Before you go

Taking a job in an international school is not as simple as changing schools at home. You are starting two new ‘jobs’ at the same time – one as a teacher in a new school and one as an expatriate abroad. No wonder it can seem so overwhelming at times. 

Diane’s Top Tips for moving abroad:

  1. Always remember why you made this choice. Teaching abroad for the first time is a bit like climbing a mountain. You decided to do it to challenge yourself and because you wanted to see the view from the top. But once you start the climb, you realise that it’s not as easy as a video montage in a movie where everything gets magically done with a great song playing in the background- it’s a bit of a slog.  And you can’t see the top of the mountain anymore when climbing but definitely can feel the burn.  Make a note to yourself now to remind yourself why you are going- your hopes, dreams, motivations. Refer to it regularly. It will be worth it in the end!
  2. Make lists. I am not the most organised person, but I find lists are invaluable when trying to come to grips with moving. They actually make me feel calmer because at least I know what has to be done and by when.  Don’t’ get intimidated by the size of the list… just make it a goal to make it smaller one item at a time. At work I’ve got my own personal mantra ‘get a problem, solve a problem’ and you can modify it to be ‘write a list, do something on the list’.  Maybe not quite as catchy but you get the point. Whether you use google spreadsheets, white boards, or a notebook, make sure you make a list. You’ll feel much better for it.
  3. Look fear in the face... and stare it down. Fear is that little voice in your head that holds you back telling you ‘you can’t…’ ‘what if..’, ‘you won’t..’ The fear of the unknown is a real feeling but it’s usually not based on reality.   I find it helpful to have a conversation with that little fear voice and play it out.


Conversations with The Little Voice of Fear

Day 1.

Voice: You should not go.  What if (insert name of relative or friend) gets sick?

You: I will get on a plane and come home.

Voice: There’s too much to do! You’ll never do it all in time!

You: I’ve got a list. I’m on it.  

Voice: Oh. Ok.


Day 2

Voice: You should stay home. What if something bad happens?  

You: Statistically I’m far more likely to be the victim of a crime at home than I am in the UAE, China or Kuwait, etc. We have crime, terrorism, traffic accidents here you know. And my school will look out for me and tell me what I should do in case of an issue during my school orientation. Thousands and thousands of teachers work abroad. They seem to be doing ok.

Voice: Ok. Fine.  


Day 3

Voice: What if you don’t like your job? What if you don’t make friends and are lonely?

You: I love teaching. I love kids. I’m sure I will love some aspects of the job, and not like others as much.. but what else is new?. And an international school is filled with expat teachers just like me looking to make friends. We are all adventurous by definition and will all be looking for the same things – travel, culture, exploring. I’m looking forward to meeting them.

Voice: Ok. I’ll be quiet now. I can’t win.


You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear. – Sammy Davis Jr


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