Styling Librarian: International Teaching Advice for Newbies
I have emailed a few people recently who asked me questions about how I found my job and how the transition to a new location went and I thought I’d collect all my ideas in a blog post. Hope my blunt attitude does not offend any of my amazing friends who have been living and teaching internationally for years. I never lived abroad before nor traveled more than three weeks away from home. So, with my small world awareness, this is just me at 6 months reflecting back and thinking about what I wish I’d heard (but wouldn’t change what I’ve done… have certainly learned from all actions)
- Be thoughtful about what is in the initial package, and don’t feel greedy. The cost of moving, packing up, and storing belongings is REALLY EXPENSIVE. Plus the intial/ending costs of renting a place, getting furniture, and setting up other essential things like gas and electricity can add up. A wise friend told me she selected an apartment that was fully furnished including kitchen ware purposefully- wish we had that choice, finding an apartment that accepted a dog became a complication… In the end, travel, moving expenses, etc. totaled around $12,000 USD (pretty much- scary total to be honest, was reimbursed for flights and initial two weeks stay but took over a month to be reimbursed. Not whining, just realistically looking back and wincing a little.)
- Finding a job that provides you with housing is incredibly smart and thrifty. Even if your contract is less, in the end, you can think about travel or savings, versus paying for rent, etc. The apartment we are renting is three times the cost of our Oregon home mortgage. That was a huge consideration for us.
- Be wise if you’re taking an initial loan from your employer and don’t be surprised when it is deducted from your salary. Initial loans really help as you transition with banking and apartment expenses!
- Try to negotiate or find a place that sends you out on a home trip yearly. Those flights add up.
- When you are interviewing, try to inquire about how long people are with the school, sometimes, the longevity will indicate working environment more than the attitude of the people interviewing you.
- Make sure you appreciate and are comfortable with philosophy and approach the school has to students- I personally had this as a huge category since I really am invested in the IB/PYP program.
- Go online and do research before the interview and find out as much as you can about the location, school, staff… in today’s world you can find out quite a bit with the online presence of the school.
- Investigate transportation and decide what you are comfortable with- Hong Kong was incredibly (and surprisingly) easy to adapt to public transportation instead of driving independently. Adding in the cost of a car, parking fees, gas, insurance, etc. certainly wasn’t on our minds at all. Other people actually hire a driver, pay an exorbitant amount for parking space, etc. Just depends on your approach and how transportation in your area is and how well you handle giving up control.
- Plan out the move and expect some emotions to be up and down for at least the first year. My son has been all over the place. It helps to have an easy going, friendly child but at the same time, I can tell he is a little slow to warm to new friends now…
- Figure out what makes home a home. For me, it was hanging a quilt on the wall and having a few books on a shelf, finally I was breathing easier. Plus having some plants around helped.
- Check into expat sites immediately. We found out about a person who was moving and selling numerous items. We were able to furnish our son’s room, dining room, and get some beautiful healthy plants as well. The only thing you have to plan out is transportation if you’re getting loads—the expat site can help with that as well!
- Join a few groups to make the transition easier, for example: religious groups, sport groups, food groups, etc. Be open to meeting new people, most of them have gone through the same moving experience you have which usually provides you with some terrific advice and very empathetic people!
- Be prepared for frustrations and communication issues. Our worst one was a banker giving my husband and I poor advice. This cost us over a week of money transfer delays, ridiculous fees, and huge stress when it came to renting our apartment.
- If you move to some areas, you will be expected to hire a helper. Investigate. Seriously discuss how you feel about another person either living in your home or coming to your home on a daily/multiple/weekly basis. We had serious conversations and still it has been sometimes a rough transition. (Very grateful though. Very. I come back from work to a clean apartment with clothes ironed and put away. We plan our food on a weekly basis and our helper purchases and makes the food for us. She’s friendly and patient and has a good sense of humor which helps quite a bit- we were really lucky. But still, there is another individual living in our home.)
- Job hunting/searching: I applied here: http://www.tes.co.uk — that’s where I found my job. I found job postings on LinkedIn – International Teacher Librarian group. I joined: http://www.iskoodle.com -teacher librarian group, which has emails about international jobs. I also applied to work at the Department of Defense, many friends work for DODEA presently: http://www.dodea.edu
- If you are moving abroad it is good to discuss job priorities: if you both have a job, which one is the priority in terms of children/sick days, etc. Also, don’t count on a second job when budgeting until you actually have one. Besides a job discussion, my husband and I also made sure all our bills, will, and guardian documents were in order.
- Coordinate Skype visits with family and friends on days that work well, pick a weekend morning or evening that people can consistently count on. This is especially helpful when there is +16 hours difference with the person you are communicating. I learned this when chatting with a friend who was very specific about when I could Skype with her, found out she consistently got up early to Skype with family and friends at 6-7am on Saturdays before her adventures of the day.
- Bringing a pet along adds in a lot of stress, especially if you already have kids you’re travelling with. Although our 12 year old dog Dulcie is extremely important to us, we have felt the impact.
*Finding an apartment was limiting with a dog
*Initial hotel was impossible so we found an accommodating person who rented part of his flat to us.
*Travel costs for a dog add up.
*We had to hire a helper because we’re now on the 10th floor and it is hard to take our dog for proper walks and give her the attention she needs otherwise
*Planning trips gets complicated with a dog/pet involved, especially when trips usually occur during times when a helper is also on a holiday break.
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