China - Ian Robertson

Ian Robertson is a Mathematics teacher from Glasgow, Scotland. He has just started his second year of teaching at Harrow International School in Beijing.

Here Ian talks about his experiences teaching internationally and what led him to Beijing:

“I'd often thought about teaching internationally. I taught Mathematics at a secondary school in Glasgow for eight years. During that time, one of my colleagues went to teach in Dubai and really enjoyed their experience. I kept thinking I should look for an international post but the timing never seemed to be right. Everything changed in 2012 when I met a beautiful Chinese girl in a Glasgow bar. She was coming to the end of her three years studying in the city and was soon to return to China.

After just a few months together, we discussed whether to marry but decided to wait and see how we felt after she returned home. We missed each other immediately. This pushed me to finally start looking for a job teaching internationally in China. Celine was the catalyst I needed.

After some excellent guidance from the Teachers International Consultancy (TIC) team I applied for a job at Harrow International School in Beijing. I had a successful interview and was offered the post. I will always remember the Skype call with Celine when I told her I was coming to live in China!

The Opportunity to Develop Professionally

Teaching internationally has been a great step in my career development. Harrow International School is brilliant. I'm working with wonderful teachers and children and I'm learning so much about my profession.

I've devised new and interesting ways to teach Mathematics while being here. I've learnt how students can work more independently. I've also learnt about Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). There are so many ICT facilities at the school which can enhance teaching. The technology is much more advanced than back at home. I think many UK teachers want to try teaching with new technology but often there isn't the opportunity to do so. Anything you want to do in Harrow, you can. You have the opportunity to be creative in your teaching.

As I'd come straight from the Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence, teaching at Harrow was (and continues to be) an amazing opportunity to learn about different qualifications. I've learnt about IGCSEs and A Levels. I was a very confident teacher in Glasgow, and knew the Scottish teaching system well but I was ready for a challenge. When I started at Harrow, I felt like an NQT again and that was exciting. It re-awoke my passion for teaching!

I'm surrounded by talented colleagues at Harrow. There are so many strong teachers who I can learn from. There's a great community spirit and I feel supported by my colleagues.

Anyone would get a huge amount from this opportunity professionally. If I return to the UK my experience out here will benefit my teaching back in Scotland. I think my school in Glasgow realises that as they've allowed me a five year career break.

Chinese Culture and Cuisine

Beijing already feels like home. It's a great city with a strong culture. We have most of the UK comforts alongside wonderful authentic Chinese culture and cuisine. I love travelling around the city and exploring new places. For example, there are lots of traditional hutongs (villages) which are amazing and so full of character.

When I lived in the UK, I wasn't a very adventurous eater, so I was initially a bit worried about eating the Chinese cuisine. To my surprise, I've embraced the opportunity of trying different things and have eaten dishes I would never have tried at home. I now regularly eat spicy food! I think living abroad brings out the adventurous side in you.

Celine and I have a very active social life. When we arrived in Beijing we were given a three bedroom apartment on the school campus. It's been excellent for visiting guests. It's also been wonderful for making friends as we live with lots of other international teachers and socialise all the time. We have card nights, music nights, quizzes, parties, Christmas events. We even travel together.

Harrow's facilities enhance your lifestyle. There's access to brilliant leisure and sports equipment. I play football, netball and go swimming with my colleagues. It's a great work-life balance!

A Chinese Wedding

Ian and Celine tying the knot.

Ian and Celine tying the knot.

During the December school break last year, Celine and I decided to travel back to her home town Shenzhen to get married. We had a very simple registry ceremony. It was a wonderful experience.

We will soon have a full Chinese wedding in her mother's home town, and possibly a Glasgow wedding in the Summer of 2015.

Financial Benefits

There are several financial benefits to teaching internationally. It's possible to live cheaply in Beijing and you're able to save money. I've been able to pay debts off! I also don't worry about money anymore like I did in the UK. 

I don't have as many outgoings as I did at home – I don't need a car in the city. I drive an electric scooter and the subway is extremely affordable. It's roughly the equivalent of 20p to go anywhere!

Our future in Asia

China is a fantastic country and it offers so many opportunities for travel and exploration. I hope to see other countries in Asia while I am over this side of the world.

As I'm on a career break with my employer in Glasgow I can continue to teach internationally for three more years - I think this is what we will do. We are already looking at other teaching opportunities for the future which will broaden our life experience.

Advice to other teachers – Grab the opportunity to teach internationally!

I would strongly urge anyone thinking of teaching abroad to grab the opportunity and not let such an amazing and potentially life changing experience pass them by. You will see more of the world, meet interesting people, develop great friendships and enhance your professional abilities!”

TIC Recruitment is the sole recruiter for the Harrow International School Group. If you would like to work in one the fantastic Harrow schools in Beijing, Hong Kong or Bangkok, visit our Harrow School page. To see what other vacancies we have, take a look at our Vacancies page.

Back to Case Studies

Want to share this content?