News Reports about your Host Country

The News Reports about your Host Country Don’t Always Match the Reality of your Daily Life

January 8, 2020


Living abroad can be full of many surprises. Even more so when your host country is in the current world news (typically for something unfortunate). What happens then is that your friends and family from your home country (or other countries around the world where your international school friends live) write to you to see if you are safe or to ask how things are going there.

In this entry, we have 4 international school teachers sharing what is going in their host countries. They also share details about what they are experiencing and how they see things from their perspective.

Hong Kong

“I recently returned to busy Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (my home for nearly 6 years), after three weeks away for Winter Break. The roads were packed with shoppers, outside vendors, and people enjoying chestnuts and sweet potatoes on the street corner. These are not the media images shown these days about Hong Kong. Yes, a lot has been going on in this city during the past 7 months, but depending where you live, you may see very little of the chaos. My school is on the south side of Hong Kong island where (as far as I know) there has been zero protest activity. The majority of our student population live in this area as do many teachers. Life carries on as usual for the most part in this part of Hong Kong. I, on the other hand, live where most large scales demonstrations begin and where there has been much protest activity and police presence. Despite this, I can sometimes go for weeks without feeling the affects of the protests. When my family and friends see the violence in the news, they are surprised to hear that most of the time, it is business as usual here in Hong Kong. Most pro-democracy/anti-government gatherings are easy to avoid if you choose to do so.

My first night back in Hong Kong in 2020, I went to dinner in Wan Chai. Restaurants were full and all felt normal- though normal has a different feel here these days.”

Australia

“There is a lot of news coverage about the bushfires in Australia these past few weeks, and there are definitely tremendous problems associated with them. There are numerous areas in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia that are being destroyed by all of these fires. They are still going on at the moment, with barely any relief (like rain) on the way. I have been traveling around many of these states for the past month, and I must say that I haven’t seen or gone through the parts of those states that have been damaged or destroyed. Life goes on pretty much as normal in all the parts that I’ve visited recently. Many of my friends and family abroad have messaged me about my safety and if I’m near the fires. I tell them no, and that I’m safe. When I turn on BBC and CNN, I can see why they would think I’m in trouble here as their reports are indeed showing a lot of danger and devastation. But people do need to realise that Australia is a huge country. And even though the fires are in numerous locations, they are not in the big city metropolises that the majority of Australians are living in. That is not to say these big cities aren’t feeling the effects of the fires. On certain days, the fire smoke is definitely hovering over the cities here and causing a lot of air pollution. Some days the air pollution is worse than cities in nations like India and China, but it is only at that level a day or two and then the air quality usually returns back to safer levels.

It is important to mention though, yesterday at a store in Sydney, I overhead two people saying things like “I didn’t think these fires were going to affect me and my house, and then it did…” it made it more real to me hearing that story in person and that these fires are indeed affecting many people here.”

Qatar

“I have been living in Qatar with my family for 9 years. Originally moved here as my husband was offered a job (he is in construction) and I found a teaching job at one of the many international schools here. My school is located in the West Bay area where a lot of expats live and is surrounded by tall buildings, offices, hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls.

Two years ago, an air, land and sea blockade was imposed on Qatar by four other neighbouring countries which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha. About 60% of Qatar’s food supplies came from the countries causing the blockade. There was chaos at the supermarkets at the time. Shelves were emptied fast. While Qatar was trying to figure out alternative ways to import goods people were finding it difficult to find certain foods at the supermarket including milk. I remembered it last yesterday that I struggled, at that time, to find milk for my kids. It was a crazy couple of months.

Qatar actually imported tens of thousands of cows to ensure milk supplies.”

Cambodia

“Cambodia. The first thing I hear is “where?”  Then I hear, “oh, yeah, Tomb Raider, right?” But my everyday life as a principal is so much more than ruins (although we’ve got plenty).  Regular life is the open-air tuk-tuk rides to school, counting dogs with my six year old daughter.  Regular life is using smiles and a mix of Khmer and English to negotiate for fresh vegetables for dinner.  It’s the warm greetings from the owner of our favorite restaurant when we make our weekly visit, and the warm croissants from the corner bakery.  It’s having friends from all over the world, who teach my daughter new words in their languages and invite us to their homelands for holidays.  Most of all, my regular Cambodian life is about balance, because I can leave work at work, and enjoy my family and friends.  Cambodia may be challenging in some ways, but it ultimately is about being able to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the ride (especially in a tuk-tuk).”

If your host country is in the world news at the moment and your family and friends are contacting you about what’s happening, please write to us and share your experience for an upcoming article in the blog series. We’d love to know what it is really like living in these countries all around the world. You will receive 6 months of premium membership for contributing 1-2 paragraphs about your host country.

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #18: Sheldon Smith (An international teacher currently working at Al Khor International School)

November 2, 2012


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Sheldon Smith:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Currently my family and I reside in Qatar but I got here via Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. I left Vancouver, Canada, June 1998 to meet up with some friends who worked for an international airline and decided to make Kota Kinabalu their base. Previously I founded and was the owner / operator of Woodsmith Hardwood Floors which I sold but still exists today and has become quite a brand in the Vancouver flooring industry. After working in the flooring trade for 17 years I had to give it up. We weren’t aware of the dangers of the industrial components we were using (lacquers, polyurethanes, solvents, etc) and my body literally could not take the toxicity levels anymore. So, I sold ‘lock, stock and barrel’ and began working casually with a friend in a language centre teaching English to Chinese children.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

When I arrived at Kota Kinabalu I wasn’t really looking for work as I had recently sold my business and the rest of my worldly goods before leaving and was quite happy ‘living the life of Riley’. Amongst the people I met was a local lawyer; an Indian man with the loudest voice I ever heard and one of the funniest persons I have ever met. One day, over a coffee, he asked me what I planned on doing since my funds would dry up some day. I told him what I had done and mentioned the brief teaching experience I had before leaving Vancouver. He then sat straight up and asked if I wanted to meet a friend of his, the principal of Kota Kinabalu International School. A phone call and 10 minutes later a very hot and sweaty cyclist pulled up, ordered an ice coffee, declared he was just on his way back from a 10 km ride and introduced himself as the principal in question. Within 15 minutes he had asked me what my plans were and offered me a teaching job at his school. For the next 8 months I spent my Mondays to Fridays with some Taiwanese teens and my international teaching was underway.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

After teaching at the International School of Kota Kinabalu, I taught at a language centre at Medan, Indonesia then at another in Nilai, Malaysia then a small prep school in Bangkok called Sabai Jai International School (Sabai Jai means happy heart in Thai) where I taught the graduating class – K3. From there I began my first real international school experience when I was hired to work at Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok; a franchise-type of sorts based on the Shrewsbury School in the UK, where Charles Darwin was a student by the way. Then, after 5 ½ years, I moved my family to Qatar where after 4 years I still work for Al Khor International School.

The various places I have lived at and the different people I have met along the way have given me a broader perspective for language, religious and cultural diversity. There is beauty everywhere on the planet. I never knew other people would be so interested in what a foreign westerner had to offer or say. Previous to leaving Canada I would, as do most people, head to some hot sunny spot for a 3 week holiday and feel I understood the people and customs of that place. How far from the truth that was. Teaching and living in different communities has helped me to really get to know intimately the traditions and cultural beauty of people up close. I have frequently been invited to local families’ homes for dinners and have had wonderful opportunities getting to know local people really well; almost like I was adopted by some. The students in South East Asia are so well behaved and polite; it really is quite a different experience any teacher from a western country would encounter. The schools I have worked at have been very generous in the salaries and accommodation, and have been very supportive for my own professional development. Over the past 14 years I have met and still keep in touch with so many colleagues. I can travel to almost any country and know someone to meet up with.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

My latest cultural encounter entails a recent charity fair we had at our school. To raise money, some of the local Qatari lads brought falcons to school. Students paid money to pet and hold the birds. The lads looked so proud in their local dress holding their beloved falcons. I certainly don’t recall that happening when I went to school.

Qatar, as most know, has been blessed with copious amounts of natural gas; Rasgas and Qatargas are the world’s leading distributors of LNG (liquid natural gas). This has shot this small country up to the top of the GNP scale – now at approximately USD 80,000 per family. Now about 20 years on, the children have adopted a different approach to what many may expect. Recently, during one of my business studies lessons, I explained how the students needed to come up with a project. Before launching their project though, they would have to do the normal due diligence of enterprise – brain storm, mind-map, SWOT, SMART targets, risk assessment, etc – to support the coursework part of the course which would be externally marked. They looked at each other and then looking quite confused and perplexed one lad raised his hand and asked why. “If I like something, I buy it. When I get bored of it, I throw it away. If I want to make a project, I do it. OK, if it fails, I just do something else. Why do all that other stuff?” Money is a disposable concept here and this not only put smile on my face but it put me in my place.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

I really can’t stress enough how no matter what international school is advertising, investigating as thoroughly as possible is a must. I would also stress avoiding websites that seem to serve as platforms for disgruntled teachers. No school is perfect for every teacher’s situation – being calm, flexible and keeping my sense of humour have been my weapons for personal success. In searching for new post at a new international school, I am interested in the school’s philosophy, aims and goals. I am interested in who the owners are and how keen they are in branding their school. I am not interested in schools which are content in the mid-stream. Personally, I am really looking for upstart schools and working at the school’s foundation level as I did when Shrewsbury International was just beginning. Being a part of the initial growth, seeing the founding students and staff work through the first couple of years and seeing it all come together is so rewarding – very rigourous but very rewarding.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Open-minded            Professional            Dedicated            Discovery            Fun

Thanks Sheldon!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for  an international school in the Qatar like Sheldon?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Qatar on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American School of Doha (13 Comments)
Newton International School (23 Comments)
Al Jazeera Academy (9 Comments)
Qatar Leadership Academy (9 Comments)
Al Hekma International School (Qatar) (15 Comments)
Awsaj Institute of Education (20 Comments)

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Highlighted Articles

Teachers International Consultancy: Act Now if you Want a Teaching Job Abroad

January 12, 2012


This year there are 280,000 teachers working in international schools around the world. It is estimated that about 10% of these teachers were new to international teaching this year; the busiest year ever for international school recruiting. And for this coming September, the recruitment drive is even greater as current international schools expand and the number of international schools continues to grow.


Berga, Spain

The language for learning in all international schools is English so most teachers come from English-speaking countries, in particular the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the USA.

For all the teachers who are considering making this move, there are a number of things they should think about at this stage says Andrew Wigford, Director of Teachers International Consultancy (TIC), a specialist recruitment organisation that helps English-speaking teachers from all over the world find teaching jobs in international schools. “Start your planning now,” says Andrew. “Most international schools begin recruiting for the new academic year in January and February so the more preparation you can do in advance of this, the better.” Here is Andrew’s advice for preparing for an international job search:

· “Consider what regions of the world may suit you best. Think about the cultural differences, accessibility for communicating with and visiting home, travel opportunities, language issues, safety and security, lifestyle potentials or restrictions. What is most important for you?
·  Apply to accredited international schools or schools that are part of respectable organisations such as COBIS, BSME, FOBISSEA and others. You can find details of these organisations on the TIC website. If a recruitment organisation is helping you with your search, make sure that they only recommend you to accredited international schools, or that they personally vet non-accredited schools in advance of your interview.
·  Make sure your cv is up-to-date and well written.  International schools will be looking for strong personal skills as well as teaching experience. You may want to include details of previous foreign travel and other international connections.
·  More and more international school interviews are being conducted through Skype so be prepared for this. Make sure you have the correct equipment set up and have practiced communicating through Skype in advance of any interviews.
· Work through a reputable organization when searching for foreign teaching positions. There are a few unscrupulous owners in some international schools who do not take the appropriate procedures to ensure that foreign teachers have the correct visa back-up, health and safety coverage, or suitable accommodation. Teachers have been known to find themselves in grave difficulty a long way from home. So working with an established organisation to oversee your placement will give you the security you need. If you work with an organisation that is experienced at recruiting for the international school market, they will be able to give you all the advice and expert support that you need and will know – and may well have visited – many of the schools that you are considering. This will help you significantly during your job search.
·  Ensure that the recruitment organisation you work through cross-checks all your terms and conditions once an appointment is offered to give you the peace of mind you need when taking up a new foreign post.”

Andrew says that some of the best advice for teachers considering the possibility of working overseas comes from teachers already there.  Here is feedback from three teachers who TIC placed in international schools last year:

Clare Lauritzen is now teaching primary at St Michael’s International School in Kobe, Japan having moved from the UK. She describes the type of personality that she thinks best suits an international school teacher: “You must enjoy a challenge, be fairly confident and resourceful, be able to bound back when you have a bad day, not take it all personally, and be able to laugh at the oddities, annoyances and differences,” she says.

Malcolm Scriven is in his first year as a Business and Economics teacher at Park House English School in Qatar. He says “Be clear about why you want to teach abroad. If you want to live in an interesting country in the midst of considerable changes then Qatar is a great place to be.”


Budapest, Hungary

And Dulcie Copeland moved this year to The British School of Budapest in Hungary. She says “Find out as much as you can about the school. Read its website and prospectus. Has it got what you are looking for? Does the school reflect your beliefs? Think carefully about the location too. Might you need to return to your home country frequently? Think about how you would do this; look at the cost implications and journey times.”

All three teachers all agree about one thing: “Go for it!” they say.

Teachers International Consultancy provides a free service for teachers, helping them to find the right job in the right international school. For advice on what to consider when thinking about working abroad and teaching internationally visit www.findteachingjobsoverseas.com or call 02920-212-083.

Also, check out www.internationalschoolcommunity.com for the latest comments and information about over 1050 international schools around the world.

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School Profile Searches

Using the School Profile Search feature on International School Community: Search Result #2

January 6, 2012


Only on International School Community will you be able to search for the perfect international school for you.  The possibility to search (using our unique search engine) for international schools based on the type of school that best fits your criteria.  There are many different kinds of schools: ones that are small in student numbers to ones that have more than 1200 students, ones that are for-profit to ones that are non-profit, ones that are in very large cities to ones that are in towns of only 1000 people, etc.  Each international school teacher has their own type of a school that best fits their needs as a teacher and a professional.  You personal life is also very important when you are trying to find the right match.  Most of us know what it is like to be working at a school that doesn’t fit your needs, so it’s best to find one that does!

Utilizing the School Profile Search feature on International School Community, you can search for the perfect school using up to 8 different criteria.  The 8 criteria are: Region of the world, Curriculum, School Nature, Number of Students, Country, Year Founded, Kinds of Students and Size of City.

Search Result #2 (click here to look at Search Result #1 posted in December 2011)

Criteria chosen:

  1. Region of the world (South America)
  2. Curriculum (IB)
  3. School Nature (All)
  4. No. of students (Medium: 300-700)
  5. Country (All)
  6. Year founded (All)
  7. Kinds of students (Mostly Int’l)
  8. Size of city (medium 750K – 3M)

Schools Found: 3
Bahrain – Bahrain School
Qatar – International School London
Syria – Icarda International School of Aleppo

Why not start your own searches now and then start contacting the schools that best fit your needs!  Additionally, all premium members are able to access the more than 2082 comments and information that have been submitted on the hundreds of international school profiles on our website.

Join International School Community today and you will automatically get the ability to make unlimited searches to find the international schools that fit your criteria.

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Highlighted Year for Int’l Schools

International schools that were founded in 2002 (China, Mauritius, Egypt, etc.)

September 25, 2011


Random year for international schools around the world: 2002

Utilizing the database of the 889 international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found schools that were founded in 2002 (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites):

The International School of Macao (Macao, China)

“TIS was established in 2002 to provide a Canadian curriculum and accreditation to local and expatriate students. English is the primary language of instruction.
TIS opened with an initial total enrolment of 58 students on the campus of Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) in 2002. By 2006, the School had grown to over 500 students and had become accredited with the Alberta provincial (Canada) government. Students graduate from TIS with an Alberta High School diploma that is accepted in universities around the world.”

Northfield International High School  (Port Louis, Mauritius)

“Northfields International High School (NIHS) is a privately owned secondary school situated in Mapou, district of Pampelmous in the north. From its small beginnings in 2001 NIHS has now over 280 students.”

Canadian International School of Egypt (Cairo, Egypt)

“The Canadian International School of Egypt (CISE) opened its doors on September 15, 2002.  It is the first Canadian school certified by the Ministry of Education of Ontario in Egypt and the Middle East.  The Egyptian initiators of this project chose the Province of Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, to provide the curriculum and most of the teaching staff for the school.”

Al Jazeera Academy (Doha, Qatar)

“Al Jazeera Academy opened its doors to students in September 2002. It is a modern international educational institution which comprises three separate schools within a single campus to cater for all students from Preschool to Year 13.”

Vale Verde International School (Burgau, Portugal)

“After the acquisition of a property suitable for the conversion of a school in 1997, the De Beer family developed the idea to fruition.  In 2002, Vale Verde International School was founded following years of investment required to bring the buildings in line with Ministry of Education requirements.”

International Montessori School of Prague (Prague, Czech Republic)

“The International Montessori School of Prague (IMSP) was established as a private school in 2002. It was originally located in the Blatenska campus of Prague 4. IMSP started with 16 children in two classes : Toddler (1.5 – 3 years), and Primary (3 – 6 years).  In September 2003 the school was moved to a much larger facility in the Hrudickova campus of Prague 4. That school year we started with three classrooms: one Toddler, one Primary, and one Elementary.  In 2005 a second Primary class was added, so now IMSP had 4 classrooms: Toddler, Primary 1 and Primary 2, and Elementary. In 2006 the Primary program extended its afternoon component with Yoga, Music and Movement, Arts and Crafts, and Czech languge and culture.”

Logos International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

“Logos opened its doors in September 2002 with an enrollment of 58 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to grade seven.  At that time,Logos consisted of a single renovated house and an adjacent empty lot where a basketball court and small swimming pool were soon built.  Since that time,Logos added an additional grade level each year.  In the spring of 2008,Logos held its first graduation ceremony for 13 seniors.  Logos’ brand new campus consists of a basketball/volleyball/hockey court,athletic field,playground,library,cafeteria,2 computer labs,2 science labs,multi-purpose assembly room,and a swimming pool.  All of the classrooms are air-conditioned and equipped with essential teaching tools.  Our new facility is twice the size of our former location. We are very excited about this new provision.”

New Zealand International School (Jakarta, Indonesia)

“On 14 April 2003 Mr. Chris Elder, Ambassador of New Zealand to Indonesia, officially opened the School and the enrolment reached 35 students. The school grew quickly, and in August 2004 space was secured at LPPI, The Banking Institute, on Kemang Raya, to house the Senior Secondary Students. Since that time our enrolment has steadily increased in all aspects. The growth had the effect of moving expansion plans ahead of schedule; the search for additional premises has been an exciting time.”

Bromsgrove International School (Bangkok, Thailand)

“From the vision of the school founders Riza Sripetchvandee and Ian Davison, a new school was opened in 2002 under the name of Windsor International School and ownership of Windsor Education Co. Ltd. The School was constructed at Soi 164 Ramkhamheang Road, Minburi, in Eastern Bangkok. Over the course of the next two years pupil numbers grew steadily.  A new building was opened in September 2004 to meet the demand from Early Years students. In April 2004, the School became affiliated to the prestigious and world famous Bromsgrove School UK and changed its name to Bromsgrove International School Thailand (BIST). Bromsgrove School UK was founded over 450 years ago and is a leading co-educational independent day and boarding school for some 1,500 pupils and is situated in the English Midlands and provides a first-class education with excellent facilities and resources, as well as enjoying considerable distinction in Sport, Music and the Arts.”

International School of Wuxi (Wuxi, China)

“International School of Wuxi (ISW) is part of the International Schools of China (ISC) – an organization that, for the last 20 years, has offered academically excellent programs to meet the intellectual, physical and emotional needs of students.”

International Community School (Atlanta) (Atlanta, United States)

Kongsberg International School (Kongsberg, Norway)

“Kongsberg International School is a non-profit foundation established in 2002 by Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, FMC Kongsberg Subsea AS, Kongsberg Automotive ASA and Kongsberg Nærings- og Handelskammer (Chamber of Commerce and Industry). The school opened its doors in August 2003. The purpose of the school is to serve Kongsberg and its surrounding communities by providing a high quality international education for students, based on the International Baccalaureate Programme (www.ibo.org), using English as the principal medium of instruction. Although many of our students are Norwegian, a growing international community in Kongsberg and Buskerud has provided enrolment of students from over 22 nations.”

Access International Academy (Ningbo) (Ningbo, China)

“The AIAN student body is comprised of students from over 20 different nationalities.  Faculty members are predominantly from the United States.   The teacher-pupil ratio is approximately 1:4, which promotes individualized instructional practices.”

Singapore International School (Indonesia) (Jakarta, Indonesia)

“With the help of international consultants, SIS was able to redesign, construct and eventually turn an “abandoned” clubhouse into a school that is the talk of the town, in a housing complex of Bona Vista, South Jakarta. Located in a quiet neighborhood bordering the elite Pondok Indah real estate, the School is only two minutes from the Outer Ring Road making it accessible from many parts of Jakarta. The SIS complex boasts of an open, airy concept amidst lush, contoured gardens. In Bona Vista, SIS is able to enjoy all the amenities in this complex and this includes a competition-sized pool, soccer field, basketball courts and tennis courts. After a busy construction schedule, SIS finally opened its doors in its new complex in January 2002 with bigger classrooms and better facilities. The enrollment today includes a student population coming from at least 25 different nationalities.”

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