I am hoping that if you’re reading this, you’ve come back because you found ‘How To Teach Overseas And Travel The World: Part 1‘ so useful that you’re back for more 🙂
In this, part 2 of the series, you’re going to be hearing from Sarah from Exploring Kiwis while she tells us about her time teaching in the UAE. Her and her husband moved to the UAE in August 2015 specifically to have a new base from which to travel the world. Here she talks about her training, qualifications and experience as well as what teaching (and daily life) is like in Abu Dhabi.
Where are you teaching?
I’ve been teaching in an international school in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) since August 2015.
What qualification do you have? How long did it take?
I initially qualified with a Bachelor of Education which took three years to complete full time; this is the minimum requirement to teach in schools over here [as a licensed rather than ESL teacher]. I then elected to study part time to gain my Postgraduate Diploma in Education and went on to graduate with my Masters too, but those are both absolutely optional.
How much experience do you have?
I’d taught in New Zealand for a total of 6.5 years full time and 1 year part time. I also worked in a US summer camp when I was 18 and have worked as a tour manager for exchange students and as a face painter – I think having a varied background with children helps as it shows you have a real love of working with them.
How much have you managed to travel and/or save money?
It’s hard to say just how much we’ve saved as my husband is still being paid in New Zealand dollars into our account at home + we have expenses in both countries… with that said, we’ve saved a reasonable amount, have retained most of our savings (even though we did have moving expenses and Nathan is working less over here than he used to) and have spent plenty on travel.
It’s certainly do-able to live a comfortable lifestyle over here, whilst putting money away.
Why did you choose your current destination?
Coming from New Zealand, we’d been fortunate to travel to the majority of countries close to us and were ready for a change. The UAE provided us with a new jumping-off point to Europe and Africa, whilst my job offered a rate of pay and benefits that were competitive enough to allow us to actually make the move with confidence.
How long have you been there / do you plan to be there?
We arrived late August and have signed a two year contract. Close to the end of my contract, we’ll discuss our options; I’d love to stay on or consider traveling somewhere else, but my husband is still working for the family business and will probably need to return to New Zealand. Regardless of what happens, I’m just happy to have had this opportunity!
What are the best parts of teaching overseas? (and specifically in Abu Dhabi?)
For us the biggest expected benefit was having a new base to travel from and though that’s certainly been fantastic, it’s proven not to be the only stand-out feature.
I consider myself very fortunate to be getting such personal insight into a new culture, especially one that’s so closely linked with the Muslim faith. Back home, faith doesn’t play a large roll in everyday life for the majority of Kiwis, so it’s interesting to experience a country where religion and daily life is so intertwined.
We’ve also really enjoyed getting to know the other expats over here. With family often far away, the community really pulls together to support one another in a way that doesn’t happen quite so much at home, and it’s a privilege to call many of the people we’ve met so far friends.
What are the worst parts of teaching overseas? (and specifically in Abu Dhabi?)
As expected, we miss our friends and family dearly. It takes more than 24 hours to get home to New Zealand and as our goal whilst being here is to travel, we’re trying to spend our time and money heading in the opposite direction to home. It’s certainly a trade off but fortunately we’ll have the occasional visitor over here and for those that can’t visit us, Skype is a godsend!
Abu Dhabi is an interesting place to live but doesn’t come without it’s challenges. Timeframes here can work slightly differently to what westerners are used to. Need something done in a hurry? ‘Inshallah’ – god willing, it will be done. We’re pretty laid back so it doesn’t tend to phase us, but it is important to understand that things are different over here and to come with an open mind… if it were just like home, there wouldn’t be much point in moving to the other side of the world though, would there?
Please share a story from your classroom.
Working in an international school, we have a fantastic mix of Emirati children and also students from all around the world – there’s nothing like a cultural day at our school, where the students come in dressed in their cultural costumes and share all sorts of delicious and interesting cultural foods! It really is a global community over here!
What advice would you offer for someone thinking about teaching as a way to travel?
Teaching is a fantastic career and one that really does allow you to head anywhere in the world; it’s a transferable skill that’s always in demand.
With that said, teaching is a lifestyle and, in my opinion, not something that should be considered unless you have a real passion for working with children. Though living here is providing us with awesome travel opportunities, I don’t think anyone would manage to stick teaching out unless they had a genuine love for it.
What is one piece of advice you would offer for an interview?
Spend as much time reading blogs (like Exploring Kiwis!) and join Facebook groups to talk to teachers that are currently living in the part of the world you’d like to teach in. Each country will have it’s own quirks and challenges and the more clued up you are about what it’s like to live and work in that country, the more confidence you’ll have in saying you’re equipped to make the move.
What is something you’ve learned while teaching overseas? (either professional or personal)
I’ve been reminded that although moving overseas is an adventure, life does go on. For the most part, my daily schedule continues somewhat as it did at home – I get up, spend the day at school, and often come home and jump on the computer whilst we watch telly. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our afternoons are filled with swimming or working out at the gym (both of which are in our complex) or a visit to the massive UAE malls, but generally my schedule remains unchanged.
Though the idea of living and travelling overseas sounds glamorous, it’s important to ensure the ‘daily grind’ will fulfil you in itself, as it’s not often you’ll be off visiting your next exciting, exotic location.
I love my life here, but I also loved my life at home! I think I’ve learnt that regardless of where you live, your attitude follows you.
What are the benefits provided by your position according to your contract (if you don’t mind sharing!)?
Each contract is different but the majority of schools in Abu Dhabi will provide you with:
- Furnished accommodation free of charge (or a payment in lieu of it being provided)
- Comprehensive medical insurance
- Flights to/from your home (and payments to go towards flights once a year whilst you’re in the middle of your contract
These benefits will generally extend to your husband/wife and any children you have. If you have children and decide to work for ADEC, Abu Dhabi Education Council, [UAE public rather than private schools], it’s important to note that schooling for them will not be a part of your package so you’ll need to account for the cost of that, or consider home schooling – by comparison, if you work in a private school, fees will normally be included as part of your package.
What opportunities to travel have you had?
Since arriving in August, I’ve managed a five night break (to Stockholm and London), travelled around the UAE and Oman, and have made my way through Central and Eastern Europe (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary).
One of our main reasons for moving was to have a new base to travel from, but even I’m surprised by how well we’ve done!
Where are you planning to go next?
We have have two trips currently booked; Jordan this weekend and Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in March/April… plus plans to visit Europe over the summer. Iceland’s on the list too, as is Iran. Can you tell I spend a large part of my spare time dreaming about all of the amazing places we could visit?
Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing her experiences not only in the UAE, but also in leading up to it and how she came to be teaching overseas in order to travel the world. Whether you’re a teacher at home and want to put your skills to use somewhere new, or are thinking about training in order to be able to travel, yes, teaching is a transferable skill. However, as Sarah mentions teaching is a lifestyle, a passion and a vocation. It is not simply a career from which you can step back from at the end of the day. This is something to consider when planning your move and working out whether teaching to travel is right for you!
Have you ever taught overseas? I would love to hear about your experiences too as well as from those of you are thinking of teaching to travel; what is stopping you?