Qatar - Janet Berg
Experienced international teacher talks about life in the Qatari capital Doha
Janet Berg is a teacher from the UK. She is an 'empty nester', in her fourth year of teaching at Doha British School in Qatar. Here Janet shares her experiences of finally fulfilling her dream of teaching and working overseas:
I'm living the dream!
“I have always wanted to teach internationally since qualifying in the 1970’s, but I made my teaching career in the UK because of family commitments. When my youngest daughter left for university it meant that I had the freedom to follow my personal ambitions, albeit later in life than I had anticipated!
A global perspective
My experience teaching at an international school has given me a global understanding of cultural differences and similarities. I'm in contact with colleagues and children from all over the world on a daily basis. With the increasingly international student population in the UK, this has to be an advantage if I return to teach in Britain.
Teaching internationally has also helped me identify and change misconceptions I may have held about other countries and cultures. As a teacher overseas, you become more open-minded, curious and flexible about adopting a variety of teaching strategies. In my current class there are seventeen nationalities. All of the children speak English, so there's no problem communicating. In fact, because the children are so well travelled, they bring an immense resource of personal experiences to the classroom.
The weather in Qatar is amazing for people like me who appreciate constant sunshine and blue skies! The country offers so much in the way of sports and outdoor activities. I have been kayaking at midnight through the mangroves, and partying aboard a wooden dhow (an Arabian ship) in the bay! Doha also has some amazing architecture and the Islamic Art Museum is incredibly beautiful and atmospheric. In contrast, the Souq is a bustling hive of activity and gives you a glimpse of past traditions and cultures in Qatar. From Doha I'm able to take weekend trips to Dubai, which is only a forty minute flight away. Many other countries, such as Sri Lanka, are also within easy reach.
My living arrangements are fantastic. I have been given an allowance from school and have moved to a gorgeous apartment on the Pearl (Qatar’s famous artificial island). It really is luxury living with a beautiful private pool area and gym. My balcony overlooks the Marina and then out to the Arabian Gulf. I'm living the dream and I feel extremely lucky!
Making friends in Doha
One of the best aspects of teaching internationally has to be the people I've met. Expats who live here have often left their own families behind and you become each other’s ‘families’, giving and receiving support and friendship. I now have many great friends from around the world and have learnt so much about other countries.
Generally my friends are my colleagues, as my school is a close community with a real family feel. However, in Doha, there are many opportunities to mix with people from other areas through the numerous clubs and societies. I belong to the Doha Natural History Society and particularly enjoy the field trips out to the beaches and mangroves.
Keeping in touch with family
Although my family live in the UK, because of my salary and lifestyle, I have been able to bring them over to Doha for holidays. The term times at school also allow for visits back at Christmas. Flights back home in the summer are paid for by the school and it’s a longer break than in the UK; at least two months.
Skype is a blessing. In fact, sometimes I feel that I have more communication with my family and friends back home through Skype than we would if I lived locally, as we now make time to chat!
I have TIC to thank
Working abroad can be a risk and I have heard some stories about schools, even here in Doha, that make false promises and do not treat their staff well. My school is one of the better schools in Doha and I have TIC to thank for vetting the school and ensuring that my experience working abroad has been such a positive one. During the process of recruitment, TIC always kept in touch, updating me on the progress of my application and answering any questions in a personal and caring way. It has definitely worked out well for me.
The tax-free salary, free accommodation, and travel allowances have meant I'm able to indulge in fabulous trips to countries which are more accessible from Qatar than the UK.
I hope to continue teaching in Doha as long as possible because I enjoy it so much! It would be difficult to match my lifestyle and benefits if I moved back to the UK to teach.”
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