By Anda Banks
'I’m going to teach in Sudan.'
'Sorry, what????? Why would you want to do that?'
I was 22 years old and had some time to fill between a teaching contract and returning to university and this is the conversation I had had a few too many times. Understandably so. My parents feared for my safety (luckily, there was no reason to), my friends thought I was crazy and I really had no idea what I was getting into, except for the information on the school’s website and a few average reviews online. Nevertheless, I was curious and excited to go.
I will never forget landing in Khartoum. It was early in the morning and most passengers were snoozing in their seats. ‘Not many lights down there’, I remember thinking. A barely audible captain’s announcement made a couple of heads lift up. ‘Welcome to Khartoum. It’s 4:00 am local time, outside temperature +42 degrees Celsius..’
I was picked up on arrival by the school’s HR representative and taken to my flat. I will always appreciate the water and snacks that were thoughtfully left in the fridge for me. I looked outside my window and was faced with a sandy city, white stone fences and a lonely donkey roaming the street.
My time in Sudan was full of unforgettable experiences. Khartoum, predominantly Muslim with strong African influences, is a place like no other. The food, the culture and the people I met really left an impression on me. The school's staff made me feel welcome and at ease. They had seen teachers come and go and knew how challenging it could be at the beginning. There was the odd teacher who would arrive on Monday and be gone by Wednesday. But the ones who stayed, stayed happily. Moving abroad is a big commitment. There is no point in going somewhere just to end up not giving it a chance. Khartoum is one of those places that is both fascinating and intimidating for the uninitiated. For many first time travelers there will be distinct lack of familiarity and that can be unsettling.
I was soon welcomed by the local expat community, which was the most diverse I have ever experienced. There were engineers, UN staff, reporters, accountants, teachers, Red Cross, you name it, all spending time together. There were many social gatherings, running clubs, film evenings, trips outside of Khartoum. My work placement was filled with rich and rewarding experiences and I grew to really appreciate the aspects that seemed so foreign to me when I first arrived. Overall, I am glad I went despite the doubts surrounding my initial decision. My experience was nothing like I could have imagined and far exceeded what I hoped it would be like. It was my journey to take!
I am lucky to have lived and worked in several very different countries around the world. I now work in recruitment and get to help other teachers to fulfill their ambitions to teach internationally. If you are a qualified teacher and keen to relocate to Sudan or anywhere else in the Middle East, get in touch and I will see what I can do :)