Small things matter

Ensuring a fulfilling experience teaching abroad

No one wants to end up at an international school in a position that is an overall bad fit for them. Ron Rosenow emphasises the importance of considering some of the smaller aspects of international living and teaching.

While big things like salary and benefits packages matter, the smaller details are equally important.

International school teachers relocate to work abroad for various reasons, including love, travel, weather, money, location, and career advancement. To achieve these goals, it’s crucial to align the smaller aspects of your life abroad for the best possible experience.

Your daily commute

When considering multiple positions at international schools around the world, one might forget to think about what their daily journey to school would be like. It is something that will happen every day you go to work!

Things to consider:

  • Would you prefer a short 10-minute bike ride to work or are you comfortable with a longer 45-minute commute on public transport (bus, train, etc.)?
  • Is your accommodation located in a lively area, with the school campus in a less vibrant part of town? Alternatively, you might reside in the suburbs and commute to the bustling city center for work.
  • Does your school provide a bus to transport teachers to and from the campus? While a school shuttle is a cost-effective option, it may require adhering to a schedule that doesn’t suit your preferences, leading to long wait times after school.
Tracking your expenses

Saving money while teaching at international schools is a top priority for many educators. There’s a common misconception that teaching abroad guarantees substantial savings. However, even with a high salary, without a solid financial plan, your bank account won’t grow.

Things to consider:

  • Does your international school offer free daily lunches for teachers? Purchasing your own meals can quickly deplete your potential savings.
  • Are dining options in the local area budget-friendly or expensive? When living abroad, enjoying local cuisine is a must, but it’s essential not to overspend.
  • Is local transportation expensive? In some locations, taxis, buses, and trains/metro are affordable. However, if you’re moving to an area with higher transportation costs, consider using a bike to save money.
Evaluating schools in your chosen city/country

Many international schools are scattered across specific cities and countries worldwide. Choosing one with superior benefits and work-life balance is a priority for most international educators. Sometimes, you may not be aware of what’s available on the other side of the city, but often the international school community is closely connected, and word gets around.

Things to consider:

  • What is the condition of the school campus? Does the school you are considering occupy a modern, purpose-built facility, have plans for one, or is it housed in a repurposed building? Your preference may vary based on your needs.
  • What housing benefits does the school offer? Some international schools provide adequate funding for housing in the city, or even offer free accommodations. Others may offer more than enough, allowing teachers to save the surplus. Most educators aim for the best possible housing benefit.
  • Are the expectations for teachers reasonable? Distinguished international school educators seek challenge and inspiration but want to avoid being overworked. An imbalanced work-life situation can lead to burnout.
Values, ethos and accreditation

Selecting the right international school to work at can be a challenging task due to the abundance of options, each with varying key features.

Things to consider:

  • Does the international school have a clear language policy or language of instruction? Many international educators support multilingualism and value the acknowledgment and affirmation of their students’ identities. However, some schools may still have explicit or implicit English-only policies.
  • Is the school internationally accredited? Accreditation takes the quality assurance factor to the next level by focusing on the processes used within a school to provide an excellent education. It examines both the “end product” and the manner in which that excellence is achieved.
  • What is the school’s vision, as expressed by the school head or officials? Is it consistent with the actual operation of the school? As a potential teacher, it’s essential to inquire about the school’s vision.


Ron Rosenow is the owner and founder of the International School Community website.

The site provides a useful, informative, and celebratory environment for networking with other international school stakeholders and learning about different international schools around the world.


The topics discussed in this article are highlighted on the ISC blog:: The Journey to School, Money Diaries, Comparing the Schools and Comments, and 12 Tips for Selecting an International School.


FEATURE IMAGE: by Unsplash+In collaboration with Andrej Lišakov

Support Images: by Eduardo Davad from Pixabay, Unsplash+ In collaboration with Getty Images,  Kinanti Pratiwi on Unsplash & Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay



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