We arrived in Budapest via a 2 hour bus ride from Bratislava and could barely contain our excitement.
Seeing our longterm teacher friends Brett and Heather and their little monkey has been a nice respite from the crazy travel schedule of the last two months and we enjoyed every moment of it. Our two weeks in Budapest were spent mellowing out by taking day trips to the park, swimming pools, canoeing down the Danube and a pub crawl or two. One of the highlights was attending the Sziget music festival to see Ed Sheeran, 21 Pilots and Foo fighters. Dave Grohl is practically a rock icon national treasure. Still rocking at 50.
Last spring, an article came out on USA today that caught fire on social media circles attesting to the benefits of teaching overseas. Most of the comments on Facebook were supportive although some of our stateside friends were still skeptical of leaving the land of the free for another option. Some couldn’t even believe there was one.
Two weeks in Budapest gave us time to polish our CVs and cover letters and begin our job search for our 18th year of teaching and what will become our fourth overseas school. As we were doing so, I interviewed Brett and Heather to share what they’ve liked about their experience.
Why did you decide to move abroad and teach internationally?
“We were just looking for an adventure and thought going overseas would be a cool opportunity. We wanted to get right into the classroom and not start as substitute teachers back in Canada. Teaching is hard for new teachers in Ontario, but we also had an ‘in’ to the overseas lifestyle as my parents worked overseas and the expat lifestyle.”
Where have you lived?
We started in Tokyo for 2 years, then Saigon for 7 years, and now Budapest for 5 years. Starting our 15th year and 6th year in Budapest this week!
What are some of the benefits and your favorite aspects of living overseas?
“The international student body. They are slightly more ‘globally minded’ and we have more freedom to teach and not be bogged down by district mandates of testing and excessive paperwork. We get to focus on student learning which has been so rewarding. The lifestyle side is great. There are great opportunities to travel and our money goes far here. Rather than living in a small circle, you meet so many more people outside of your normal school community. “
“Be prepared to laugh a lot about cultural hangups and just know that they are just little things.“
You talked a bit about travel. Where are some places you’ve been over the last 2 years?
Mostly in Europe. We’ve been to Croatia a few times, Montenegro, Malta, and Greece most recently. We have some fun trips coming up to the Canary Islands this fall and Portugal to meet up with family for Christmas. We do trips home to Canada nearly every year.
Are there any difficulties with an overseas posting?
“Being far from family and friends is hard when you wish you could be closer. We’ve also had to get more creative with retirement saving as we don’t have pensions or access to American savings and investing options. We bought an apartment here in Budapest a couple years ago and hope it continues to rise in value.”
What advice would you have for prospective teachers who are considering a move overseas?
“I think to be open-minded and flexible. Also, do your research. Make sure the school and location are a good ‘fit’ for your preferred lifestyle. Ask “Are you willing to grow and change and adapt to a new place and to what a place might bring?” Be prepared to laugh a lot about cultural hangups and just know that they are just little things.”
Resources to Get you Hired and Learn About Schools
Although you can research schools on your own and cold call them by sending your resumes, most international schools use a recruitment service that collects applicants into one central database complete with their teaching experience and letters of reference for easy access. These companies host fairs around the world where candidates and schools can mix and mingle for a weekend of conversations on education. If you’re looking for a position for the 2020-2021 school year, you should get started now with any one of the following:
Search Associates. Search is well established and attracts good quality candidates. Their dashboard is super expansive and after creating an account, you’ll get daily updates for your position. Search is a little pricer than the competitors but their fairs are well run. We used Search and visited their Bangkok fair which is how we got hired to work in South Korea.
Global Recruitment Collaborative This fair is the new kid on the block and undercuts their competitors with lower costs for schools so admin have had good things to say about it from a pricing perspective. About to kick off their 4th year in Dubai in early November, their success has led to a second fair in Bangkok mid November. The GRC fairs are earlier than others, but as schools are moving their declaration dates to November 1st, GRC may be poised to be in the ‘sweet spot’ of hiring season when prospective candidates flood the market.
International School Services. Although we haven’t used ISS for a while (we got hired through them for our jobs in Saigon back in 2006) others have told me they haven’t innovated as much as their peers. ISS has partnered with ‘Schrole’, a vetting platform that is cumbersome to apply through over and over, so ISS makes this process easy.
International Schools Review This is not a search service, but public forum where teachers can speak candidly about their experience at various schools to help you determine if the school is a good fit. You’ll get a feel of school climate, administrative support, and living in country all in one place. The trick was this platform is to get a wholistic perspective by reading multiple reviews to get the full picture. A disgruntled employee may leave a bad review on a school’s administration, but that administrator may have left (or will be leaving) or grumblings may be from a different division than the one you’re applying for.
The Bottom Line
As we are in Istanbul airport heading to Dar Es Salaam to stay with other friends in Tanzania, I can honestly say that a career of international education has made the world our home. Friends connect our world like lines of latitude and longitude and we’ll stay and reconnect with many of them on our trip in cities like Cairo, Muscat, Dubai, Beirut, Amman, Sao Paulo and Curitiba. At a softball game in Vienna yesterday, we rubbed shoulders with two degrees of separation- a player from the Warsaw team whose brother I worked with in Vietnam. A woman from Bucharest who worked with our friend Stacy in Dhaka. International teaching makes the world is a small place.
In a profession back home that results in high teacher burnout and politicization, we’re beginning to see the slow exodus of teachers to overseas locations looking for a better life.
What will happen if word gets out?