Moving abroad and starting over in a new country is one of the most nerve-wracking yet exhilarating adventures ever. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad with a family but wonder whether it's the right choice for you, Ryne’s story is essential reading. Just make sure you check out part 1 here first!
One day in early September 2017, an email from Teach Away landed in my inbox, letting me know about some of the international teacher job fairs that would be happening this year.
As sheer luck would have it, the first one was happening Atlanta, where one of my best friends lived. I had never been to Atlanta (but always wanted to visit) and it had been around two years since we had last seen each other.
It seemed like a great opportunity to catch up with my friend, personally meet with international school heads and do some hands-on research on teaching abroad.
Next, my wife Grace and I discussed the opportunity with our parents. While they were obviously saddened at the prospect of having us living so far away, they were fully supportive of the idea of teaching abroad.
In fact, my dad referred me to some former colleagues of his, who had been administrators at international schools in South Korea and China. I gave one of them a quick call to get a feel for his experience teaching abroad, as well as what to expect at an international teacher job fair. Getting the chance to talk to someone that I knew and trusted was far more reassuring than anonymous bloggers online - especially when he had nothing but positive things to say about his experience teaching abroad.
He was also able to help shed some light on the many questions my wife and I had. He also gave us some honest insight into the challenges of moving overseas, which was a good reality check for us. But when we weighed up all the pros and cons, the benefits of teaching abroad still won out over the potential pitfalls of making a move overseas.
Best of all, my dad’s former colleague was able to put us in contact with someone he knew who had also taught abroad with a young family.
It was during this second Skype conversation that I could really start to see my wife’s excitement brewing. He told us all about what it was like for their children growing up in a culturally diverse environment and all the benefits that come with an international education.
While we were even more sold on the idea of teaching abroad, the timeline was still up in the air. We felt that we were a couple of years away from being fully committed to accepting a job offer.
Next, I called Irma, my Teach Away representative, to find out more about what a job fair would entail. I was concerned about the pressure of having to say yes to a job offer right away out of fear of missing out on a great opportunity. Irma put my mind at ease by letting me know that hiring schools would give me at least 24 hours to consider any offers.
Best of all, she also let me know that my wife would be able to stay home with the boys while I went to the job fair, as many of the schools would be willing to have interviews with both of us if Grace was able to Skype in on the interview.
This was a huge weight off our shoulders - especially when you consider the cost of flying us both to the job fair (not to mention making sure the boys were taken care of while we were both away).
Irma also pointed something out to me that really made us think seriously about pushing our timeline for teaching abroad up to the following year. As both Grace and I are dual certified, in high-need fields, we would, more than likely, walk away from the job fair with multiple job offers.
Feeling excited, we started drafting up a list of questions we needed to answer fully before committing to teaching abroad the following school year.
10 important questions we asked ourselves before teaching abroad
1. Should we sell our house or rent it out?
2. What would we do with our larger possessions and furniture?
3. How will our state retirement be impacted if we leave for two to five years?
4. How much money are we looking to save? (With certain international schools you can live off of one salary and pocket a salary, whereas with others you can only save $5,000 - 10,000 USD a year)
5. What will the healthcare situation be like?
6. Are we OK with a nanny watching Everett (our six-month-old baby)?
7. What parts of the world are we willing to teach in?
8. Do we want to be in a large metropolitan area or are we okay to be in an area without a major city close by?
9. What kind of housing are we willing to live in?
10. What subjects are we looking to teach?
After we had a plan in place for each eventuality, we were finally ready to make our dream of living and teaching abroad a reality.
Job fair time
One week before the fair started, Teach Away sent a list of all the schools and their available positions. That way, we were able to compile a list of schools that we would both have a realistic chance of landing jobs with.
Based on the itinerary we initially received from Teach Away, we would have one day of school presentations where each school would give a 30-minute presentation and answer our questions. Being able to compile a shortlist in advance was extremely helpful as many of the school presentations ran concurrently.
Following the presentations, we could sign up for interviews taking place over the following two days. Unfortunately, this was going to be tough as my wife and I would only have the evenings to talk through our options. Clearly, I was going to have to go back to my college days of diligent note-taking on every school!
Teach Away also sent us information on all of the school benefit packages ahead of the fair. This included basic information on the school, expected salary ranges, how much money you can save as a single teacher or teaching couple, healthcare packages, accommodation and tuition for dependents.
Based on the info Teach Away provided, we came up with a top ten list of schools that we would be willing to accept job offers with. This meant we could focus solely on nailing our interviews, instead of wondering whether the school was the right fit for us.
When I first arrived at the job fair, I felt lucky to have Teach Away there to answer all my questions. I really felt that we already had built a relationship with the constant communication before the job fair had even begun. It was especially helpful having the team there when I suddenly found myself having scheduled three job interviews - the day before interviews were even supposed to start!
I thought I would have a little downtime at the job fair but ended up being busy from morning to night with interviews and events. I definitely did not get to spend as much time with my friends from Atlanta as I had hoped - but happily, they still had food in the fridge and a bed for me at 10 pm at night!
Job offer time
In the end, Grace and I received six offers in total at the Atlanta job fair. We both ended up accepting jobs at our dream school in China.
Next up, we’ll be dealing with the visa process and all the other life-changing things that come along with moving abroad - not least of which is selling our house!
How can you know if teaching abroad is right for you?
Just as I started this blog series by talking about the perception of having children versus the realities, my advice to you would be to approach the opportunity of teaching overseas in much the same way.
If you anticipate the fact that there are going to be unexpected obstacles that you will encounter and are willing to roll with the punches, you will walk away with an overall positive experience.
Right now, we are so excited to be moving to China, where our sons will get the opportunity to be immersed in diverse cultures and be educated in an international setting that they would never have been able to experience here in the US. Being a part of a smaller, family-friendly school community and having the chance to grow in the profession that we both love is more than we could have hoped to ask for.
We’re also looking forward to blogging more about our experience moving overseas and teaching abroad - stay tuned to the Teach Away blog for more posts from us over the coming months.