When Grace and I received our final contracts, there was a feeling of excitement that overcame both of us. Although we were making a huge, life-changing decision, many of our doubts had been put to rest as we had formulated a list of essential questions we wanted to answer before receiving our contracts.
Although your circumstances might be different, I wanted to share the questions we came up with and how we ended up arriving at the answers.
1. Where do we want to live and how much do we want to save?
I’ve discussed in my earlier blogs the importance of doing your research and picking the right country and region that fits your lifestyle.
We chose China as the country that we wanted to work in as we appreciated the importance the country places on education, along with the many different travel opportunities that China opened up for our family.
While travel and multicultural education for our kids were the driving forces behind our decision to teach overseas, Grace and I are also very fiscally conservative. We wanted to be sure we could save enough money while teaching abroad to give our family a financial head start on our return to the US in the future.
When choosing the right school for us, we looked at whether the packages allowed to save one of our salaries. This was the case with the school we decided on, but I’m looking forward to reporting back once we have lived in China for a full year to see how much we have been able to save.
2. What does the healthcare plan look like?
Since we have two young boys, it was important that whatever school we chose had solid health care and coverage available in their benefits package. We do plan on returning to the US each summer and through our research discovered that some school insurance plans only cover you in the country you work in. We chose a school that provides international coverage for our family, with health facilities located near the school.
Since our boys are young, they’re also still receiving vaccines. This can be tricky when teaching overseas as sometimes you’ll need to have vaccines imported. Luckily, we’ve been able to plan with our current pediatrician to administer their vaccines over the summer, when we’re back in the US.
3. Who will watch the kids?
Both of our boys are in daycare right now. As many of you know, the price tag for quality childcare can run pretty high.
Depending on the school and country you’re thinking of teaching in, researching the childcare available is critical. One of the schools we looked at had free childcare at the school starting at six months, but other schools left it up to the teacher to figure out childcare arrangements.
The school we chose has a preschool program for Reed, our four-year-old, where he’ll get the opportunity to start a multicultural early education program. We will also get to walk to school with him and pick him up at the end of our day, which was a significant concern for us.
We’re planning on hiring an “Ayi” for our one-year-old, which in Mandarin means aunt. Everett is too young for the preschool program but having an Ayi is very affordable compared to the childcare we are paying for in the US right now.
4. What will we do with the house?
Some of you might be homeowners. Grace and I were when we decided to teach overseas. So, we needed to decide to either sell our house or rent it out. We signed our contracts in December and our departure date is at the end of July.
Luckily for us, we had enough time and had decided to sell our house. The market for renting in our area was not worth the hassle for us to deal with renters while in another country.
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We do have family in the area that are willing to host us in the summers when we come back, as well as before leaving in July, but had also considered renting a smaller apartment before leaving.
We decided not to wait until spring or summer to sell our house. We didn’t want to add the stress of moving house to the laundry list of things that needed doing before departing for China in July. We put our house on the market at the end of January and it sold within a week! We moved out at the end of February and luckily have been staying with family and saving a lot of money before we leave to go overseas ever since.
5. What would we do with larger possessions and furniture?
Deciding to sell our house was a big decision but choosing what to do with all the stuff in our house was a whole other decision in itself.
At first, we thought it might be easier just to have an estate sale and sell everything. But when breaking down the cost of buying all new furniture/appliances on our return from China, we felt that keeping them in a storage unit was the way to go.
Due to our first contract being two years, our storage facility would only run us about $1,000 USD per year. However, we’ve agreed to readdress the issue when we complete our initial contracts because the cost of storing our furniture may become prohibitive if we decide to stay abroad for a longer period.
6. How will our retirement be impacted?
As Grace and I have been paying into our state retirement funds, we were concerned with how our departure could impact this. I highly recommend looking at your local state retirement agencies as every state is different. When doing our research, we discovered that we were allowed to leave our retirement funds in the system until our return from teaching abroad.
However, if the criteria changes, there’s a chance that when we return the amount our employer must match could decrease, meaning we would continue to pay into our retirement, but at whatever rate current teachers get. For now, we’re planning on increasing the amount we pay into our own private Roth IRAs as a way to continue saving for retirement.
Many international schools have retirement plans, but they may not start until the end of your first contract. The school working at will provide a retirement plan after the first year of teaching.
7. What subjects are we willing to teach?
Grace and I received offers from multiple schools at the Teach Away job fair, but this was one area we used as a dealbreaker when comparing numerous offers.
I’m qualified to teach chemistry and biology and Grace specializes in special education and elementary. When evaluating our offers, we chose the school that provided us an opportunity to teach in one of our content areas. Grace will be working in special education, and I will be teaching AP chemistry.
So there you have it - the burning questions that we had to answer before deciding to teach abroad. Hopefully, there have been some points that you might not have considered to help you in your decision to take the leap and teach abroad, too!