Comment Topic Highlight

Which type of climate do you ideally look for when living abroad?

July 16, 2020


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!

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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 Comments

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school

May 18, 2015


Many international schools ofter 1-2 year initial contracts for new hires. But does that mean that most international school teachers leave after that initial contract?

We all know some teachers do exactly that. They leave after 1-2 years of working at their new international school. The reasons they leave are varied, and many of those reasons are out of their control.

It is true, though, that some international school teachers leave too soon. Leaving too soon can be good or bad, depending on your situation.  But maybe, just maybe there are very positive things that can happen if the stars align for you to stay longer than four years.

So, what are the Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You get more fluent in the local language.

Sometimes it is hard to get yourself to attend language classes when you first arrive. It is difficult giving up two evenings of your work week to go to these classes. Waiting a few years until you are more established into your new life in your host country is sometimes a better option for some international school teachers.  Although it is not the case with everyone, staying longer in the host country will also provide you with more authentic opportunities to acquire new words and phrases.  You never know when you will learn your next new words, but if you provide yourself with more opportunities and put yourself in more situations with the local people, you will certainly learn more of the host country language.

#2 – You make more long-lasting local friends.

In so many countries, it is down right a challenge to make local friends. Many international school teachers just find friends among other international school teachers at their school. The reason being that it is sometimes scary and nerve-racking to get yourself out there and meet the locals. Additionally, you got to get yourself out and get to know A LOT of locals too because we all know that you can’t be everyone’s friend that you meet.  You have to meet a lot to find a few good ones.  You don’t always find a good match every time you are out and about in your host city.  Also, locals don’t necessarily want to invest their friend-time with foreigners that are going to be leaving in a year or two. If you are staying around, that makes you more desirable in terms of friendship material.

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#3 – You save more money.

Your first and second years at an international school can indeed be costly ones. You need to buy so many things (excuse me…did somebody say IKEA?) for your new home.  You also make some stupid purchases during these first few years when you don’t know the best places to go and get the best deal.  The longer you stay could equal the better savings in your bank account, especially if your international school is giving you a great salary with excellent benefits. Why leave when you’re potentially making the most money in your teaching career?!

#4 – You get to do more special projects at your school.

When you first start at an international school, you are just getting your feet on the ground. Because everything is new, you typically stick to doing what you know and that’s that. You are still doing a good job, but you find it a challenge to start any special projects.  After your third and fourth year, you have more ownership in the school. Being more familiar and comfortable with your international school allows you to be more creative and make some of your ideas come true. Once you have built a strong trust, after a couple of years with your administration and the PTA, they will then support you in these new ideas.  The key is to keep the ideas and inspiration flowing. Here is one special project idea as an example: why not get beekeeping started up at your school?

#5 – You build stronger collaborative partners at work.

Some research related to co-teaching in schools state that it can take a good two to three years to get to a high level of collaboration.  You need time to build those collaborative relationships, and sometimes one to two years is not enough.  Also, if you stay at an international school for longer than two years, you also get to know your colleagues better, both professionally and on a personal level.  All of that teaching at a specific international school then is time well-spent, as it will only strengthen your collaborative relationships.

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#6 – More time for more of your home country family and friends to visit you. 

Why is it so hard for some of your family and friends to get their act together and visit you?  The fact is that many of those friends and family need time to plan. They need time to save their money, find the right time to visit you, and get the time off of their work. Many people are simply not able to figure that all out in one to two years. By the third and fourth year, the stars will align for some of them to finally visit you.  What a shame if there is a missed opportunity for your friends and family to check out a potential new place in the world!  The best part is that they won’t even have to pay for a hotel or guide services as they will have your place to stay at and you to happily show them around.

#7 – You get more time to travel around your host country and visit all the spots you’ve been wanting to see.

During your holidays, it is easy to forget about checking out more of your host country. Indeed, you are too busy planning to see the other countries that surround your host country.  If you are not on a tropical island, buying a ticket to one sounds more appealing then just staying in your host country.  Even if your host country is a small one, there are still countless cities to go visit.  The more you see of your host country, the better appreciation you have for it.  You learn more about your host country culture as well and how the locals are living in different parts of the country.  Traveling around to more parts of your host country also helps to you feel more like a local too because you know more about them and their culture.

#8 – You get to make your home more yours.

It takes awhile to make a home your home. In some countries, you are placed into a furnished house/apartment. Making other people’s furniture your furniture takes time. If you move into an unfurnished place, then you must buy stuff to put in there. If it is new, then that stuff also takes time to then make your home your home.  Sure, some international school teachers ship their own furniture to their new host country and they need less time to cozy up to their new surroundings, but a home is indeed more than just furniture. It takes time for memories to be created in your apartment/house.

#9 – You get more time to eat out at your favorite restaurants and find new ones that open up.

It is the best feeling to go out for dinner in your host country. Going out and enjoying really tasty food at your favorite restaurant, yes! What a shame to find that one place after a year, and then leave the following year. And then if you leave after only two years, you are maybe not there enough to check out the new ones that pop up. Then you hear from your ex-colleagues that they are still going to your favorite restaurant and you get those seconds thoughts of did I leave that city too soon?

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#10 – You finally get to see and work in your school’s new, amazing, purpose-built school building that it finally made.

We have all worked at international schools that have a grand plan to make a new building. If you have had this experience, then you know for sure that two things happen: either the new school building just simply never gets built or that is does get built but only after years and years of planning and waiting. Staying longer than four years gives ample time for you to actually get the chance to work in this new, amazing building!

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school

March 28, 2015


We all wish that our next international school will be in the “top-tier” of all the 6000+ international schools out there around the world.  For you will have the perfect salary, the perfect position, the perfect boss, the perfect housing allowance, etc.

Well even though the idea of working at a top-tier international school sounds wonderful, the reality is that no international school is perfect, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, we suppose it is true that working at a top-tier school will more likely be a better and more satisfying experience for you.

Each international school is on their own journey towards greatness. The most important thing to know then (when considering a job to work at an international school), in what part of their journey will you be starting?  Is that international school moving at a steady pace towards improvement or will it be at a very slow pace (or worse, stalled, and heading in a downward spiral)?

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What are the Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You don’t get paid on time. 

Fact. You can’t focus on doing your best teaching if you are not getting paid on time. Some international schools (for-profit ones most likely) do not pay its teachers until two weeks or more after the original pay-date. Slowly losing trust in your school to pay its staff on time will definitely affect its ability to be top-tier.

#2 – The interview process leaves you confused and full of questions.

There is nothing worse than being very interested in working at an international school and then left being underwhelmed after the interview with them.  The administration appear to not be very well organized.  Maybe they do not know the specific details about the position for which you are interviewing.  When interviewing, obviously you need to have all your questions answered because this decision you might make is a big one.  You want to leave the interview satisfied that they have answered all your questions and concerns.  Curiously, sometimes the interview goes super fast, and the school seems to be willing to hire anyone breathing (another red flag); which gets you wondering if you indeed really are a good fit for this school or are they misleading you just to fill a vacancy.

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#3 – The business office is a nightmare-of-a-place you dread going.

Losing trust in your international school is the definite deal-breaker. Arguably, the most important room in the school is the business office. For it is a fact that they are in control of all your money.  If you are not getting reimbursed for things in time, you lose some trust. You lose even more trust if the business office staff is very mean to you and does not seem at all interested in helping you resolve all things related to your money, in a timely and respectful manner for example. If you are a bit scared to go into your international school’s business office (because of multiple previous experiences of disappointment and stress), then you know your school is not in the top-tier.

#4 – The student enrollment is falling rapidly.

Losing students can be a very natural event at an international school caused by things completely out of the school’s control (i.e. global recession, big businesses moving out of the area, etc.).  But if your school has students leaving for nearby international schools, it might be falling out of the group of top-tier schools in your area.  Parents know very well which international schools, in a specific city, have the best reputation. If the parents are extremely upset with the experience they are having with your school, they will start finding alternative options for their children. The less students a school has, sometimes will affect the number of unique services they can offer. Which, in turn, leaves the school falling down a into a downward spiral of student enrollment because of a growing bad reputation.

#5 – You have a very non-existent new-teacher orientation experience.

When you arrive at your new post, everything needs to be just-so for you to get started off on the right foot. If the international school does not have a plan for welcoming and orientating new staff, these teachers will be full of stress. Getting settled in as quickly as possible is every new teacher’s goal. If the school does not offer a planned and structured new-teacher orientation programme, it will be left with teachers who cannot focus on doing their best in the first few months of starting at their new school. Top-tier schools know what new teachers need in the first couple months and have a plan on how to help them minimize stress of culture shock to the new school and the new country.

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#6 – There isn’t equal pay for teachers working in the same position.

International schools need a plan on how they will pay their teachers and staff. Unequal pay for people doing the same job is just not fair. Top-tier schools have a clear pay schedule that is understandable and transparent.  Teachers know when there is unequal pay amongst the staff, and this feeling of inequity causes them to have a negative impression on how these financial aspects are handled. International schools that want to be top-tier ones realize that paying local staff a different salary and offering them less benefits is not good for staff morale and the overall wellbeing of all stakeholders.

#7 – Your administration hires people that don’t match the school’s philosophy and mission.

How frustrating when your director does the hiring for the whole school, even when they do not have a clear idea of the positions they are trying to fill. In smaller international schools, typically the director is the only one going to the recruitment fairs. Top-tier international school directors know better how things work in their primary, middle and high school sections. They know how each of those diversion runs and the personalities of teachers that work in those divisions. Finding a good match for working with your current staff should be a top priority. Top-tier schools ask the right questions to try and figure out to their best ability if the candidate will be a good fit for the school’s current philosophy and mission. Non top-tier international school miss the mark completely and will hire anyone who vaguely fits the position’s requirements.

#8 – The school starts countless new initiatives all at the same time.

Top-tier internationals have a clear plan on how they will organize new initiatives.  They will not do so many at once as they know that causes the staff too much stress because of all the changes they will experience.  Top-tier international school also have administration that stay for four to six years (or longer), which allows for better deployment of the proposed initiatives. All new initiatives need see-through and consistent monitoring and evaluation. We all know the non top-tier schools out there that pile on the new initiatives, leaving all staff angry and frustrated.

#9 – You lose money that the school was suppose to pay you.

Promises, promises. You would think that after signing a contract with an international school, they would honor it.  But at some schools, that is not always the case.  Many schools offer a bonus payment for every year that you have worked there.  The catch is that they will not give you that money until after your final year of working there.  You are not working at a top-tier school if you are worried about getting the money that was promised to you.  There are international school teachers out there who have to wait over a year to receive their bonus money.  Even scarier, there are other teachers who never got their bonus money.

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#10 – Your international school completely closes down a year after you leave it.

It is unlikely a top-tier international school will close down. Many times they are huge businesses that are very well organized with many stakeholders with a vested interest in the success of the school.  Unfortunately, there are some of us that have worked at these less desirable international schools that plainly just do not have their act together. To add to your embarrassment of working there for a few years, you find that the school has closed a year after you left it due to a high amount mismanagement. It happens. Its true that not all schools can be as successful and long-running as top-tier schools. But do you really want to work at an international school that does not have their act together with a haphazard management style?  We think not.

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country (USA)

February 24, 2015


Many of us have been out of our home country for many years (check out our Seasoned International School teachers post).  Sure, we love our international school teaching life, and there are many reasons to continue that life. If the school is inspiring, stay. If the benefits are great, why not stay. If the travel opportunities are awesome, definitely stay!

Like all good things though, they are bound to come to an end.

But why would an international school teacher move back to his/her home country? There are different reasons for everyone because everyone is coming from a variety of situations and circumstances. With that in mind…what are the Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country? (USA) Maybe you can relate to some of these!

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#1 – I want to have the experience of living as an adult in my home county (I was 24 with I left).

Some teachers leave to start their international school teaching career straight out of university, which means you are between 21-24. If you leave your home country that early in your “life after college”, there is not much time to enjoy the pleasures of being an adult doing adult things.  For example, leaving at 21 doesn’t leave too much time for you to save up enough money to buy a house.

#2 – I am tired of being a foreigner and need a break. I may go out again after a year or two.

It can be quite exciting when everything is new and different, but it can also be draining on your day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year to year life while living abroad. Of course the longer you live somewhere, most things become routine and normal. However, it doesn’t mean that you completely forget your life back home. Sometimes you just want to go back and remind yourself of all the things you missed or forgot about.

3294589793_45af18de38_z#3 – I miss my friends.

You can make some great friends in the international school community, especially the ones that started the same year as you did.  The friends you make while living abroad are truly your family away from home.  The friends from your home country are unique though and super important to you. Not being able to see them can be quite difficult at times. Usually you only get to see your home-country friends once a year if you are lucky. Many times when you set up a time to see them, many other old friends are there too…not leaving you enough quality time to catch up on everything. How nice to have all the time in the world to hang out with your friends if you are back living in your home country again!

#4 – I am tired of people saying hateful things about my home country to my face as soon as they meet me.

You really learn a lot about your home country while living abroad. You get to hear, first hand, the multiple perspectives people have related to where you are from. Not all the things they say to you are positive though, making you feel bad and pensive. If you are from an area that has a negative stereotype attached to it, you end up constantly hearing it, after you meet new people and mention your home country to them.  Over and over again, you need to explain to these people how you are not like that stereotype and teach them about your experience.  It can definitely get a bit irritating.

#5 – I want a garbage disposal again.

It is all the conveniences of your home country that you start missing. The list of things you miss can be a long one!  There aren’t many countries that have garbage disposals as a standard feature in a kitchen.  Because of this, I miss them.

4241390495_635818a2b6_z#6 – I want to be able to walk into one store and buy everything I need.

If you are from the United States, then you know what a Super Target is. Now it has everything that you would need to buy for your weekly shopping.  For those of us that don’t want to spend extra time shopping in multiple stores to get everything we want, the idea of just going to one store to get it all done sounds great. Living in your host country, you don’t know where things are most of the time (the language barrier comes into play here as well). Back home, you are an expert on knowing where to go and what you can get there.

#7 – I want to see my country, travel around and really experience it.

Many of the veteran international school teachers have been traveling around the world like crazy. Traveling is a top priority for many of us. Once and a while you see a movie or a tv program and see some pictures of your home country that are stunningly beautiful. You wonder why you never went to that stunning place when you were living there. Going back home might just give you a better opportunity to explore more of your homeland; a nice way to re-appreciate where you came from.

#8 – I want to do a proper Halloween.

You can try and celebrate your home-country holidays while living in your host country, but some things just won’t be the same  to how you would celebrate them back home. Halloween is one of them.  Some countries try and celebrate a few of your home-country holidays (like Halloween), but some are just not comparable to how your home country would celebrate them. Being surrounded by many houses again, all with their light on to welcome trick-or-treaters, can be just the thing to know you are back home to your roots again.

#9 – I want to experience the weather that I grew up with again.

Not many places in the world have exactly the same weather as the place in which you grew up. Sure you can try and experience what it is like to live in a tropical location (like Singapore), but being hot and sweaty every time you go out of the house can get tiresome.  You can also check out the weather living in a colder climate (like Moscow), but having endless cloudy days of freezing cold weather in the winter is enough for you to wish you didn’t live there.  Going back to the weather you grew up with can be just what the doctor ordered.

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#10 – I want to be able to turn on the tv and be able to understand most channels. 

You can go for years without turning on a tv while living abroad. If you don’t understand the local language very well, you know that you won’t be able to understand or follow many of the tv programs anyway.  It’s true that you can get all the news and information you want from the internet, but it is nice though to have an option where you just turn on the tv and surf the channels (like how you used to do when living back in your home country).

This top 10 list was submitted to us by a guest author and International School Community member who is from the United States.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you have a top 10 list idea and would like it to be highlighted on our blog as a guest author.

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