We have heard many stories of teachers moving abroad to teach in international schools. The pros, the cons, things to look out for, etc. - the advice is a plenty. Our community itself has an abundance of advice and real life-stories of teachers moving to more or less exotic locations.
But what about the children and their families? What impact on their wellbeing, academic achievement, and happiness can such a move have? And what can teachers and parents do to support them in the transition?
Well, here’s one such story for you. Meet Elaine, Alex, Joshua and Max Bonici. Unless you or your offspring are seriously into ballroom and Latin dancing, you probably never heard of them. In the world of dancing, they are living legends.
I asked Elaine how the family has coped with the constant jetting around the world, keeping on top of academic study, and achieving so much in their dancing.
‘You see’, she explained, ‘preparation is key.’
‘Prior to moving to Moscow, we did a lot of research: from applying for visas, to living standards and costs, from schooling, to public transport. We spent weeks researching all aspects of living in Moscow.’
‘But nothing beats seeing it with your own eyes. So we also made a week long trip to Moscow prior to making a decision to relocate. During that week we visited schools, attended dance lessons with their potential dance coaches, went to a supermarket, took public transportation and did normal things so as to give us an idea of what living in Moscow would be like.’
‘The biggest challenge is the language. We didn’t know any Russian. Very little information is available in English. So even our research was very time consuming.’
“For us, it’s a family thing”
‘Prior to moving, we also sat the boys down and told them about the pros and cons of moving. The emotional effect of the relocation might have. The culture shock that they would experience. So that they were prepared emotionally.
‘In the ballroom and Latin industry, there are so many cases of children relocating or travelling abroad regularly by themselves in pursuit of their dancing dreams. But we knew the only way that would work for us would be to have the whole family moving together.’
‘The relocation is ultimately the boys’ decision. They made the decision based on pros and cons, facts and consequences presented to them. We, as parents, were very lucky to have been able to facilitate the relocation. Other than that, we just focused on being supportive parents.
“Our tip for the parents?”
‘It would be to be as supportive as you can be financially and emotionally. Let the children be a big part of the decision-making process. By all means, listen to advice from other people, but ultimately make the best decision for your family.’
The support network makes it all possible
We are very lucky with the boys’ school in Moscow. They are attending an international school where English is the main language, with the teachers being native English teachers from abroad. They have been very supportive of the boys’ dancing and would give them private lessons to catch up academically when the boys have to take time out to travel.
‘Relocation is a very big change for the children. They have to leave everything familiar behind. There may be times when they would be sad or angry... Our advice to teachers and coaches? Be compassionate, empathetic, understanding and patient.’
Finally, I asked Elaine what these experiences taught them about themselves and the boys.
‘Over the past few years we learnt that we are a very determined family. When we have a goal, we do everything in our power, and keep persevering to achieve it. We learnt that we are super supportive parents, but we have to remain strict.
‘We learnt that our children are very capable of making the best decisions for themselves and that we need to trust them to do so, but also have the courage to let them make mistakes in their decisions.’
‘We also learnt that families need to stay together. There would have been no way that our relocation would have been such a pleasant experience without the whole family being together.’