Discussion Topics

Is Your Host Country Safe?

April 2, 2019


Nobody wants to live in a place where they feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter if you are a man, a woman, a gay or lesbian person, a person of color, a physically challenged person, a senior citizen, etc., you definitely want to live somewhere you can you feel safe in your environment and surroundings.

It is unfortunate, but not every city in the world is considered a safe place for everyone. But I think people would be surprised to find out which cities are making the lists of top 50 safest cities in the world.

If you haven’t been to a certain city in the world before to check it out yourself, then there can be a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about that place. People tend to revert to using stereotypes to describe the places that they haven’t been to before. Surely your mom has said this to you before you move to or even travel to a specific country: ‘oh, I’ve heard some bad things about that place. Make sure you are safe there!’, but most likely your mom is just getting her information from her local newspaper, for example. Maybe your mom is just referring to a story she heard about that city 10, 20 even 30 years ago! And of course, some of that information might not actually be true and cities can and do change over time.

After having visited many cities in many countries in the world, people will realize that every place has nice people that live there. Even if there is a small lack of safety at the moment, the fruit seller is still selling her/his fruit. Meaning that life goes on as normal, in most cities in the world, regardless of most recent events.

Besides war, we unforutnately consistently see episodes of terrorist attacks on a number of cities around the world. And they are happening everywhere, any place and any time. It would appear impossible to avoid living in a place where there is a 0% chance of a terrorist attack.

“The political unrest has subsided and feel very safe. However, It seems that many people get frustrated with politics between the National school and the International school. The National school has control of everything and it has a negative impact on day-to-day working conditions at the International school. If the International school was independent of the National school, I feel, it would be a tremendous place to work. Many people, however, simply get tired of trying to work with such limiting parameters imposed by the National school.” – MEF International School Istanbul

In some cities, often found in developing countries, you might find yourself living in a compound or a building with some level of security. Living in a building with a guard can be a new experience for many international school teachers. You might also find yourself living in a city where you will see high walls with barbed wire surrounding each building as you drive to and from your home to work. Not everyone wants to look at that every day. Even though it gives you a feeling a being safer, it doesn’t give the best feeling that you are constantly reminded of the fact that you seem to be living in an unsafe city.

“Many of the buildings, stores and houses will have fences around them with barbed wire. There are also police couples walking around the downtown area of the city all the time. Though these things keep you safe and feeling security, it doesn’t have the most cosiest feeling as you go around the city.” – American International School of Costa Rica

When you live abroad in a new city, you want the freedom to explore and walk around your new city. As you spend more time there, you will find out the ‘right places’ that you can walk around in your new city. Most people would prefer to walk around freely without any worries, but it is always good to aware of your surroundings as you do your exploring.

“Compared to many Latin American cities I have visited or lived in, Santo Domingo is safe. You don’t have to look over your shoulder all of the time if you stay in the right parts of the city. You can exercise in a park without worrying about getting mugged. Of course you shouldn’t flash money and expensive jewelry around but with common sense it’s not hard to stay out of trouble.” – MC School

Many of us are used to having our own car in our home countries. However, a smaller percentage of us own cars while living abroad. It might be that we view cars as an unnecessary expense in our expat lives, but it also might be that it would be unsafe for you to drive there in your host country. Maybe you would be the unsafe person on the road as it might also be that you are unfamiliar with the local way of driving and that the roads are not very well maintained.

“The best way to make the best out of your stay in KL during your contract it to buy a car and drive around. Driving is really safe, roads are well signaled and the quality is very good. Considering that Malaysia is a relatively small country in terms of territory, it is possible to visit all states and major cities during weekends and have fantastic road trips with gorgeous views.” – Fairview International School

In the end, international school teachers want to move abroad and have a goal to start a new life exploring a new country and getting immersed in a new culture. Thinking of all the factors that come into play with regards to feeling safe while living abroad, achieving this goal can prove to be a difficult talk. But with great cities improving and becoming safer all the time, there are more and more good options for us international school teachers for our next move!

continue reading

The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Xian Hi-Tech International School in China

August 27, 2016


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 Xian Hi-Tech International School (Xian, China), described his way to work there as follows:

The road to XHIS…….

This is going to sound terribly stereotypical but one of the many reasons I love living in Shaanxi province is the potatoes! Now can you guess where I come from? I will tell you later. My journey to work each day is a very short one, but my journey to Xi’an has been a long one. I hope you enjoy reading about it.

journey to Xian Hi-Tech International School

My name is Brian Lalor and I am in my third year at Xi’an Hi-Tech International School, in Shaanxi province in China. We are a two programme IB world school and are working towards offering three of the four excellent IB programmes. Our school is small at present with only 270 students but we are at capacity and have an exciting move to a new purpose-built campus coming up in August 2017.

journey to Xian Hi-Tech International School

Each morning I get up and travel about four minutes to school! I know, the shortest ever commute, right? Our school is situated in residential area and all of our teachers’ apartments are located around the school. We are about 30 minutes from the city center in the southern suburbs. I ride my bicycle to school each day, that is why my journey is so short.

journey to Xian Hi-Tech International School

On my journey to school I pass through the morning market. Here local vendors sell fruit, vegetables, nuts and breads for very reasonable prices. One of the wonderful advantages to living in Xi’an is the potential to save money. It is much easier to live here when compared to other big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Our school pays for our apartment, flights, international health insurance and gives us a monthly allowance for living overseas. Before coming to Xi’an I worked in Ha Noi for nine years, and in Jakarta before that. Each city has its own advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantages living in Xi’an are the standard of healthcare and the bad pollution in Winter.

journey to Xian Hi-Tech International School

Some of the wonders Xi’an has to offer are as follows. We are literally just a short 25-minute car ride to the beautiful Qin Ling Mountains which provides us with a great way to escape the heat in summer and some lovely snowy landscapes in winter. Another highly attractive feature unique to this city, is its amazing millenary history, with archaeological sites found literally in every part of town, with the city wall being one of its main attractions. And who hasn’t heard of the world-famous “Terra Cota Warriors”. Xi’an was once the ancient capital of China so as you can imagine there are lots to see in and around the community.

If you have not guessed it I am born and bread Irish. Oh those lovely potatoes! The food here is incredible and you could literally have a potato dish, every day of the week. Some noodles are even made out of potato here!

155595-linebreak

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 China?  Out of a total of 165 international schools there are 110 that have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:

Beijing BISS International School (Beijing, China)36 Comments

Beijing City International School (Beijing, China)31 Comments

Beijing International Bilingual Academy (Beijing, China)35 Comments

International School of Beijing (Beijing, China)25 Comments

Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China)95 Comments

Western Academy Beijing (Beijing, China)43 Comments

Changchun American International School (Changchun, China)50 Comments

QSI International School of Dongguan (Dongguan, China)64 Comments

Guangdong Country Garden School (Foshan, China)48 Comments

Guangzhou Huamei International School (Guangzhou, China)48 Comments

Harbin No. 9 High School International Division (Songbei Campus) (Harbin, China)45 Comments

American International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China)24 Comments

Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China)69 Comments

Creative Secondary School (Hong Kong, China)39 Comments

Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong, China)34 Comments

Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China)104 Comments

Canadian International School Kunshan (Kunshan, China)28 Comments

Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan, China)41 Comments

Access International Academy (Ningbo) (Ningbo, China)48 Comments

British International School Shanghai – Puxi (Shanghai, China)35 Comments

Concordia International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China)86 Comments

Shanghai American School – Puxi (Shanghai, China)39 Comments

Shanghai Community International School (Shanghai, China)33 Comments

Shanghai Rego International School (CLOSED) (Shanghai, China)74 Comments

Shanghai United International School (Shanghai, China)40 Comments

Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China)204 Comments

Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China)27 Comments

Buena Vista Concordia International School (Shenzhen, China)39 Comments

International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (Shenzhen, China)26 Comments

QSI International School of Shekou (Shenzhen, China)20 Comments

Suzhou Singapore International School (Suzhou, China)47 Comments

Wellington College International Tianjin (Tianjin, China)54 Comments

EtonHouse International Schools, Wuxi (Wuxi, China)49 Comments

Xian Hi-Tech International School (Xian, China)54 Comments

Zhuhai International School (Zhuhai, China)59 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.

continue reading

The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Leysin American School

March 25, 2016


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 Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland), described his way to work there as follows:

IMG_1323

I love waking up in the morning here in Leysin. The mountains are always there to greet you, and they are indeed spectacular at which to look. There can be some fog in the morning, but that can dissipate as the day gets warmer. The spring is starting right now, so there can be many days of wonderful, warm sun.

Though many teachers (including myself) can easily walk to school, a number of teachers decide to drive their car on some days because they have other responsibilities after school that requires driving.

IMG_1379

If I walk, then I can get to most school buildings within 3-12 minutes. It is not bad at all and it is a good way to get your heart rate up a bit being that everywhere I need to get to is always at an incline. You need to walk up tons of steep driveways and tons of stairs both inside and outside of the school buildings while working at this school.

IMG_1377

I love this time of the year. There is still some snow on the ground, but it is melting away pretty fast, since much of Leysin is facing the south. Just a few weeks ago, there was a snow storm that dumped A LOT of snow on the ground. Because of the warm sun, you can see trails of melted ice water going down the streets and into the drains. There is a crisp and fresh feeling in the air when you breathe (and you breathe heavily at times depending on how much you have to climb up and if you are having a chat with a fellow coworker).

IMG_1375

IMG_1373

This week there was sun every day. The sun is so bright and it feels great on your face. The buildings on campus really light up when the sunlight shines through the windows. I especially like older building on campus, in the main hall. The stained glass windows in the sunlight look so beautiful!

IMG_1325

As you walk along the streets that connect all the campus buildings, you need to keep an eye out for cars and buses. There isn’t always a lot of space for pedestrians and the cars can appear fairly quickly around the corner as they jet up and down the mountain side.

IMG_1380

In one of the other main buildings, there is a cafeteria that also has a great view of the mountains across the valley. How lucky our students and staff are to have this view while eating their lunch and/or dinner!

IMG_1320

As you walk around campus, especially going to work, expect to see many other staff members (and their children) as well as many students. Everyone is usually with a smile on their face though, and kindly greets each other. It is like one big family here sometimes!

IMG_1374

Living in Leysin is definitely not for everyone. But when thinking about the journeys to work at other schools I’ve worked at across the globe, Leysin has a pretty easy and beautiful one.

IMG_1370

155595-linebreak

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 Switzerland?  There are 12 international schools in Switzerland that have had comments submitted on them:

International School Zug and Luzern (Baar, Switzerland)32 Comments

International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland)37 Comments

SIS Swiss International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland)11 Comments

Int’l School of Geneva – La Chataigneraie Campus (Founex, Switzerland)7 Comments

International School Geneva – Campus des Nations (Geneva, Switzerland)17 Comments

International School of Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)19 Comments

Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland)58 Comments

TASIS The American School in Switzerland (Lugano, Switzerland)32 Comments

John F. Kennedy International School (Saanen, Switzerland)25 Comments

Inter-community School Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)44 Comments

International School (Zurich North) (Zurich, Switzerland)5 Comments

Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland)25 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.

continue reading

The Journey to School

The Journey to School: American International School in Egypt

February 24, 2016


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 theAmerican International School in Egypt (New Cairo City, Egypt), described her way to work there as follows:

DSC_6601

As I leave my apartment in El Rehab, I don’t know exactly what I will see. Life in Cairo is always interesting and sometimes unpredictable. One thing that is typical is the sunny weather, and today is not any different. The first place that I see from the car I am driving is the El Rehab Mall 2. I go there sometimes to go to the grocery store as it is only steps away from my apartment.

DSC_6602

After Mall 2, you will see the first of many roundabouts. The right-of-way is actually with the car that is entering, NOT the car that is already in the roundabout.

DSC_6605

En El Rehab, you need to exit the area through a gate. There are guards there to keep the riff raff out. You need to show a card that you live there to enter through the gate.

DSC_6608

After you get outside of the gate, then you have a few more roundabouts to go through. Today I saw a group of children with brooms on the side of the room cleaning the streets. Well at least it looked like they were cleaning the streets. I wonder if they were getting paid to do so. It was the first time seeing them on my journey to school.

DSC_6611

Another common sight on the journey is seeing many abandoned housing developments. They are all over Cairo. I still haven’t received an official explanation for this. I can only imagine that there was enough interest and money to get these projects started, but then the money and interest went away for some reason. It is really strange!

DSC_6614

With 30+ million people living in and around Cairo, you are bound to see a number of people sitting on the curbs on most streets. So many interesting characters with I’m sure VERY interesting stories to tell.

DSC_6618

Around one of the roundabouts, you can find a number of men apparently waiting for work. Many of them are sitting around with sledgehammers next to them. I guess they get picked up by people needing some construction work done.

DSC_6621

There are a number of billboards around the city advertising the many international schools in Cairo. In the other places I’ve lived and visited, I’ve never seen this done before. I guess these billboard advertisements are contributing to the fact that a number of international schools have high numbers of local children attending them.

DSC_6629

There are a number of people selling things on the side of the road. Mostly fruits sellers, but there is a plant shop as well.

DSC_6634

What looks like a jail is actually a police academy. At certain times of the year, you will see many young recruits standing around the outside of this place. It is definitely a sight to see!

DSC_6638

Finally, I arrive at the school in about 15-20 minutes from El Rehab. The school is located all on one campus.

DSC_6640

Here is the gate you enter to get inside. Of course, there are guards to let you in.

DSC_6641

Once you are inside you can see the fields and playgrounds to the left.

DSC_6643

To the right, you will see the many schools buses that bring the children and teachers to school every day.

DSC_6644

The school has a nice terrace part with a cafe!

DSC_6647

When you leave out the other gate, you will see a guard that has been working at the school for decades. He definitely has some stories (and secrets) to tell I’m sure!

155595-linebreak

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 Cairo?  Check out our blog article in our Traveling Around category about Cairo.

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.

continue reading

The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

January 31, 2016


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 Ruamrudee International School Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand), described her way to work there as follows:

image-1

When you think of Bangkok you automatically think of bustling and busy streets which are lined with vendors with their food carts hawking their wares.  Well, when I travelled to Thailand as a tourist, that was the image that I had of living here.  So in January 2015 when I signed a contract to move to Bangkok from Dubai I thought I knew what I was moving into to.  How wrong could I have been….

Ruamrudee International School is not in downtown Bangkok, it is out towards the airport in an area known as Minburi.  A taxi to the airport might take about 20 minutes if the traffic is in your favour – a godsend when you are doing boarding pick ups the weekend before school starts and you have to go back and forth as the flights never seem to align where you can pick up more than one airline’s arrival…On the other hand, to get downtown in a taxi could take up to two hours.  The main road through Minburi is Ramkhamhaeng and it is a really busy road.  A couple of Friday nights ago it took us 70 minutes to travel about 6km – the traffic was insane – on the way back the same trip took 10 minutes.  But traffic flows eventually – there is no beeping like in Ho Chi Min or Beijing and the drivers are nowhere near as crazy as what we encountered in Dubai… these drivers just take it in their stride and no one gets upset – everyone lets everyone else merge without any problems…

Some teachers chose to live downtown, they have regular drivers who pick them up and drop them off each day.  They have to leave as soon as they are able as any delay could mean hours added to their drive home time. 

I chose to live in the community near the school – Perfect Place 2.  Perfect Place is a large secure community with wide leafy streets.  Within the community there are plenty of parks and lakes to walk around and most parks have exercise equipment available to use.  I have seen groups doing some kind of tai chi style exercise at sunset by the lake and it looks so peaceful and calming to the spirit.

imageLots of teachers use scooters to get around although some, like me, have hired electric golf carts – they can be driven around the community, as long as you don’t go out onto Ramkhamhaeng Road, they are perfectly acceptable. Plus, there isn’t that much road traffic in the community.  Once you get into the Pak Soi (where all the shops, restaurants and food carts are), traffic starts to build up as it waits to get onto Ramkhamhaeng Road.

I work in Boarding so I do crazy hours – no day is the same as the one before.  I work weekends and have other days off to compensate.  I might go in at noon but either not come home til noon the next day or if someone else is covering the overnight, I might leave at 10.30pm.  The journey is still the same regardless what time it is.  Traffic in the community isn’t an issue so I know I can leave any time and it will only take 7 minutes to get to school.

So, when I leave my house, I find myself in a quiet street (except for the dogs… not soi dogs – they all have homes, but they all bark).

A couple of turns and I say goodbye to the guards at the entrance to Perfect Place 2 – they click their heels and salute every entry and departure.

A left turn onto Ramkhamhaeng Soi 174 and I’m off….

The wide streets are incredibly clean – maybe something to do with the fact that every 500m there is a cleaner assigned to keeping her part of the street clean.

image-2

We have a lady who walks up and down our streets in PP2 and sweeps up all the leaves and dirt off the street.

Through another security gate (it only takes about 3 mins to get to this point) and you are at the Clubhouse, overlooking the lake, it is a private gym and infinity pool but the space also houses a restaurant, coffee shop, hair salon (150 baht to wash and blow dry your hair) and the local 7-11 (they are everywhere….).

image-4

Round the corner and its a lovely drive along the lake.

image-5

Some days the fountain is working and it is really pretty.  There is another smaller lake on the opposite side of the road when you get to the end

image-7

and at that point it’s a left turn into the road that finally takes you to the school’s entrance,

image-9

albeit the one at the rear of the school, but that’s where the staff parking is located.

image-11

The car park is full of bikes and scooters but very few cars.  Who needs a car when you can fit 5 on a bike… I wish I had a photo to share but it does happen all the time – 3 and 4 people on a scooter is a very common sight.

So, you’re now at school, ready to engage with whatever new challenges come your way.

155595-linebreak

This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member.

What to know more about the many international schools in Bangkok?  Check out our blog article called – Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Bangkok, Thailand.

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.

continue reading