You’ve made your move. Now what?
You got your job, packed up life back home, made the most of the farewell parties, and now you’re finally there. Of course it’s all very exciting starting work in a new country, but you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed too.
Here is some advice from TIC to help you make the most of your first few weeks as an international school teacher:
Find your feet
Most international schools work hard to help new teachers settle in. Good schools will have an induction programme. But you should be proactive too. Ask the school to match you up with a buddy from the teaching staff; someone who was in the same place as you a year or two ago, so that you have someone to turn to when you have questions or need advice. Make an effort to talk to as many teachers as you can. Be prepared for things to be different to life in a state school in your home country.
Make new friends
Say ‘yes’ to as many of the staff social events organised by the school as you can, particularly in the early months. These are designed to help new teachers feel part of the community and help you to get to know your new colleagues. If you have moved with a partner who is not part of the school staff, or with children, encourage them to join in whenever they can. Many international school social events are designed to include the whole family and it’s important for them to feel welcome and make their own friends too.
Most major cities today have an active expatriate community and host a variety of clubs, activities and events to help expats meet others in a similar situation and with similar interests. Ask your colleagues, and do your own research, to find out about the organisations and activities that are right for you in your community.
Make friends with local people too. Introduce yourself in the local shops. A friendly smile goes a long way. Learn a few words and phrases in the local language, particularly salutations and acknowledgements, to demonstrate that you’re trying your best to fit in to the new community.
Don’t get too distracted by the thrills of your new location; you’ll have plenty of time to explore these in the coming weeks. In the first few days, give yourself plenty of time to organise essential necessities such as setting up a bank account, your travel requirements to and from work, mobile phone provision and other important forms of communication so that you can connect easily with your new colleagues as well as with your family and friends back home.
Make the most of being a newbie
Let people know you’re new; most people are very happy to help you once they know this. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most colleagues, other expats, neighbours, and local shop staff are willing to offer advice about the local community. A friendly question could save you hours of research – and make you a new friend in the process.
Be culturally respectful
You will be living within a new culture, with different values and expectations. Remember that you are a guest in the country. You may not agree with certain behaviours or laws, but you have made the choice to move to this country, so be prepared to respect them. Embrace as much of the culture as you can to make the most of your time living there.
Have an open mind
Be open-minded from day one. Many things will be different from home – that doesn’t mean to say they are wrong. Be patient, expect a few bumps along the way. Even the most experienced international teachers and best prepared people don’t settle in immediately. Try to remain positive when things seem challenging or frustrating. You’re at the start of an incredible and exciting journey; make the most of it.
Read how other expat teachers are making the most of their time living and working in another country here