Discussion Topics

The Summer Vacation Dilemma: To Go Home or Not to Go Home

April 30, 2023

Summer vacation is the time of year all teachers are waiting for (and I suppose all students as well!).  The 1.5 to 2 months of summer break is especially important though for teachers who work at international schools because it is typically when they take their annual trip back home to their native country.  When you live in a foreign country, halfway across the world, it does indeed feel good to go home.  Even though you do create a new ‘family’ when you live abroad with the other international school teachers that you are working with, your home is where your real family lives.  Going home too can simply mean just going back to your home country, not necessarily going back to where you grew up.

There are some good reasons to go back home and maybe some things to consider first before making the decision to travel back to your home country during the summer:

• Some international school teachers make their annual trip home during their winter break. Those that do typically say that they already went home during the winter holiday and don’t plan on going back six months later during the summer months; that would be too soon to go back!

• You get to see your old friends from when you went to University maybe or people that you went to high school with.  It is important to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances; Facebook still can’t compete with real face-to-face meetings with these people from your life. Also, you can tell them all about the adventures you have been on while they have been staying-put, most likely in the same city where they went to high school in.

• Speaking of talking about your adventures.  Many family and friends from your home country actually don’t care very much about your adventures and traveling.  Very few of my friends and family even bring up the topic, and when I do, they don’t seem to be showing much interest in hearing the details.  Maybe it is not so interesting to them because traveling around the world and seeing more than 6-8 countries a year is just something they can’t relate to.  They also want to share what they have been up to, just like you, so I suppose there should be a bit of give and take to try and understand each other’s very different lives.

• If you go to your home country during the summer, you get to stock up on all your favorite products from your old life.  Many international school teachers love to go to their favorite grocery stores to stock up on all the products not available in their host country supermarkets.  Be careful though, food products weigh a lot and can easily make your suitcase go over the allowed weight on your flight back!

• You get to see your nieces and nephews in person, noticing how they are getting so much older now and all grown up.  You can do things with them like taking them to the movies or for a few games of bowling. The years past by so fast and soon they will be adults and possibly off to university!

• The price of flights and plane tickets to your home country are just unbelievably high now.  Many of us without a flight benefit just literally can’t afford to buy plane tickets home.  Sure, at some schools, the school pays for your flight home each summer.  But, not all international school teachers are as lucky.  In many international schools in Western Europe, teachers are left to pay for their annual flight home themselves.  And if you have two children in your family, your total cost has just gone from $2500 for two people to $5000 for four people.  That amount is just not a feasible amount to pay for a trip for some international school teaching couples. Even with the annual flight allowance, you might have already used that allowance for your winter break trip home.

• Some international school teachers just want to stay put in their host country during the summer.  Some feel you don’t have the time to really explore the city, the nearby cities, and the other cities in the country during the school year. And in the northern hemisphere, summer is the best time typically to explore these countries. 

• Some teachers also just simply stay put to save money!! We all need to carefully plan for our future (hopefully early) retirements!

• A month-long trip to Africa or a month-long trip to the Chicago area? A question you might be asking yourself in April. Some are faced with this international school educator’s dilemma each summer.  For many international school teachers, the price of the flight to go home is actually the same price it would take to go to more exotic places like Kenya or Costa Rica, or even Bali.  Who would want to go home (a place you have seen many times already) in place of going on an exciting adventure?  Many choose the adventure option each summer!

When some of International School Community’s members were asked the question: “To go home or not to go home?”  Here are a few responses we got:

“Choosing to go ‘home’ over the summer is always a tough decision. I usually head back to see friends and family. It feels really good to reconnect with the people you don’t see every day and your own culture. After about 10 days though, I am ready to head back to my other ‘home’ or my next adventure.”

“Absolutely go home! First of all, many schools will pay for your ticket home during the holidays, but more importantly, is the idea that one needs a “home base” when doing these international teaching assignments. There is a real feeling of refreshment when one goes home, it regenerates your sense of self, everything is familiar to you, and you regain the energy needed to face another year of the ‘unknown’.  On a side note, this year, I will not be able to ‘go home’ as I am too pregnant to travel back and forth before my second baby is born…and I’m already feeling the stress of it. Although, I know it is well worth it to stay in Brazil this time around….I feel a slight sense of panic every time I think of it.”

At Brent International School Manila, one ISC member said, “Many teachers leave on major holidays, most to other locations in South East Asia. During summer almost all teachers travel home.”

At theUnited World College South East Asia, another ISC member said, “Most teachers travel during school holidays. Singapore is an amazing hub from which to travel to all other Asian cities/countries. Many staff travel home during summer and for Christmas.”

At the American School of Torreon, a different ISC member said, “It is expensive to travel home for the holidays. The airport is small and prices are high. Traveling by bus is also time-consuming and long.”

So, are you planning on going home this summer? Are you the international school teacher that makes their annual trip home each summer, the one that stays in the host country, or the one that is traveling to another country on some adventure?  Share your stories and reasons for your summer plans on ISC!

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #5: Strengthen and Maintain your Enthusiasm

January 1, 2023

Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm.

We all have been there before; alone in your new apartment, not wanting to go out onto the street to the nearby market, not wanting to be confronted with a bunch of people that are speaking a language you don’t understand, feeling tired all the time and wanting to sleep through your whole weekend, etc.

It takes some mental toughness to get your spirits up again, to grasp at a tiny bit of enthusiasm when you are knee-deep in culture shock emotions. If this is your third international school, you might have said to yourself, “this time it is going to be different. I am going to accept people’s offers of invitation to go out around the town. I am going to be more positive and active during the first 3-6 months after I arrive.”

Sometimes it feels like every other new teacher at your school is full of enthusiasm and you are the only one not feeling that way. However, it is true that all new teachers go through this tough stage of culture shock, which is trying to stay positive about your situation and keeping an upbeat attitude about the host country and culture.

Ways to increase and maintain your enthusiasm:

• Join a meetup.com group in your host city. There are many groups on that website from all over the world. Sometimes it is good to just get away from your work colleagues and meet some other expats in other industries.

• Invite some of the new teachers out for a drink at a bar in town, for a walk around the nearby park, for some dinner over at your new apartment, etc..

• Start up a blog about all your new experiences living abroad. Keeping your friends and family up to date with all your new experiences can be quite motivating, and your friends and family look forward to your new entries and enjoy hearing about all your adventures.

• Make sure you have some of your favorite TV programs to watch on your computer. We have all experienced in at least one of the host cities we’ve lived in the long wait time that there can be when getting internet installed in your new apartment. Having some TV programs or favorite movies to watch in the meantime can definitely keep your enthusiasm from dipping too low.

• Make sure you don’t pass up your first travel opportunity on the school calendar. Looking online for flights to new destinations can really boost your enthusiasm for the expat life that you have chosen for yourself. If you are not feeling like traveling, just start asking the other teachers at your school where they might be going. Once you hear where they are going, you will for sure want to get on the bandwagon and get your trip planned as well.

• Before you move, make sure to pack some of your favorite home country food products. When you have a day that you are feeling down, you can get one of these products out for dinner. Having some familiar foods can really make you feel back on track. It might just be too much of a shock to your system to only be eating the host country’s cuisine.

Does anybody have any more good ideas for keeping up your enthusiasm? There are many more for sure. Just try and keep in mind the reason that you decided to take on this new challenge and change in your life. The life of an expat is indeed quite nice, but it is not full of wonderful moments all the time. International school teachers need to be prepared to handle these tough situations we experience every once in a while when our enthusiasm for this lifestyle temporarily dims.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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Information for Members

Member Search Feature Update: Which Job Titles Do Our 23342+ Members Have?

February 13, 2022

We are getting more and more members every month. Currently, we have over 23342 (up 3796 members since October 2020). We are definitely the place to go for networking with other international school educators!

Out of these thousands of members, we have teachers who hold many types of positions.  Check out our Members’ Job Titles page to see how many we have in each of these positions.

Using the data from this page, here are the current Members’ Job Titles statistics: (13 February 2022)

43 Activities Coordinators – (up 4)
17 Admission Coordinators – (up 4)
13 Admissions Director – (up 2)
124 Art Teachers – (up 17)
79 Assistant Principals – (up 13)
113 Biology Teachers – (up 25)

30 Business Office Workers – (up 2)
98 Chemistry Teachers – (up 11)
989 Classroom Teachers – (up 111)
22 Communications Workers – (up 3)
131 Counselors – (up 25)
155 Curriculum Coordinators – (up 23)

232 Department Heads – (up 45)
9 Design Teachers – (new)
21 Development Coordinator – (up 2)
41 Drama Teachers – (up 6)
71 Economics Teachers – (up 12)
361 English Teachers – (up 54)
285 EAL Teachers – (up 25)

209 Foreign Language Teachers – (up 33)
26 Geography Teachers – (up 6)
134 Heads of School/Directors – (up 17)
88 History Teachers – (up 10)
122 ICT Teachers – (up 17)
8 Interns – (up 1)

84 Librarians – (up 9)
42 Marketing Workers – (up 9)
256 Math Teachers – (up 43)
105 Music Teachers – (up 15)
6 Nurses – (same)
339 Other – (up 36)

152 P.E. Teachers (up 31)
76 Physics Teachers – (up 15)
161 Principals – (up 27)
21 Psychology Teachers – (up 3)
121 Science Teachers – (up 26)
10 Secretaries – (up 1)

87 Social Studies Teachers – (up 12)
118 Special Needs Teachers – (up 20)
10 Speech Pathologists – (up 1)
50 Teaching Assistants – (up 6)

Biggest increases: Dept. Heads, Classroom Teachers, English Teachers, EAL Teachers, Math, Foreign Language Teachers and Principals.

Want to get a job at an international school in one of these positions? Log on to International School Community and start contacting our members to get answers to your questions.  Many of our members definitely know about the life of an international school teacher at the schools they currently work at and the schools they have worked at in the past.

So where in the world do our current members live?  The members, who have stated so on their profile, currently live in the following regions of the world:

568 that are currently located in Asia – (up 149)
61 that are currently located in Caribbean – (up 8)
71 that are currently located in Central America – (up 10)
967 that are currently located in East Asia – (up 116)
241 that are currently located in Eastern/Central Europe – (up 39)
634 that are currently located in Middle East – (up 85)
130 that are currently located in North Africa – (up 14)
1095 that are currently located in North America – (up 88)
184 that are currently located in Oceania – (up 18)
868 that are currently located in South East Asia – (up 110)
218 that are currently located in South America – (up 46)
296 that are currently located in Sub-Saharan Africa – (up 48)
898 that are currently located in Western Europe – (up 91)

Looks like North America is still in the lead!  We recommend that all our members keep their profiles as up-to-date as possible so that their networking possibilities can be at their highest. Update yours today.

Check out all of our 23342+ members here.  If you are not a member yet, sign up here for free!

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Discussion Topics

Why Aren’t Seasoned International School Teachers Getting Hired?

February 6, 2022

There seem to be a lot of teaching vacancies being posted at 1000s of international schools this recruiting season. These positions are in many countries around the world (although MANY of them are in China it would appear this year).

But even if there are 1000s positions available and (most likely) 100s of those in positions that you can apply for, it seems to be quite difficult to get an interview, and even if you get that, getting hired is another big hurdle!

It is understandable that a teacher just starting out in their international school career is not getting called in for an interview, but why are many seasoned international school teachers not even getting the school’s attention?

Let’s say there is a teacher looking for a new position for the coming school year. This person has worked at three different top-tier international schools averaging around six years at each one. This person has also received glowing reviews from their supervisors, and they are looking for another international school of a similar curriculum and similar status in the international school community. But after applying to a select few, and after even having one interview at one of them already, this person is not moving forward to the next rounds of the interview process.

It can be really frustrating for this person. Why is this happening? Why aren’t these highly sought-after experienced teachers finding it easier to get the attention and support of these international schools?

Back 15 years ago, it seemed that the power was truly in the international school teacher’s hand. Sure there was still competition, but you could get many interviews at the recruitment fairs and also get multiple offers to consider. 

Today, it is a different story for sure. There could be 100s of applicants applying for just one position. One teacher at an international school in Zurich said 400-500 people applied for just one position! The power is surely back in the hands of the international school as the candidates simply outnumber the number of positions available. This situation is definitely the case at the top-tier international schools in desirable locations. It is unclear if that is also the case at lesser-known international schools in less desirable locations.

Getting a job at a good international school or at any school really is always all about being at the right place at the right time. It is all about luck and timing. Sometimes, it isn’t even really about how your CV looks or what you said in your cover letter. With international schools getting 100s of CVs for one position, there sometimes just isn’t time to read that many cover letters.

So how can you get noticed? How can you increase your luck so that you are at the right place and the right time? Some say having a connection at the international school can help, and maybe for some, it does help. But with a lot of strict interviewing guidelines that many international schools have adopted, having a connection to the school does not always get you noticed or to the top of an admin’s list of people to interview. The position also might be just filled internally in the end or filled locally for that matter. A nightmare situation for a recruiting international school teacher.

The key is just to keep your hopes up knowing that the right position will present itself to you when the timing is right. Do your research, fill out everything the school requires for an application, and stay in touch with the right people at the school. Keep in mind that if they don’t have any new news to share with you, that is why they are not getting back to you or they are just not that into you.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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Information for Members

It’s easy to network on ISC!

August 6, 2019

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

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

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

Currently, our top 40 international schools with the most members are:
24 members – American International School in Egypt
23 members – Copenhagen International School
21 members – International School of Kuala Lumpur
21 members – International School Manila
17 members – Seoul International School
17 members – International School of Tanganyika
17 membersJakarta International School
17 membersMEF International School Istanbul
17 membersWestern International School of Shanghai
16 membersFairview International School
16 members – American School Foundation of Mexico City
16 members – American School of Barcelona
15 members
Singapore American School
15 membersInternational School Bangkok
14 membersUnited Nations International School (Vietnam)
14 membersShanghai Community International School
14 membersShanghai United International School (Hongqiao)
14 members – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana
14 members – Istanbul International Community School
14 membersNIST International School
14 membersBrent International School Manila
14 members – Seoul Foreign School
14 membersQatar Academy (Doha)
13 members – KIS International School (Bangkok)
13 membersGraded – The American School of Sao Paulo
13 membersAmerican School of Dubai
13 membersAmerican International School of Johannesburg
13 membersAmerican International School (Vietnam)
13 membersCairo American College
13 membersGood Shepherd International School
12 members –Suzhou Singapore International School
12 membersChadwick International School – Songdo
12 membersInternational School of Beijing
12 membersWestern Academy of Beijing
12 membersAmerican International School of Kuwait
12 membersAnglo-American School of Moscow
12 membersAmerican School of Kuwait
12 membersCanadian International School (Singapore)
11 membersAmerican Embassy School New Delhi
11 membersBilkent Laboratory & International School

The members of these schools include members that currently work there now or have worked there in the past.

With 100-300 new members joining each month, this list will continue to grow and grow; with even more members showing up as potential people to network with.

It is simple to network on our website: just click on a member and then click on the ‘Contact this member’ button (Premium membership access required).  Then write him/her a message.  When your message is sent, the other member will get an email alert letting them know that they have a new message waiting for them on our website (you don’t need premium membership access to reply to a private message on our website). Numerous International School Community members have already taken advantage of this unique feature on our website!

As far as we know, International School Community is the only website where you can quickly and easily network with real people at a specific international school.  Meaning, if you want to get in touch with somebody from the United Nations International School in New York and you are currently a premium member of International School Community, you now have 6 members that you can contact on our website that either work there now or have worked there in the past.  

Get the answers to your questions; now that is easy networking!

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