Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Teaching Abroad

I've read a few topics on the TpT sellers forum about teachers who are interested in teaching outside their home country. They are often looking to hear from experience and to get some advice. In 13 years as a teacher, I've taught in public, private and semi-private schools in 4 countries and 3 continents. I've had to be very ADAPTABLE.

If anyone is interested in working and living abroad, that is my biggest piece of advice. Learn the language, meet the people (marry one if you like!) and respect the fact that things are done differently everywhere you go.

All you teachers who have worked or are currently working abroad, what would be your best advice?


  1. While in the military, I was stationed in four other countries. I was not in a teaching position during those times, but was always "teaching" the locals during my volunteer work.

    My most rewarding assignment was in Honduras, where I went out on a lot of humanitarian medical missions, after the Hurricane Mitch disaster. Just like mentioned above, you must be adaptable... there are many cultural differences you will need to pay attention to, as well as a total environmental change. It is a huge benefit to know the language. The people are usually welcoming and appreciative, especially if you can speak a little of their language.

    If you are going to be in a developing country, like Honduras, my best advice (besides those already mentioned), would be safety. Always stay aware of your surroundings and be very careful about going anywhere alone. Many of those countries can be dangerous, especially to Americans, who are often targets. Most overseas military bases have their own schools, so there are opportunities for teachers within the Dept. of Defense, which may be a little safer option.

    I enjoyed serving in all the foreign countries I've been to. I was even able to take away some positives from my deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. I was there 15 months and was able to volunteer some of my very limited free time, in a small medical aide clinic, which served the local Iraqi people.

  2. My best advice would be to "go with the flow" and leave yourself open to learning from your collegues, who will often be from different countries and have a lot of ideas which may be new to you, and from your students, who often have also had very interesting experiences in their young lives. The school set-up and expectations are very likely to be different than what you're used to, so embrace it, try it out, take what works for your and discard the rest. Figure out quickly, from the veterans at the school, which rules/expectations are real and which ones you can ignore - this will help a lot with stress. Enjoy the culture, try things that might make you uncomfortable at first. They might become things you love to do - this is how I became a huge fan of the Japanese hot spring experience and learned to love raw fish. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the country you are in or the school you are working for - leave. Once you are on the international school circuit finding a new position is not that hard, so don't stay somewhere that is not working for you anymore. This doesn't mean give up at the first opportunity - that would be a waste. But, if you have been somewhere a couple of years for example, and it's just not somewhere (country or school) that you feel you are getting anything out of, or it's not an experience that you enjoy and that basically makes you unhappy, then leave. The perfect place may just be around the corner. Voila, my 2 cents.

  3. Great tips, Ms. Joanne. Thanks for the insight.

  4. I taught in Indonesia for two years. It was an amazing experience. But, as a guest in another country, you have to suspend what you consider 'normal' and go with the flow. Corruption is rife in Indonesia. It actually forms a layer in the economic cycle. I had to fly out to Singapore at one stage to obtain my work visa. I was given an envelope and told to give my passport and envelope to Mr Fixit who would meet me in the lobby of the hotel I was booked in to. The following day I had my passport back and all the necessary stamps and visas in my passport. Such corruption would be challenged in my own country but was a necessary evil in Indonesia. There's no point arguing against it. All sorts of other challenges face you when living as a guest in another country; the climate, the poverty, the wealth, the attitude of students. It's all different but it is all part of why you visit and work in another country. You are there to experience another culture in all its glory and horror.
    My advice would be to check out the country where you will be living. There are internet sites that give reports on schools if you are a teacher. Investigate what the expectations are. And then ask yourself if you can tolerate the differences. better still, will you learn from those differences. Most importantly, ask yourself if you can accommodate those differences for the term of your working contract. Form a sound support base and go for it if you are confident.
    And have fun. David