So, you’ve done the research, handed your notice in, spoken to colleagues, read some excellent blogs, and you’ve decided to teach abroad. You’re excited, but nervous. You’re not entirely sure what to expect yet and there are many exciting ideas, thoughts and worries which you’re not sure how to process.
It’s human nature to be worried by the unknown and just before starting your international journey is a very strange time as a result. It is also a very stressful time as you could potentially have spent hundreds, or even thousands of pounds on flights, medical insurance, visa applications and essentials for a new life abroad and the journey to get there.
It’s easy to let these feelings swallow you whole on arriving in a foreign country as there is much that is unfamiliar. Memories may even drift to rose-tinted images of the life you left behind, but there are several things to try and remember on landing – below are just some of the things you should remember when adjusting to your new life:
There’s no place like home
The time between landing and receiving your first pay packet will feel like an age, and you will be very tempted to blow a substantial portion celebrating your first month. Don’t!
More than likely, you’ll be given a pretty basic apartment and little else on arrival. Your apartment is where you will spend a significant amount of your time – invest wisely and make this a home, or those walls may begin to close in: paint/ decorate (if allowed); buy a TV/ DVD player/ games console if you’re that way inclined; get an air purifier (if in Asia) or whatever you need to feel at home.
This also extends to activities or hobbies that you’d enjoy at home – this could be anything from joining the gym or a sports team to buying a guitar or joining a band. It is important to start similar routines to home, or you may begin to suffer regular bouts of…
Everything changes but you
Homesickness. This can be a massive problem when moving abroad (especially if in a very different time zone). Checking your friend’s fake lives on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter takes on a whole new significance when you are 2,000 miles away and unable to join in (or even like or comment within a 4-hour time frame). There are two very important things to consider: 1. Remember why you made the move in the first place, and 2. Very little changes at home.
You will feel as if everyone is having the time of their lives when you email, WhatsApp or message, but you will return home and realise that Greggs’ pasties still taste the same and nearly everything is as you left it. Try to focus on what you want to achieve and don’t dwell on things at home.
A major worry for a lot of practitioners who decide to work abroad is the fear of deskilling. What if you spend too long abroad? What if there are curriculum changes in the UK or you haven’t attended the latest CPD? What if you can’t get a job when you return? Like many things in education, this will only happen if you let it and even then, this will very rarely have to do with your skillset, but with what you have become accustomed to. If you find you are working at an international college which requires no planning or marking (they exist) and then return to a UK college which demands both, you will find that transition difficult.
Keep yourself as busy as you think you will need to be upon your return. I vividly remember regularly marking student books when working in an international school in China and being met with incredulity from other staff. It was only when I gained a full-time employment after returning (and a HoD shortly after) that I appreciated the hard work I had put in.
All good things
In the first month without a payslip, the first 2 months without an Xbox and potentially the first few months without any holiday, it may seem as if the end of your contract will never come. Unfortunately, it will eventually creep up on you and there will be nothing worse than coming home and returning home with a lingering sense of ‘I wish I had…’
Remember that as much as you might be there to work, save and enjoy the cultural differences, you are still allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labour. You may be concerned about spending too much money or spreading yourself too thinly, but it is equally as important to have time to wind down and experience things which you may not be able to upon your return home. Go on holiday, book the day out, enjoy your time – it may not present itself again.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Tyne Coast College. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher. He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.