But with more than 6500 international schools in the world, where do you start?

DSC_9281To begin, do your research both on the schools, and the country and city where they are located. When considering a location, be open-minded and willing to consider any place. Be prepared to experience (or maybe, in some cases, tolerate might be a better word), the cultural differences and discover the richness of these new cultures. Whether for good or bad, the influence of western culture and commercialization has stretched so far that if you were dropped, blindfolded into a city in almost any place in the world, you might be hard-pressed to figure out what country it was. But peel back that superficial layer of “globalization,” and you will find a place of such rich cultural diversity, that your own life can only be enriched. When looking at schools, look for a school with which you share educational, leadership and lifestyle values. Unless you are going to be in a position to influence it, look for one that has a clear vision for who they are, where they are going, and a well-developed strategic plan to get there. Let´s face it, a teacher teaches. You do what you do regardless of where you are, so that it the easy part.

In a recent non-scientific survey, of educators, teachers were asked, “What questions did you wish you had asked in the interview?” The top six, in no particular order, were:

• What is the average tenure of the international staff? (If the answer is two years, maybe there are issues beneath the surface. If it is ten years, there is a reason people stay.)

• What percentage of the student (and staff) body is international? (This may be completely irrelevant to you, but it gives a picture of the culture of the school.)

• How will the school help me settle in? (If you are left to your own devices, you will almost certainly run into some roadblocks immediately.)

• Tell me about the orientation program (i.e.: housing, benefits, salary) (See above.)

• What are the pros and cons of living in the country, and what are the top challenges in adjusting? (A later article will deal with culture shock, but you WILL experience it.)

• What priority does the school place on work/life balance? (If you are single and a workaholic, there are schools for you. If you´re not, you want to be in a school that recognizes the importance of “downtime.”)

Likewise, administrators were asked, “What do you wish you knew about the interviewee, but might not have asked?”

• How adaptable will this person be in the school and community, cultural values, and with our way of doing things? (A certain kiss of death is to hear, “In my old school, we ….”)

• Will (s)he be an open-minded team player? (If you are not, you and everyone around you will be miserable.)

•  Is (s)he willing to make strengthening the school a priority, or is (s)he a teacher-tourist? (Yes, you definitely want to explore the country—that´s part of the whole experience. Just remember, you are being paid to do a job.)

• What will (s)he contribute to the school community? (It´s not JUST a job. What special interests, skills, hobbies do you bring that will enrich the community?)

• If we invest in him / her, is (s)he in it for the long haul? (If you are going into a job knowing that you are there for “only two years,” how will you find the motivation to really give 100%?)

DSC_9709Be prepared to ask those questions and give the interviewer the answers to the questions (s)he has in mind, and you will be setting yourself up for success. If teaching in international education is, to paraphrase a seasoned international educator, “doing an ordinary job in an extraordinary place,” why do it? First, it is, without a doubt, an adventure. Stepping out into the unknown is exciting and frightening at the same time, but approached with the right mindset, it will be a wonderfully positive experience. Secondly, living in a different country, is quite different from visiting it.  You will be in a unique position to explore the country, meet the people and learn about their culture. Take the time to do so, and make an effort to learn the language. As you do, you will grow as a global citizen. And above all, you will be able to take the best of all cultures, incorporate them into your life, and have a greater understanding of the world around us.

Step out of your comfort zone, into the unknown, and immerse yourself in it. To say that you understand the world as a traveler, is to only scratch the surface. To say that being in a plane is flying, is like saying you´re swimming, while in a boat. Get out of the plane and enjoy the adventure.

Good luck and watch this space for the next article, where we will look at making the move, and the final article in this series will look at how to deal with culture shock.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown.

(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

continue reading

For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #2: How Do I Find That Coveted Position? (Part 2 of 2)

October 20, 2013

(This article is a continuation of Part 1)

If the meat market or job fair theme is not for you, another option is to work directly with an independent recruiter. In light of the changing attitudes toward job fairs and tight budgets, many educators are now turning to recruiters. They provide many of the same benefits as the major recruiting organizations, but offer more individual attention. As with the organizations mentioned above, some charge educators a fee, others are funded by the schools. A unique advantage to using a recruiter is that they have more intimate contact with schools and are focused on helping both. The screening process is bilateral. They work with schools to screen candidates for best fit and also screen schools in an attempt to provide a match for candidates that will be mutually beneficial. One of those agencies is Carney Sandoe www.carneysandoe.com. Although they advertise schools around the world, they seem to have more placements in the United States. One recruiter that is relatively new and growing stronger every day is Teacher Horizons www.teacherhorizons.com. A recent check of their listings revealed a number of postings throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Snake oil—diamond—or diamond in the rough?


To quote a phrase made famous by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Доверяй, но проверяй (doveryai, no proveryai) for those non-Russian speakers among us, “Trust but verify.” As you begin to sift through the offers rolling in, it is important to do your research. Before interviewing with a school, and certainly before accepting a position, it is in everyone´s best interest to do your research. You want to get an objective picture of the school, administration, potential colleagues, students and families, not to mention the country and city, it´s politics, and possibly, if this is a priority for you, even what brands of deodorant are available. The rub in all of this is the term objective. Bear in mind that everyone has an agenda. Unfortunately, there is a lot of, at a minimum hyperbole and at worst, fiction out there. As long as you approach your research with that in mind, you will be usually be able to find the facts among all of the roses—or thorns.

The first place to look in your search is a school´s website. It will give you a good picture of what´s going on and their priorities. It also can give you a look between the lines. If for example the information is up-to-date and relevant, someone at the school has made it a priority to present a current picture of the school. If it´s not, it could be that it is no longer relevant, that they are not proud of what is going on, or simply that everyone is too busy to take care of it. Look closely at the vision, mission and values of the school. Do they represent your vision, mission and values in education? Are they practical and relevant? Do they look like they lead to an actionable plan, or do they look like cookie-cutter, feel-good idealisms that do not really say anything? Look at the goals and the strategic plan. Are they achievable by mere mortals? Are they missing? If there is no strategic plan, could it be that the ship is rudderless?

Another option are the myriad of school review sites. Among the most common, is International Schools Review www.internationalschoolsreview.com. A weakness to this site is that you do not have to be a member to post a review [on International School Community you need to be a member to leave comments]. There truly are facts to be found here, but only with a microscope. First, to read the reviews, you must be a member. The fee is reasonable but might be the best investment. This anonymity for posting, opens the door to the hyperbole and fiction referred to above. The thing to keep in mind as you read these reviews is that if it seems very rosy, it was most likely written by someone with a vested or financial interest, i.e.: a founder, board member or administrator. If on the other hand, it seems like hell on earth, it was most likely written someone who left the school under less than friendly terms. You have to read between the lines to find the kernels of truth, but hopefully you will also be able to identify some rational and objective reviews.

Other places to look are the International Baccalaureate (IBO) site, www.ibo.org, or discussion forums found on such sites as Linked In www.linkedin.com, or Internations www.internations.org. Ultimately, it is incumbent on you to do the research to be sure that you make informed decisions that are right for you.

Talk to me!

Burnout stress - woman sleeping on computerSo you have your papers in order, you have jumped through all of the hoops. You know about the schools and countries you are considering and you heard that they have a position. The next step is to sign the contract, right? Well, not so fast. You still have to convince them that you are the perfect person for the job.

Before blasting out 200 CV´s with a form cover letter, do your homework. Although at job fairs, it may seem that international schools are isolated entities in “competition” with each other, the reality is that it is a small group. The directors of these schools know each other, and whether they are best friends or passing acquaintances, they talk and compare notes. You want them to see that you have carefully considered your skills and their needs and that you truly believe that you are a solid fit. Remember that there are a set number of hours in a day and just as you have limited time to get things done, so do directors and recruiters. Do not waste your time or theirs by sending a letter of interest to a school that is not a clear fit for your skill set.  Likewise, if you do not know enough about a school to write an individually crafted cover letter, why should they be bothered to find out about you? That being said, everyone has a dream location in mind, but if you allow yourself the opportunity, you will discover that some places you never dreamed of living, can provide a rich, colorful and amazing experience. Having grown up in a time (in the U.S.) when most people imagined Africa to be nothing but desert, bugs and snakes, and New York City to be nothing but crime, it is easy to understand how we let our preconceived ideas limit our opportunities and potential. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to ignore those preconceptions and be open to consider any country. Wherever you go, I can assure you that you will find warm, open, friendly and dedicated colleagues and citizens.

The first step in landing a contract for a job that will be rewarding for you and beneficial to your employer, is to know yourself and be honest with yourself and on your CV. There has been a great deal of news lately about how common it is to lie on a CV. There are two perspectives from which to view this. “One is that everybody is doing it, so if I don´t, I can´t compete.” If that is your perspective, ask Lance Armstrong how that worked out for him. Further, exaggerating your CV might land you a job, but if you are not truly qualified for that job, it will inevitably end badly. On the other hand, as an educator, we are role models and just as we would cringe at giving a student a grade for something he did not do, what would it say about the character of an educator who got a job fraudulently. Be honest—completely. It will not open every door, but it will open the right one.

A career change brings with it a lot of excitement, frustration, exhaustion and in some cases, panic. International education is not for everyone but if I still have your attention at this point, you are on the path to an amazing life, with all its joys, heartache, highs and lows.

In the next article, we will talk more about the interview, what to look for, what to expect and what questions to ask.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.34.33 PMThis article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown.

(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

continue reading