What is it really like to teach overseas?

Working abroad is rewarding – but it won’t be one long holiday.

Is the grass really greener on the other side? Is the grass really greener on the other side?

International school teachers are the envy of us stuck back in Britain. Fewer hours, more sunshine and money – it sounds rewarding, in every sense of the word. But is the grass really greener on the other side?

We spoke to teachers who have taught to diverse populations all around the world to find out. Here’s what they had to say:

Jonathan Andrews is assistant curriculum leader in science at British International School, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. 

The benefits of working overseas are enormous. Professionally it is great, as the children are, by-and-large, extremely well-behaved and well-motivated. This allows you to concentrate on teaching and learning more than behaviour management.

In addition, the opportunities for advancement tend to come along more often than in UK schools, as the staff tend to be more transient. There are very few teachers who have been in same role for many years in international schools. People tend to move around quite a lot in the international game. This means you get some great experience. 

Personally, it is brilliant for meeting interesting and like-minded people. International schools also tend to house their staff together in the same blocks or compounds, so you end up with a thriving social life. Teachers are usually there for the same reasons you are, so you have a ready-made group of people who are keen to get out adventuring with you. 

Of course, this can be an issue for some people, as they struggle to separate their work and social lives. But I have never found it a problem and really enjoy having all my colleagues and friends as neighbours. 

Dan Roberts is headteacher at Devonport High School for Boys in the UK. Previously, Roberts was headteacher at the International School of Seychelles

It is essential that you fully prepare for your move abroad, especially if you will be taking your family with you. It can be extremely challenging to settle and be happy in a different country.

Any good international school will work hard to ease your relocation and will look to provide a personalised programme for your transition. As headteacher of an international school, this was a top priority for me, so I took on the relocation needs of all my new staff. I would spend considerable time over Skype getting to know them and their needs and lifestyle, so that I could find the perfect accommodation in the perfect location. I ensured that their children, pets, cars, internet and other priorities were sorted before they arrived, so that any anxieties they had were reduced.

I learnt the hard way myself; turning up to a filthy and poor house and with an inadequate induction as the staff waved goodbye. I spent the first eight hours cleaning it before my family arrived — not the start you would want. 

Barry Guy is a teacher of economics at International College Spain, a Nord Anglia Education school

Probably the biggest challenge that we faced was that we were not only moving all of our family, but also all of our possessions. Finding a suitable property to live in was also a big concern, and this would not have been possible without the support of Nord Anglia Education (NAE). It is, however, difficult to “book” a property very far in advance, so this was not easy. Having someone on the ground to help us before we arrived was brilliant.

Once here, the big challenges included getting registered as a resident in Spain, as well as organising utilities including internet. Again, NAE were very helpful with this. Because of the language barrier, and lack of local knowledge, support from NAE was essential to getting these things sorted.

The financial support was also very helpful in getting us out here and settled. An induction at the start of the first term was also beneficial, as have been the Spanish lessons and activities to help us get going with the language.

And the nature of the school and the students here has meant that our daughter has had no issues settling in.

I’m not too sure there is much more that could have been done to support us. Yes, there were hiccups, but none of these could really have been foreseen. Our experience has been a really positive one overall. We have felt supported and valued right from the start, and continue to feel that way. 

Having never had the international experience before, I would thoroughly recommend it. It is never too late!