Highlighted Articles

Going home for the summer: No one cares about your international life!

June 27, 2022


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.

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Discussion Topics

LEARNING THE HOST COUNTRY LANGUAGE and LOCALS’ LEVEL OF ENGLISH

April 25, 2022


In this article, ISC would like to highlight some of your recent thoughts and experiences on the topic of learning the host-country language and the level of English of the locals living there.

Many seasoned international school teachers want to learn the host-country language and put their best effort into taking classes, etc.

However, that is easier said than done. It can be difficult, expensive and often time-consuming to achieve this goal.

Some international schools offer free host country language classes to their newly hired teachers, but this can be optional and sometimes of a low quality.

And because homelife and the workday for international school teachers are often only in English, teachers really need to make learning the host country’s language a priority.

We asked five seasoned international school teachers their thoughts on some or all of the following questions:

• How often do you speak (or need to speak) the local language while going around your city/country?
• Has the level of English of the locals increased over the past 10, 20 years in your city/country?
• Have you taken language classes, for how long and how did they go for you? Did your school provide free host country language classes?
• Have you ever had to pass a host country language test in order to get permanent residence/citizenship, for example? and how was that experience?
• What is the level of your school’s expat staff with regards to speaking/knowing the local language?

Thoughts from an international school teacher who lived in Lebanon.

When I lived in Beirut, Lebanon, I was very keen to study Arabic there, specifically the local dialect (the spoken Arabic of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Jordan). I had studied the language some prior to arriving and wanted to become more conversational. I worked in a school that had a lot of Lebanese teachers, so I would hear the language every day in school as well as out around the city which helped me to learn. Our school provided some lessons with an Arabic teacher from our school, but this wasn’t ideal because they put all of us together in one class, whether we were beginners or advanced. I ended up taking some classes at a local language school, which was really great. The challenging part was that I had to travel across the city in traffic to get to the language school and then the class was three hours long, 2x per week. Also, all of the people that I was studying with were full-time students of Arabic, so with a full-time job, it was hard for me to keep up with them! In Beirut, most people are trilingual to some extent (English, French, Arabic), so it is possible to get by without studying the language, but of course, it makes the experience of living there much richer if you do. I had a colleague that studied French while she was in Beirut and that also helped her to connect with locals.

Thoughts from an international school teacher on their entire career abroad so far.

I’ve committed to three languages in the past 20 years while living abroad. Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese. [I will be] adding Arabic to the mix when I move to the UAE in August and use my High School/Uni French in my kindergarten teaching (along with English).

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Portugal.

In the school, there is minimal need to speak the language (Portuguese). Since we are an English medium school, almost all staff are fluent or at least functional in English. At times, it is easier to communicate with some of the staff in Portuguese, but that is rare. Since Portugal´ s economy is very heavily based on tourism, English is a required course in public schools. Although many people complain that it is not well done or the standards are not high, my experience has been that a large percentage of younger people in major cities speak English well. I have not seen a huge shift in this over the past 10 years that I have been here.

I took private lessons once per week from a former colleague. Having spoken Spanish for more than ½ my life, there were times when that was helpful. For others, it created much more confusion than help. Some false cognates could be rather embarrassing. Did my school provide free host country language classes? No. there was ongoing discussion of it, but it never panned out.

For citizenship, I was required to prove that I was at an A2 (high beginner-low intermediate) level. Although the design of the test was different from any I´ ve experienced before, it was relatively easy. For the oral portion, it was very much dependent on the level of the other student you were randomly paired with. I was paired with a person who used Portuguese in business every day, and we had a lively and interesting discussion, so it went very well. My partner was paired with someone who lived entirely in a predominantly English-speaking area of the country and had very little experience or skill. As a result, my partner’s score was negatively affected.

Approximately 50% of our staff speak several different languages, and many have picked up a conversational level of Portuguese fairly quickly. Those who don´ t have admittedly not made an effort to do so. One final point I would make is that as immigrants to a country, we have a responsibility to show respect for that country, by at least attempting the language. In Portugal, people are appreciative of the efforts of foreigners to try to learn the language and are very patient with mistakes. An attempt to learn the host country’s language is a sign of respect toward that country, and its people.

Thoughts from an international school teacher on living in a number of countries.

This is an area of high concern for me, and I am rather disappointed in the level of support I have found in the schools I’ve been with. I was on active duty from the mid-70s for 15 years, and in that time, one of the first things I tried to do was learn the language where I was stationed. I was rather successful, as I still speak three of those languages well enough to get by. However, in each international school, I have taught, I have asked if there were host-nation language classes provided for the teachers. Only one, in Manila, had anything. While my current school is in a country where English is one of the national languages, in other countries that wasn’t the case. In one country where the local language was Arabic, the number of people downtown who spoke English was quite limited, making it difficult to do simple things like buying a phone load, groceries, paying for electricity, and even buying gas. While I tried learning the language by myself there, and in Korea, the differences in writing and the lack of cognates to link to my Romance languages left me floundering. This is one area where the schools can easily provide lessons at minimal expense, yet make the expat teachers’ lives much more simple AND help them understand and appreciate the host-nation culture.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Budapest.

When I was offered a job in Budapest, Hungary, I was excited at the prospect of learning a new language “from the beginning” and even took a few introductory lessons before moving. Once I got to Budapest, many people discouraged me from learning the language saying it was “too hard” and “not useful outside of Hungary – don’t waste your time.” After a bit of time in the country, I decided that I didn’t really love the language, and I thought my time might be better spent pursuing other languages that I had already invested in studying (that I was actually interested in). I didn’t realize at the time that I would stay in Hungary so long and looking back, I now know that it would have been useful to study the local language. English is spoken more and more around Budapest, but it is mostly the younger generation that is learning it in school now (as opposed to in the past when Russian or German was more widely studied). There can be some challenges in not speaking the local language when going to shops or non-touristy places in the city – and definitely outside of Budapest. Luckily the school helps us with everything related to housing, cars, contracts, etc., so that part is not a problem at all!

These statements were submitted anonymously by ISC members. Thanks! If you are also interested in sharing your thoughts and perspective, please contact us here.

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Information for Members

Become an ISC Mayor and Get Unlimited Free Premium Membership

April 17, 2022


Our mission for the International School Community website is to have the most updated information about what it is like to work at the numerous international schools around the world. One way to help us achieve that mission is to have Mayors.

Being a Mayor is super easy, and the best part is that you get unlimited free premium membership to our website!

And ANYONE can be the Mayor of their school. Most of our active Mayors are just regular teachers at their schools, but we also have heads of schools, HR representatives, principals, etc. as Mayors as well.

Mayors are commenting on the school and the benefits information, but they also comment on the city and travel information of the country as well. Mayors also don’t need to represent all aspects and perspectives of the school. They are recommended to just share their experience and perspective on living and working at that international school and in that city/country.

Mayor Responsibilities:

• Submit at least 3-6 new comments on your school every 1-2 months (on the 68 different comment topics). It takes like 5-8 minutes of your time to do this. It will take a Mayor 2 years to submit one comment in all 68 comment topics.

• Make sure to check on your school’s Wall and occasionally post updates about their school (any big changes to the school that are happening, good tips to know about, recent events at the schools, etc.)

• Make sure that your school has the most updated and correct information (e.g. basic info, links, Facebook page, Youtube video, etc.) on the Overview and Social Media tabs.

• Submit job vacancies that are currently available at your school.

Here are just a few of the almost 700+ schools that have or have had a Mayor on our website:

Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 547 Comments

NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 304 Comments

Tarsus American College (Mersin, Turkey) – 278 Comments

Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 168 Comments

American School Foundation of Monterrey (Monterrey, Mexico) – 129 Comments

Concordia International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China) – 180 Comments

Yongsan International School of Seoul (Seoul, South Korea) – 145 Comments

Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 414 Comments

Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 223 Comments

American International School Dhaka (Dhaka, Bangladesh) – 130 Comments

International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 135 Comments

Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 193 Comments

Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China) – 157 Comments

The more Mayors that we have on our website means the more our members will be informed; as there will be more up-to-date information on the schools they want to know about!

Become the Mayor of an international school that you work at today!

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Please note that being the Mayor of a school is anonymous and that all comments and job vacancies submitted on our website are also done so anonymously. Posting on the school profile page wall though is not anonymous.

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Discussion Topics

The State of the Job Market for International Schools in 2022

April 10, 2022


In this article, ISC would like to highlight some of your recent thoughts and experiences getting jobs at international schools in 2022. It is April, so we are getting closer to the end of the hiring season. If you don’t have a position secured, you might be feeling a bit nervous about your prospects.

The landscape for getting an international school teaching position has certainly changed in the last 10 years. And if one thinks about 20 years ago, some people might have the perspective that the power of the international school job market was definitely in the hands of a teacher. The most experienced international teachers would remember these days of glory.

Surely, there are multiple factors that come into play for both the international school and the teacher that affect their decision-making processes. It can be a very rocky past to bring the teacher and the school together in harmony.

A lot of frustration and maybe even confusion can occur for both stakeholders from when a vacant position becomes available to when it is filled. The lack of clarity about what is happening during that process is the most frustrating part, especially for the teacher candidates.

We asked five seasoned international school teachers their thoughts on some or all of the following questions:

• Who has more of the power right now: schools or teachers? and why do you think this?
• How easy was it for you to find your last international school teaching placement? Please explain.
• What advice would you give to a recruiting teacher still looking for a job at an international school in April?
• Does having connections at an international school help and/or having lots of relevant teaching experience help in your job search? Please explain.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in SE Asia.

I don’t like the word power.

So much depends on the candidate’s experience and capabilities, and also on the type of school. Most people are chasing the dream of a beautiful location, great school community, and high salary. Those schools can pick and choose. Other good schools with less budget in more challenging locations find it harder to recruit.

People who have too high expectations, mediocre references, and poorly constructed applications find it harder to recruit. People should be more intelligent about how they use social media and represent themselves. Not many schools are looking for people with self-serving agendas!

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Central Europe.

I was recruiting this year and I signed a contract before the winter break in December. I had a shortlist of schools around the world that I was interested in working at and nearly all of them posted a position between September and December that fit my qualifications. (After I accepted the job, even more positions were posted.)

I was really happy that I had a lot of great places to even apply to, this time around. I had read online in some forums and groups that some people felt there “weren’t a lot of jobs this year” comparatively speaking, but it’s always a game of how many positions are open that are a match for your skills and qualifications. Each year is different.

I would say that a history of working at great schools, and connections/excellent references always help add something to an already great resume.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Vietnam.

As a maths teacher with PGCE and QTS but no maths degree I normally find I have to wait a while for the market to swing in my favour, normally April or May. This year has been different. I updated my details on teach horizons and 3 schools interviewed me in the first week. 2 made me an offer and the third said I would get a second interview. I took one of the first two and I’m off to Thailand in the summer. All done and dusted before the end of Feb. Very early for me so I guess the power is with the teacher

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Taiwan.

I think for who has the power, it really depends on the individual schools and teachers. I applied to many schools via different platforms this season and had many interviews. It wasn’t easy but I ended up with 2 solid offers from good schools. I accepted in November and that is very early compared to what I have been used to. If one has a solid network of people someone at a school you’re interested in, then that can certainly give you a leg up. For me this time around, I believe it was my subject (economics) and my experience that helped me get interviews and offers. I think if teachers are still looking now, they should be persistent as people drop out of contracts and some very good schools are still looking now.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Oceania.

How easy? It wasn’t. While I did secure an appointment in May of 2020 for an August start, on the first day of school, the corporation announced our school was closing permanently by 31 December. I had a six-month unemployed period trying to find another posting.

Connections? Vital, especially given my age and experience level (both high). It appears that most heads/hiring officials don’t bother to read introductory letters where I explicitly explain I come with my own health cover and the school doesn’t have to pay for it. I know some schools that are forcing highly experienced teachers out to cut their HR costs.

Issues: Aside from the obvious of a slow return to anything resembling normal, I have had school heads tell me to my face that a certain country has a mandatory retirement age… and while partially true, as a legal resident of that country, I know that mandatory age is only applicable to government workers, not to non-government entities.

These statements were submitted anonymously by ISC members.

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Information for Members

Top 40 International Schools with the Most ISC Members (UPDATE)

February 27, 2022


How many times have you applied to a school wishing that you knew somebody that worked there?

Knowing somebody and getting the ‘inside scoop’ on an international school could definitely help you in your quest to set up an interview there.

At International School Community, we made that search for ‘informed people’ even easier with our Top 40 Schools with the Most Members page.

Currently, our top 40 international schools with the most members are (6 December 2020):

30 members – American International School in Egypt

28 members International School of Kuala Lumpur
27 members – Copenhagen International School
25 members – International School Manila
24 members – MEF International School Istanbul
23 members – Western International School of Shanghai
21 members – Fairview International School
21 members – Brent International School Manila

21 members – Seoul Foreign School
21 membersAmerican International School (Vietnam)
21 members – American School Foundation of Mexico City
20 membersInternational School Dhaka
20 members – International School of Tanganyika
19 members – Jakarta Intercultural School
19 members – Seoul International School
19 members – Graded School Sao Paulo
18 members – Shanghai United International School (Hongqiao)

18 members – Shanghai Community International School
18 members – American School of Barcelona
18 membersAga Khan Academy Mombasa
17 members – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana
17 members – Qatar Academy (Doha)
17 members – International School Panama
17 membersPathways World School
17 membersInternational School of Phnom Penh (ISPP)
17 members – American International School of Johannesburg
17 members – International School Bangkok
17 membersGood Shepherd International School
17 members – Singapore American School

17 membersAmerican International School Dhaka
16 members – United Nations International School (Vietnam)
16 members – Cairo American College
16 membersSuzhou Singapore International School
16 membersWestern Academy of Beijing
16 members NIST International School
16 membersAnglo-American School of Moscow

15 membersCanadian International School (Singapore)
15 membersAmerican School of Kuwait
15 membersChadwick International School – Songdo
15 members – American School of Bombay

With 100-200 new members joining each month, this list will continue to grow and grow; with even more members showing up as potential people to network with.

It is simple to network on our website: just click on a member and then click on the ‘Contact this member’ button (premium member feature).  Then write him/her a message.  When your message is sent, the other member will get an email alert letting them know that they have a new message waiting for them on our website (so, hopefully he/she/they will get back to you in a timely manner!). Numerous International School Community members have already taken advantage of this unique feature on our website!

international schools

As far as we know, International School Community is one of the only websites where you can quickly and easily network with real people at a specific international school.  Meaning, if you want to get in touch with somebody from Suzhou Singapore International School in China and you are currently a premium member of International School Community, you now have 16 members that you can contact on our website that either work there now or have worked there in the past.  Get the answers to your questions; now that is easy networking!

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