My honest experience of teaching abroad...

In our latest Blog, we speak to Katie from @forteachers about her time in Hong Kong and more…

Why did you choose to teach abroad?
“A friend from Hong Kong actually suggested teaching abroad to me. I always knew I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure of which country to choose or how to find the right job for me. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to admit that the wage was attractive, especially with the offer being significantly higher than my wage in the UK. Additionally, I knew I wanted the opportunity to teach a new curriculum, develop my teaching and immerse myself within the culture of a new place.”
How does the same job here compare to back home? 
“It’s important to remember that all schools are unique, so what I enjoy might not apply to each and every school out there, but generally I find that I have more of a work-life-balance while teaching in Hong Kong. As most of the international schools are privately owned, you may find that certain subjects are taught by specialist teachers, allowing you some extra time during the day to gather resources and provide students with feedback. Of course, there are still days (or even weeks) where I have a lot on my plate, but on the whole I feel like I have time to breath. Teaching in a bilingual school also comes with it’s own challenges, but my experience so far has taught me that your students will adapt well to your lessons. It’s also fascinating to work with children who are able to converse in multiple languages – they inspire me every day!”
What did you expect before coming vs how it actually is?
“For Hong Kong as a place, I was under the impression that I would be surrounded by lots of high-rise buildings and bustling crowds. This is definitely the case, however I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are many beaches, hikes and islands that can be easily accessed using the underground MTR transport system or by taking a ferry. There are so many places to explore; it’s impossible to be bored while living here.
Regarding my job, I expected to find it difficult to get to grips with the students speaking English as an additional language, but as mentioned previously, I have found this easier to adapt to than I first envisioned. Although I knew Hong Kong was a mixing-pot of different cultures, I did not expect to meet people from so many different places around the world. I now feel as though I have a lot of global connections, which is such a wonderful bonus and result of my decision to move out here.”
Do you have any advice for those looking to apply?
“As with any big life decision, you want to make sure that you prepare as best you can before applying. Regarding the application process, you want to make sure you beat the crowds – teaching abroad is becoming increasingly popular, and schools will often ask for applicants very early to help fill posts. I remember applying before Christmas for my job and not starting until the following year. When considering whether a country is right for you, remember to check out details such as the climate, school curriculum systems and even ease of returning home (number of flights, cost) etc before making that all important decision. Speak to other teachers who are considering applying (social media is great for building these connections). Do as much research as you can, get someone to check through your contract and try to establish some connections in the country before moving out. It’s so useful to have someone to speak to like Experior Asia, regarding setting up a bank account, finding accommodation, and of course asking for restaurant recommendations etc. You want to make the most of your time spent working abroad!”
What should you prepare before coming?
“If you have favourite products or take specific medicines, it might be a good idea to stock up on what you need before travelling. Not because it isn’t possible to get what you need abroad, but because it might be tricky to locate places to find certain items when you first arrive. Be sure to get some cash (in your own currency and the currency of the place you are heading to) readily available, incase of any complications with cash withdrawal once you arrive. Having an idea in your mind of the place you might want to look for an apartment may also be useful. I took this to the extreme and even had the specific building I wanted to live in inside my mind – but that isn’t necessary, just if you think it might help you once you arrive. Finally, you need to make sure you bring an open-minded attitude. Of course that sounds a bit obvious, but you need to be willing to get on board with a new culture, and ideally become immersed in it too. It might feel like a bit of a shock at first, but be sure to give yourself plenty of time to adjust. Choosing to live in a new country, even if just temporarily, is a brave and bold move. Hopefully in time, you will learn to love and embrace your new home abroad.”

Thanks for speaking to us Katie!

Follow her on Social Media for fantastic tips, videos, materials and more… @forteachers

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