Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #4: Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration

November 6, 2022


Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration by being flexible and open toward the new culture.

Effects of Culture Shock

• A sense of uprootedness
• Feeling of disorientation
• Not knowing what is going on
• Behaviors and attitudes which were necessary for obtaining goals in the culture we learned are no longer useful
• Familiar behaviors which marked a well-adjusted person in one’s own culture are now seen as bad manners
• So many adjustments to be made that one becomes overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry

All these things can lead to you not being the most open-minded toward your host culture and country.  Do we need to go through certain steps until we get to the tolerance that we seek?

Typical Pattern of Culture Shock

1. At first we think it is charming
2. Then we think it is evil
3. Then we think it is different

Almost everyone who studies, lives or works abroad experiences some degree of culture shock. This period of cultural adjustment involves everything from getting used to the food and language to learning how to use the telephone. No matter how patient and flexible you are, adjusting to a new culture can, at times, be difficult and frustrating. It is easy to get lost, depressed and homesick. You may even want to go back home!

Don’t panic…these are all totally normal reactions and you are not alone. Sometimes it is hard to remember why you decided to leave home. You are on an adventure – a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn – but it does not always seem that way.  Staring you straight in the eye, you cannot avoid culture shock entirely.

Adjusting to a new culture can be difficult and frustrating, but it can also be a wonderful, thought-provoking time of your life during which you will grow as a person. Living in a foreign country will open new doors, introduce you to new ways of thinking, and give you the opportunity to make life-long friends. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that has bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response. Try the following:

• Observe how others are acting in the same situation
• Describe the situation, what it means to you, and your response to it
• Ask a local resident or someone with extensive experience how they would have handled the situation
and what it means in the host culture
• Plan how you might act in this or similar situations in the future
• Test the new behavior and evaluate how well it works
• Decide how you can apply what you have learned the next time you find yourself in a similar situation

Throughout the period of cultural adaptation, take good care of yourself. Read a book or rent a video in your home language, take a short trip if possible, exercise and get plenty of rest, write a letter or telephone home, eat good food, and do things you enjoy with friends. Take special notice of things you enjoy about living in the host culture.

Although it can be disconcerting and a little scary, the “shock” gradually eases as you begin to understand the new culture. It is useful to realize that often the reactions and perceptions of others toward you–and you toward them–are not personal evaluations but are based on a clash of cultural values. The more skilled you become in recognizing how and when cultural values and behaviors are likely to come into conflict, the easier it becomes to make adjustments that can help you avoid serious difficulties.

* Information and excerpts were taken from Julia Ferguson’s website.

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Hong Kong, China (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

March 14, 2015


Get inspired to make your next travel plan!

Traveling Around: Hong Kong, China

Can you relate?

• Being overwhelmed by the thousands of people you see as you are getting out of the metro system.
• Trying your best to just walk in a straight line on a sidewalk because of all the people around you trying to also walk in a straight line to their destination.
• Enjoying the wonderful view of the mountains and sea and thinking how nice it would be to live here.

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• Keeping your head looking up to the sky as you are walking around the city because of all the amazingly tall skyscrapers.
• Finding it very cool to get the chance to walk into a little temple and observe the locals in a non-obtrusive way.
• Being surprised to find that the normal grocery stores here have a wide range of products, including many products from my home country. How nice!
• Walking around the city and randomly running into the local zoo, realizing it is free and taking advantage of looking at all the cool animals on offer.

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• Loving looking at all the large signs on each street, how they jet out over the streets.
• Eating at a more ‘local’ restaurant and getting the chance to eat some of the seasonal dishes on offer.
• Finding out that expats here can go to mainland China for some time, to go shopping, without having a tourist visa.
• Feeling lucky to go up to the peak on a cloudless, sunny day. The view is really outstanding.

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• Running into a school that had outside walls that were so colorful and inviting.
• Riding on the old trams in the downtown area and finding out that they were shipped over long ago from somewhere in the UK I think.
• Taking a ride on a smaller city bus and seeing that there was a number sign telling how fast that the driver was driving.
• Enjoying eating at the non-restaurants places, like the ones that just have take-away food available, such tasty food!

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• Being astounded hearing about how much apartments actually cost there, so expensive!
• Hearing Cantonese being spoken through the city, but then not really meeting anyone that didn’t also speak English.
• Finding it surprising how much there was discrimination between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese people.

Currently we have 29 international schools listed in Hong Kong on International School Community. Here are the ones that have had comments submitted on them:

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

• Hong Kong Academy Primary School  (Hong Kong, China) – 34 Comments

• Hong Kong International School  (Hong Kong, China) – 62 Comments

• International Christian School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 19 Comments

• Singapore International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 14 Comments

• Yew Chung International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 17 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you SIX free months of premium membership!

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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.)

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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?

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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.)

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For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #2: How Do I Find That Coveted Position? (Part 1 of 2)

September 20, 2013


Teachers Wanted

“Be All That You Can Be Doing All You Can Do”

Live in exotic places, Experience all the world has to offer….

U.S. Military 1980-2001

Sounds great, huh? Actually, this is excerpted from the marketing campaign of the U.S. Military, but there are some really good comparisons to be drawn.

Ok, so you have read and analyzed the first article and you have decided that in fact, you have what it takes and that a career in international education is for you. Congratulations! It is, without a doubt, everything that you imagine, and more. No doubt, it will be different than anything you have experienced before. This article will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to make those first contacts, get your name out there and get the interviews. It will give you some specific details on where to look, what to look at and for, and how to evaluate what you see. There has been no effort to include all possible resources, but it should give you a strong start and those leads will open other leads.

I´ve got my papers!

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 9.55.30 AMYour first step, as with any career move, is to gather the necessary documents. At this point, it is worth mentioning, that when you land that job and move thousands of kilometers from your home country, if you need another document or another copy of a document, it is likely to be a monumental process that might involve an expensive trip back home, so to avoid that, if it is possible, get two or maybe three copies of all of your documents. The documents that you will most certainly need include an up-to-date CV or resume. Official copies of your birth certificate, teaching certification(s) / license(s), university diploma(s) and transcripts. Criminal background checks are also a requirement. Depending on your country of origin, this may include not only federal, but state, province or regional reports. The background checks are typically easy and inexpensive to obtain in your home country. Another important thing to note is that once you enter your international career, be sure that if you are planning to leave a country, you also get a background check from that country as well. Although you are likely to need official copies of all of your documents to present on arrival, you should have electronic copies as well, because most of the services mentioned below and many schools, will want electronic copies before considering you for a position. Many countries also require a medical report. This is unique to each country, so once you are offered a contract, your school will give you the specifics of those requirements. If you plan to drive in that country, you may need an international driver´s license and / or a copy of your complete driving record.

Regarding authenticity of documents, different countries have different rules regarding how long they consider a document valid, for example, even if your birth certificate says it is valid for one year, some countries may only accept it for six months. The same is true for background checks, driver records, etc., so keep that in mind as you prepare for the transition. Regarding authenticity, most countries accept as proof of authenticity, an Apostille. The process varies depending on your home country. For example, in the U.S., the process is to have your document(s) notarized, then take them to the Secretary of State for your state, who will then Apostille the document. In essence, this means that the notary has certified the document as an official copy, and the Apostille is proof that the notary has the legal authority to do so. If you are in a country that is not a signatory to the Apostille agreement, typically, the procedure is to obtain the official document and any documentation that may be available from the issuing agency, and take those things to the embassy or consulate, in your home country, of the country you will be moving to. They will then be able to authenticate the documents. Assuring that you verify the procedure and what your new country will accept, will save you many headaches and potentially significant expense. One additional set of documents that is beneficial is letters of reference and / or evaluation reports from previous employers; or if you are just graduating, letters of recommendation from your professors will suffice.

“Show me the money jobs!” (Jerry McGuire 1996)

Once you have your documents together, the next step is to find out where the jobs are. There are hundreds of businesses who offer their services to help you find a job. Your process begins by finding a reputable service that meets your needs and produces results. Depending on whether you hold a TEFL certificate or a government issued teaching certificate, which typically requires a minimum of a bachelor´s degree, extensive teaching practice and exams, you will find different services to fit those needs.

educ29-rdv-tmagArticleTwo of the simplest and least expensive option for becoming aware of the openings by subscribing to mailing lists, electronic publications, such as: TES Connect www.tes.co.uk, TIC Recruitment www.ticrecruitment.com. Although this is a very easy and inexpensive option, it is extremely popular. An international school director recently reported to me that for one teaching position, he received more than 3600 applications. Word-of-mouth is another great way to network and identify openings, but they don´t always produce results. The challenge here is to be in the right place at the right time.

Most international schools are members of organizations that provide recruiting services and / or school accreditation. These organizations screen and process applications and provide a forum to connect teachers wanting jobs with schools needing teachers. The most common agencies are: The Council of International Schools www.cois.org, International School Services, www.iss.edu and Search Associates www.searchassociates.com. COIS does not charge teachers a fee to place their CV or to attend their recruitment fairs. ISS and Search Associates both charge an annual membership fee. An advantage of these services is that they will work with you to create an online profile and verify your records. Your profile is searchable by their member schools. Schools know that teachers using these services have already been pre-screened. Additionally, they host recruitment fairs in various locations around the world. You can select the conference(s) you wish to attend and it will give you an opportunity to talk with many schools under one roof. A disadvantage is that interviewers generally interview a large number of applicants every day, and if you do not really stand out, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Opinions vary among teachers ranging from a great opportunity to a meat market. They are; however, obviously successful, so it is an option to consider.

A bit of insider information here is that just as you are competing for those “prize” locations and schools, the schools are competing for the top candidates. That means that in practice, if a school identifies candidates they are really interested in, they are asking them to meet “before the conference starts.” In essence, what that means is that the conference starts a day early for many.

Stay tuned next month for part two of this article!

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.)

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