Top 10 Tips for Settling In When Teaching Abroad!

Top 10 Tips for Settling In When Teaching Abroad!

#teammagicaleducators @veeteeteach

Top Ten Tips for Settling In When Teaching Abroad!

Once upon a time there was a young, excited Teacher who craved travel and adventure…… (insert own name here!)
Now is the time when teachers, young and not-so-young, are getting ready to take the first step to life as an international teacher. Saying goodbye to their current school and colleagues, families and friends, packing up houses and selling cars…the list seems endless when you start to think about everything that goes into the big move. Overwhelming is the word I hear the most. Some want the chance to have a different kind of life for a while, others to experience new languages and cultures, and recently an increasing amount of teachers want to earn an overseas salary to make a dent into student loans. We all have our reasons for moving overseas.

My move really did happen Once upon a time…. but it also feels like yesterday. Time plays some fantastical tricks on you and all of a sudden you step back and reflect on where the time has gone. Really, where did it go?

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Travelling. Most of it, if not at work, went on travelling. I marvel at the world being so open and accessible to a curious spirit and am thankful for the opportunities that have presented themselves. Being in the right place at the right time is pretty much how my travel plans go. Start off with a plan, then forget about it. In my original overseas contract, I had to stay ‘in country’ for the whole of the first year, which at the time seemed horrible as I was homesick and life in Pakistan was very different from the UK. It turned out to be an opportunity to travel that I would never have had if the opportunity to go home had been there. A river trip down the Indus on a traditional wooden boat, camel trek across the desert and camping in tents on the riverbank with fellow ex-pats would never have been my choice for a Christmas vacation, but it was one of the most magical experiences and all the more so because it was quite unplanned. So many travel experiences just ‘happen’ because someone you meet has an idea or a knows someone who can take you somewhere. Not sticking to the plan has made travelling much more of an experience.

People. Lots of time was spent on getting to know the amazing people that I met living and working overseas. Generosity of spirit, the willingness of people to open their homes, the incredibly delicious food that will be forced upon you (and you must eat or risk mortally offending the host), will be a daily occurrence. Not only within the international colleagues that you will work with, but the friends you make within the community, the local shopkeepers, taxi drivers and quite often domestic staff. Yes, get ready to have a life-transforming maid! Life overseas has many benefits but by far the most long-lasting will be the friends that you make. As you return home, or continue your teaching journey internationally, you take your friends with you in your heart. Staying in touch via Skype, Messenger etc. helps make goodbye’s so much easier, but in the end moving on means tears all round. Don’t forget though, having friends all around the world is a wonderful base for travelling!

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Shopping. This is going to play a large or small part of your life depending on your need to gather evidence of your travels. My home is filled to the brim with items that remind me of the journeys I have taken and friends I have made. Small items picked up on trips, clothes made by a tailor, hand-made kitchen tiles (packed in my hand luggage and carefully handed over to my builder) – every corner of my home has a treasured memory attached. Luckily, I have a home to place these memories in and so when I return each summer I am greeted by all the lovely things that bring me joy. Having a few choice items that travel the world with me is also important, but remember to keep these small and lightweight!

Change. Not always immediately recognized, it’s the subtle changes over time that are the most significant. The way your life changes because of the people you meet and the cultures you work within is beyond calculation. Having international colleagues, working with international families, living amongst international communities, this will be your daily experience. Incredible! Coming to a greater understanding and appreciation of the differences and similarities that we all embrace within ourselves is probably the most amazing change that will happen. A wider, more open view of how people live, the constraints or openness of their society and how people navigate that society will become part of who you are.

I now have a permanent home overseas, as well as working internationally, and so my country of origin is often a distant memory. Some of us feel that we have moved on and don’t look back. Others see their overseas experiences as temporary and look forward to returning home. No matter where you settle, when you wake up each morning and say to yourself “Wow! How lucky I am to live here!” then you know you are truly blessed.


Top Ten Tips for Settling In

  1. Get to like IKEA stuff. If there is one in town, be thankful. If there is not, find your nearest one and stock up on all those little essentials.
  2. Learn to pack light. Nobody wants to pay excess baggage.
  3. Ask around about a good maid. There is always a family leaving who will be very happy that their lovely maid will find a new home.
  4. Find the ex-pat-selling website for your town. The strange and wonderful things that people sell when they leave may just be what you are looking for.
  5. Join a club and make friends outside school. The workplace can be a very small world and it’s always good to have friends who do not want to talk about school all the time.
  6. Learn some of the local language, even if only to communicate with taxi-drivers. There are usually some great language-exchange groups that you can find so don’t pay for lessons.
  7. Ask around for the best Apps that relate to your town (metro-map, useful phone numbers etc.) and download them. They will always come in handy.
  8. Volunteer. Find something that fits with your passion and help out in whatever way you can.
  9. Be mobile. Get a local driving license if possible, drive around and get out of the city. Having independent transport is extremely liberating. If there is excellent public transport then this may not be so urgent on a daily basis, but definitely to get out of the city on weekends.
  10. Awareness of the local culture. It’s there to be explored, not dismissed.
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One comment on “Top 10 Tips for Settling In When Teaching Abroad!
  1. Adam says:

    I think the best tip here is to join a club, if you have a hobby. I’m a big cyclist and when I was teaching in America I joined the local cycling club – made a bunch of friends who offered to show me round the town and I still keep in touch with most of them!

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