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Top 5 Reasons to Teach Overseas

I taught overseas for 7 years: 2 years an international school in Switzerland and then 5 years at an international school in Venezuela. 

If you're interested in reading more about my story and how I found myself teaching overseas, read this post.

1) Travel
Duh, if you don't like to travel, then you shouldn't get a job in a foreign country. If you love to travel, then being an international teacher is a fabulous way to travel and see the world. Make sure, though, that when you pick a school, pick a good school - don't just pick a school because it's in a part of the world that you want to see. You will be spending MOST of your time at the school; you don't want to be miserable during most of your time.

When I lived in Switzerland I traveled to England, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, and of course to different parts of Switzerland. And I only lived there for 2 years! 

How did I get to visit so many places?

Naturally, I did most of my traveling during our school holidays: Fall Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, Summer Break. But I also was able to travel as a chaperone for some school trips. Every year the school did a Classroom Without Walls trip. My first year, I went with the 10th graders to England and my second year I went with the 12th graders to Spain. I was a volleyball coach and traveled to several places around Switzerland to play against other international schools, but then also traveled to Warsaw, Poland, and Athens, Greece for tournaments. Naturally I didn't have to pay for my accommodations and the school gave me a per diem to pay for my food!
View from the train somewhere between Zurich and Munich

When I lived in Venezuela, I traveled to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Spain, Belgium (I know these last two are in Europe but, hey, I could afford to travel that far!), Argentina, Brazil, and loads of places all around Venezuela (Merida, Los Roques, Margarita Island). I even when skydiving while I was living in Venezuela!
Bird's eye view of Caracas, Venezuela.
During the rainy season it would rain every day at 4:00.

Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela near the Catatumbo River
People built houses on the water - because they cannot afford the land

2) Meeting new people
When you move to a new country by yourself, you tend to hold tight to those bonds of friendship that you form shortly after you arrive. I'm still very close with some of the friends I made while living overseas.

Thanksgiving my first year in Venezuela
We didn't get Thanksgiving off from school because it was not an American school,
so we held our own Thanksgiving celebration and invited everyone - even the non-Americans.

My favorite thing about meeting new people when overseas is meeting people who are different from me; who grew up in a different country than I did. I like to learn about their culture, their customs, and how it's different or similar than mine. I want to hear their story - how did they end up in the same place that I did?

In Venezuela, because it's such a difficult country to live in, the school really takes care of you. Furnished housing is provided. They help you get settled, they take you shopping for household goods a couple of days after you arrive. Because housing is provided, they put some teachers in the same buildings. I lived in a building where 2 other apartments were occupied by teachers that I worked with. It was incredibly convenient. The friends that didn't live in our building, lived in a building around the corner. There was no need to drive. There was no need to have a designated driver!

3) You make more money
That's right. I was a teacher and I made a lot more money that I do teaching in the States. In Switzerland the salary was very high, but the taxes and cost of living are very high, too. But still, I was able to travel (see item #1 above). 

My first year in Switzerland I shared a 2 bedroom apartment with another teacher. Then I moved into a one-bedroom closer to the city. I loved that little one-bedroom apartment. It was on the ground floor and I could walk out into my own private garden.

The one-bedroom apartment I lived in in Switzerland.
Wimbledon tournament on the TV.

In Venezuela I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment on the 2nd floor just down the street from the school.

Balcony of one of the apartments I lived in in Venezuela

In Venezuela I had a maid - now before you judge me for having a maid, keep in mind that I was employing someone who otherwise may not have had employment. I was helping someone else's livelihood and I was helping the local economy. 

When I moved home, I had to find an apartment, furnish it, and buy a new (used) car. But I had the funds to do it, because I had saved so much from my job in Venezuela. 

In fact the salary my first year back in the States was barely higher than my previous salary in Venezuela, but my expendable income in Venezuela was much, much higher since I wasn't paying rent.

4) Professional Development
I finally got to teach the way I had been taught to teach while I was in college.

I was the department chair for 2 years. I went to conferences in other countries (hello Chile! and, hey, since we are going to be in Chile for the conference, let's hop on a plane and go to Easter Island! Yes! Please and Thank you.)

But you know you don't always just get to *go* to conferences, you also sign up to *present* at conferences. And I did that. Several times. I felt like, "Hey, I have something to say and people here want to hear it." I felt valued. I felt that my contribution was worth something. I was more than just a warm body that kept the students in line and talked a bit about quadratic functions (which is how I felt in when I taught in the public school).
A building in Santiago, Chile
I was there for a teacher's conference.

My first teaching job was in a large public high school outside of Atlanta. My classes were large (up to 32 students). There were about 700 students per grade level. There were fights on campus. Students were rude and disrespectful to each other. I had to spend most of my time dealing with classroom management instead of teaching math.

Once I went to international schools that changed.

The international school in Switzerland had about 80 students per grade level. My classes had 12 to 18 students in them.  The international school in Venezuela had about 40 students per grade level! 

The biggest problems I had with my students were that they talked too much and sometimes didn't do their homework. But the students were motivated.

I was able to use that experience to try new things in my teaching: teaching the IB (international baccalaureate) curriculum, flipping the classroom, teaching with GeoGebra, using ALEKS, using Autograph (see my post about that here), using the TI-Nspire. I was even an IB Moderator for a couple of years. I was able to add so much to my resume by the time I came home; that's how I was able to land a job at the awesome school where I teach now.

5) Gain a new perspective on the world
One of the best ways to improve yourself is to get out of your comfort zone. You will learn so much about yourself and your own culture if you spend most of your time with people that are not like you in a culture that is not yours. 

You might say things like, "Why do they do it like that here? I don't like it." Or you might say, "Oh! That's cool. We should do that where I come from."

Skydiving in Venezuela

A few days after I moved to Switzerland I remember someone at a party saying some very insulting things about America and our president (George W. Bush at the time). I was shocked. I thought everyone loved America. (I was so naive) In school we learn about Colonization and how our ancestors saw America as the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. We hear all the time about migrants from South and Central America crossing our border to look for a better life. I thought everyone wanted to live in America. I was surprised and humbled to find out that it's not true. (Well, in the current political climate, I'm not sure that I want to live in America - but that's a post for another time and another blog.)

Go for it!
If you have ever had an inkling of teaching overseas, I say, "Go for it!" And if something is holding you back, try to find a way that you can make it work. Do you own a house? Sell it, or rent it out. (I am still renting out the house I had bought a year before I decided to go overseas.) Do you have children? My international friends that have kids, they love their life. They make enough money to have a nanny. They take their kids to exotic places all the time. Their kids attend an awesome international school for free. The grandparents come visit for weeks at a time.

Let's continue the conversation. Join me in my facebook group.