Anna Coquelin,
from Scotland,
teaching in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Anna Coquelin made the move from Scotland to teach in an international school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During her time out there she has detailed her experiences. This was after two years of teaching.

My feelings about teaching in Riyadh are very positive, I am very happy and this is the best thing that I ever did. I love teaching internationally and I definitely see my future as teaching internationally. I don’t feel the need to go home and therefore, this has allowed me to make the most of teaching overseas. I would not change my decision and to be honest I can’t see myself doing anything else. I simply love it.

I work in a fantastic school and that really helps me as a teacher. I have travelled. That has got to be the best part of working internationally. It is the availability of visiting countries you may not have visited before. This past year I can easily say I have taken the opportunity of travelling. In January 2010 I visited Malaysia and Hong Kong, February I went to Muscat. Easter time I had three weeks off so I went to Cape Town in South Africa, May I visited Beirut. This summer I must say was fantastic I had two and a half months off so I used this opportunity to visit Argentina. I think I have had the opportunity to visit so many places because Riyadh is a central placement; it’s the middle of everywhere. The journeys are not too long because in my opinion the places are right at your doorstep.

When I went to Argentina over the summer I remember thinking to myself “Wow, I’m here in Argentina the place I’ve always wanted and dreamed of going since University.” I tried to make the most of my time while travelling. For example, whist I was in Argentina, I did some work as I was there for over 2 months.  I was working for a language school called 'Buenos Aires Language' teaching both English and French.  This was great as this gave me something to do (travelling can get quite lonely when you're by yourself), and it was also a great way of meeting people.  I'm also really into my Latin dancing so did Tango classes which again was a great way of meeting people and really getting into the culture.  It was great to be there all that time as it was a super way of familiarising myself with the Spanish language there - I had only experienced Castellano in Peninsula Spain previously. 

I feel that this trip was also some great CPD as now I can talk more about Latin American Spanish and the Latin continent in my teaching, so I feel that I got a lot out of this trip both personally and professionally. My travels don’t stop there. I also have planned in November to go to Abu Dhabi and at Christmas I have three weeks off so I’m off to Singapore and Australia. I can’t wait. Most of my colleagues leave over the holidays, some go back home to see family and others travel like me. People tend to travel more often here because of all the restrictions in Riyadh.

I’m really enjoying school. I’m teaching a wide variety from age 5 primary children to 17/18 A-Level students French and Spanish.  I do really enjoy the primary age children, they are so much fun. The school is very international; it is incredible at the beginning of term as there are so many new international students. I love teaching them as they tend to be well travelled and, for me personally, I love travelling so it’s a great combination. I have no communication problems with my pupils, you get the odd pupil whose English is not as strong as the rest but even then, communication is not a problem. 

I have not been promoted but I’m fine doing what I’m doing in school. However, I did organize a school trip this year to Paris and Belgium. I found that experience very hard as I was planning a trip for 30 international pupils - organizing exit visas for everyone and different nationalities need different things. I found organizing this event I learnt a great deal and learning to deal with issues that a raised out of the blue all by my self was difficult but looking back now, it was worth it. I do extra curricular activities after school which is compulsory here. I have run a netball, ICT and table tennis classes. However, I have recently decided to run a French club for primary pupils so that they can develop their French from an early age as I found that parents wanted their children to learn the language as well.

I have said before, there are many restrictions in Riyadh from no alcohol, no clubs, everywhere closes for prayer (which is five times a day). So this city is very different but the way I see it is I live a very high standard of life by having a driver, etc. I’d describe it as a double edge sword, there are both pros and cons but that is the case wherever you decide to teach internationally.

My advice for anyone considering working in an international school is to just do it. There was no doubt in my mind when deciding to teach overseas and I feel this should be the case for anyone who wants to teach internationally. If you’re the sort of person to want to work internationally then it is in your personality to want to travel. You won’t regret it.

As it stands I am very, very happy in my job and I am happy professionally as I have ever been but if I were ever to leave here I can not see myself returning to Scotland. My personality is to travel and therefore I would love to keep travelling.

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