Many of us international school educators would ideally like to teach abroad and also have close access to nature.
Escaping into a forest or a big green park can often reset our minds and bring our stress levels down to manageable levels.
Some international schools are already directly in nature. Maybe they are in a forest or right next to a water source, or maybe they are just in a city center that has a number of very green parks.
But not all international schools are in cities that have easy and quick access to nature.
Some cities do have a few trees lining the streets and also a few small parks scattered around, but often the number of buildings outnumber these two things. And if you look closely, there can even be a layer of dust/dirt on the leaves making the green look more like a brownish color!
Even if there is not a lot of nature in the city center itself, it is still important to note that it can be worth it if you can find some nature close by via public transport or car.
Having access to a number of day trip options that go into nature can really be a selling point to working in a certain city and country.
Nature is important to many of us international educators, so it is necessary to ask around and do your research before making a decision to relocate.
Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 235 comments that had the keyword “Nature” in them. Here are 11 of them:
“The school is quite far from the center of Chiang Mai but it is possible to find nice places to eat and plenty of local shops and markets a short car or scooter ride away. The plus side is that you have total peace and are surrounded by lush green making it a wonderfully relaxed place to live and explore. Staff are given apartments on the school grounds with the option to live off-campus for those who wish it.” – Prem Tinsulanonda International School (55 total comments)
United Arab Emirates
“Single people enjoy their lives here. There are many other expats to date. There are a lot of things to do during the day and night here. There is a good coupon book that some people use. The book is huge so that means there is much to do. With regards to nature, there is actually a lot of living things in the desert. In our garden, there are many kinds of critters!” – American Community School of Abu Dhabi (30 total comments)
“There isn’t much to do in Putrajaya apart from nature walks and the lake activities. KL has lots to offer but lacks the excitement of other SE Asian destinations. It’s great for families though and has a charm of its own.” – Nexus International School – Malaysia (94 total comments)
“I would say there is a lot of nature here in Hamburg. There is water everywhere basically. There are many parks in the city as well. Just no mountains.” – International School of Hamburg (55 total comments)
“Anywhere you around in the city, you will be able to see beautiful mountains. The sun is typically shining as well making all the views of the trees and flowers so lovely. And if the nature in the city isn’t enough, then you are not too far away from more nature in other cities around the country.” – American International School of Costa Rica (12 total comments)
“There is so much night life here, if that is your scene. There is also a lot of nature here too with so many parks around the city. On a sunny, warm day, Paris just looks sooooo beautiful! Last night I saw two gay men holding hands while walk down the sidewalk, and then around the Seine, I saw a group of gay bears meeting up for a mini party/gathering. Seems like Paris is really gay friendly.” – International School of Paris (24 total comments)
“However it’s the best place for nature and getting out of the city in no time.” – Norlights International School Oslo (122 total comments)
“It is possible to find any kind of activities you want here. There is a lot of nightlife, but also easy access to large parks and nature. Buying or renting a car will allow opportunities to get out into the country and really experience nature, if desired.” – Qsi – Kyiv International School (36 total comments)
“There are so many temples/shrines to see here. Many of them are going up the nearby mountainside. There is such beautiful nature there with amazing trees everywhere. In the spring, it is awesome and in the fall it can be very gorgeous.” – Kyoto International School (65 total comments)
“There isn’t that much nature in the city of Muscat itself, but you don’t have to do too far to see some green. There are palm trees that are dotted around the area, like near to the Grand Mosque. There are even areas of beautiful green grass and flowers like near to the Corniche Mutrah. But most of Muscat is desert-like. Just flat and sandy!” – American International School of Muscat (34 total comments)
“School is built on a large hillside with beautiful views of the city. It is surrounded by a sort of nature preserve so it’s very green all around. The buildings are old and cannot be rebuilt due to building restrictions but they do their best to keep them repaired best they can.” – Colegio Nueva Granada (60 total comments)continue reading
I don’t know about you, but I think making friends outside of your school community can be one of your biggest challenges when you live abroad.
If you are an outgoing person, maybe it is a bit easier. However, if you are on an introverted side and also don’t know the local language, then you are up against a steep hill.
Either way, you could say that it is just safer and more comfortable to be friends with your colleagues at your international school. You usually have a lot in common with your colleagues as they also like adventure, share your love for traveling, and have the same vacation calendar as you.
But to get the most out of your international school teaching experience, the elusive goal of many international school teachers is to make some local friends, too.
If you don’t know the local language yet, then you are limited to the locals that are able to speak English (or your home language). Normally, these locals already have other foreigner friends and most likely have traveled internationally or had even lived abroad. These locals are easy to find as friends because you have a lot in common. For example, you probably have many places to go visit and hang out together in the city. If you are lucky, these locals are even available to do some traveling with you during your vacations.
To meet locals who don’t speak English and have a very tight-knit group of friends, let’s say, is a different story. To befriend the locals is typically easier if you have a partner or spouse that is also a local. If that is the case, then you have “a ticket in” to those exclusive groups of friends. Having these kinds of local friends really can give you the “VIP level” on the experience of the city and country that you are living in. These locals know what and where things are happening. International school teachers without these types of friends typically miss out on a number of cultural events and are left without a deep insight into the local lifestyle.
One of the ultimate events in your friendship with a local is to be invited over to their house, even better – for a meal. It can be that you invite a local to your house for dinner multiple times before finally, the stars align and they invite you back to their place. If you are at your international school for only two years, that might not be enough time for this to happen. Building this kind of relationship usually takes longer than that.
What is your experience with making friends in your host city/country? Logon to ISC and share what you know by submitting some comments on your school’s profile page.
When using the keyword search feature (premium membership required), we found 143 comments about friends. Read below a few that are connected to making friends outside of your international school.
“Leysin is a small mountain village and as a result, the community is limited. There is a definite LAS bubble and most of the staff spend time outside of work with each other. It is rare to meet and become friends with people outside of the school community unless you have worked here for many years. It isn’t easy being single here, but the lifestyle is worth it if you love the outdoors and the mountains. It is a quiet village and a great place to live if you don’t like the city.” – Leysin American School (113 total comments)
“I find my Albanian friends quite generous: they always fight to pay the bill in a coffee shop but also for lunch. It is a local tradition though, and keep in mind that, if you want to keep your friends close to you, next time will be your turn. It is important to understand quickly these cultural habits as it will allow you to make good friends. One thing that it is generally badly perceived is to be stingy in friendship.” – Albanian College Durres (111 total comments)
“The locals are very friendly and accommodating. We recently went on a one-day trip with a local tour company. As the only foreigners, we didn’t have much company at the beginning but we found out the locals on the trip actually spoke a very good level of English. By the end of the day, we made friends with many of them!” – Khartoum International Community School (153 total comments)
“Lots of people learning English in Saigon and they will all want to practice with you. Learning some Vietnamese helps with bonding and making local friends but generally, a lot of people speak or are learning to speak English.” – Renaissance International School Saigon (52 total comments)continue reading
Many people would love to be living next to the Mediterranean Sea. It truly has one of the most perfect climates. Not too cold in the winter, and nice, very warm in the summers (not to mention a lot of sun!). However, not all of us are so lucky to work at an international school there. Plus, typically the salary and benefits are lower there, so that is not ideal.
Do you think to rather take a job in Moscow, Russia? You can probably make a lot of money, but you will need to be prepared for a cold, dark and snowy winter for many months.
How about a stint on a tropical island like Curaçao or the Bahamas? Many teachers are curious about the island life, but some who take jobs there don’t last for more than 1-2 years; too isolating and hard/expensive to even get off the island.
As we’ve stated before, when you search for jobs at international schools, you will need to consider a number of factors like: money, career, location, love life, weather, etc. These are all pretty important when deciding to live abroad, but which ones are more important than the others for you?
We can only be so lucky to find a place that meets our wishes in all the factors, but that rarely happens.
So, if you had a few offers to work in different cities and countries around the world, would you prioritize the city that had the most ideal weather and climate for you? Maybe after working for 10-15 years in a cold climate, you will finally choose the school that is on the Mediterranean Sea!
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of the host city’s weather year round. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 604 comments (July 2020) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“In general the temperature is very temperate. The monsoon is long and will last from July- October. Winter is also cold with January being the coldest month. The school is generally closed for a good part of December and all of Jan so that you miss the worst of the cold…” – Woodstock School (Mussoorie, India) – 142 Total Comments
“Generally speaking, the weather is very pleasant in Shenzhen. August (when new teachers have just landed) tends to be sticky and hot so be mentally prepared for that but it gets better in Sept/Oct. January tends to be the coldest, and can go down to as low as 7 at night. In other words, you need a variety of clothes…” –
International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (Shenzhen, China) – 88 Comments
“Doha is hot and dry. The weather is intensely hot in May, June July and August. Sept tends to be humid and October and November tend to have a few wet or cloudy days. The temperature then eases for the winter period. December is often 20-25 daily and around 15-20 at night which can feel quite chilly. January and February stay quite cold but the heat begins to return in March and April…” – The English Modern School (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 75 Total Comments
“Spring is short, maybe 2 months, same for autumn. The weather in these seasons is lovely. Summer is from May to September and it is HOT. Humidity will be 90%+. You will want to leave in the summer and you have to use AC throughout these months. Winter is 3 months and can be cold. Air quality usually declines during the winter and the wind direction changes and blows the pollution down from Beijing. I have an electric blanket on my bed as most apartments only have AC for heating and it is expensive and ineffecient….” – Lycee Francais de Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 38 Comments
“The weather is pretty great year-round. Rainy season lasts from May-ish until November time, but largely this only affects the evening with large thunderstorms etc. Outside these months, you can rely on weeks of no rain, lots of sunshine etc. Even in rainy season, the days are usually sunny and hot…” – Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) (Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) – 14 Commentscontinue reading
One of the best parts of living abroad is taking the vacation of your dreams during the winter holiday break. Of course many of us go home for the holidays, and that is nice too! Some teachers do a combination of going home to visit family and then taking another side vacation for some real rest and relaxation. It is possible that your trip to visit your family is also the trip of your dreams (well at least maybe for your colleagues that have never been there).
Once the winter holiday break starts, now comes all the photos that your friends post on Facebook and Instagram. Australia, Canary Islands, Costa Rica, etc. Leaving you maybe second guessing the trip that you actually decided long ago to do for yourself (and your partner/family).
So, if you are on one of those trips that is making your friends feel a bit envious, take a moment to participate in our new photo contest. Please note that all photo contest participants will win free premium membership to our website!
Photo contest topic:
The best photo from your December holidays that makes your friends, family and colleagues envious.
1st prize: 2 YEARS FREE of premium membership
2nd prize: 1 YEAR FREE of premium membership
3rd prize: 6 MONTHS FREE of premium membership
(Those submissions that are not in the top three will receive 1 free week of premium membership for just participating.)
Send your photo to email@example.com. Please remember to:
• Write your name and email address
• Attach your picture and write a short description about it
• Enter these words in your subject: International School Community Photo Contest Entry: Best Winter Vacation Envy Photo
(Deadline to submit your photo: 5 January, 2020. Maximum one photo per contestant.)
Check out our previous Photo Contests here.continue reading
“How about Italy?” she said.
I was lying on my friend’s couch. It was 2010. Los Angeles. I was 20, visiting from University in Boston.
That year I had stopped playing competitive tennis. I had a spinal injury. I was depressed.
“You love food,” she said.
2007. High school. End-of-the-year evaluations. My Spanish teacher sat me at a desk in the back of the room, away from the other students. She opened a manila folder with my final course grade, and then closed it.
“You have great tenacity,” she said.
“But you’ll never learn a foreign language.”
“It’s just a small application,” she said. “You’ll finish it by the afternoon!”
On the plane to Italy I sat next to a girl my age, knees shaking, scratching her wrist. She was crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My father died on September 11th,” she said.
We held hands. And we took Italian together.
That summer we practiced Florence.
Fast forward to 2012. I studied more Italian at the Middlebury Language School. A couple teachers there helped me with my application to be a high school teacher abroad. I moved to Crema, Italy. The town is now known for the Oscar-winning movie “Call Me By Your Name.” Some days I’m jealous. If only the director had spotted me years ago! Seeking male 18-24 American, speaks French and Italian.
I speak French because I moved to Bordeaux.
Because why not?
My roommate was a grandmother. I still remember her first email to me:
“Malgré my advanced age it’ll be a pleasure to pick you up from the airport.” What does malgré mean?!
Despite. She was 74.
She stewed the best fig jam. Little dotlets of confitture and hot yellow butter, glistening against a crisp o’clock baguette.
My new grandmother got sick. She had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. She couldn’t swallow properly. I should’ve noticed. All the little yogurt spoons in the dishwasher.
I had to leave France when she was still in the hospital. She held my hand.
“Go, go, adventure!” she said.
I left for Los Angeles, a Master’s program. When I finished, I thought I was moving to Sweden, a fellowship I was applying for, a project between Portugal, Sweden and the United States.
I had to learn Portuguese and Swedish, enough so that I could pass the speaking portion of the B1 proficiency exams in both languages.
I touched every word I could find, working with online teachers, making sure I made that girl on the plane, and my French grandmother proud. Go, go, adventure!
If I listed to you the languages I now speak, it would sound arrogant. But to recount the sequence of events that make me feel like any language is possible, I turn to the territory of the heart.
It’s quite random, who opens us. It would be easy to say that my high school teacher’s ignorance was what fueled me to learn many languages. Perhaps a little fuel. It’s a more profound idea to say that the ultimate compassion of friends, teachers, and strangers transform us. It’s not one individual who lets us learn. It’s the fragile edges of connection, from a sofa to a girl on a plane to a malgré grandmother, all who expressed self-love and towards-love simultaneously. Not romantic love, but a spiritual love, surfaced through the language of kindness.
Kindness is not about the expectation of others. I was a New England kid who expected to stay in Boston my entire life. I was expected to never learn a language. Ignore the preconditions. Start listening to the language of kindness – “how about…?”, a child’s cry, the goodbye wave – as open acts to start a conversation. Language then becomes living – the courage to sit with others, which is a bodily language, a language of our senses, which I’d argue is the easiest way for us to learn a language, to be an expat.
Resistance to foreign culture isn’t necessary when we’re close to the senses of others. Spoons in a dishwasher aren’t just spoons. It’s a physical memory I can recall. A relationship tied to a breakfast table. Jam is sweeter, adventure more of a quest than an itinerary. More words absorbed than “do you speak French?”
I speak what needs to be held, with hands, with my eyes, with my stomach. That’s real multilingualism. In fountains, gardens, kitchens, courts, alleyways, with the falling leaves, and flowers blooming. That’s real learning.
Go, go, adventure.
Joshua Kent Bookman is a writer and artist. Like the characters of his book, “close to elsewhere,” he calls several places home, and has worked in France as an agricultural laborer, as a high school teacher in Italy, and tennis instructor in the United States. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1990.
“close to elsewhere” was released this summer by the Swedish publisher LYS. This is Bookman’s first novel.continue reading