International Teaching: a Transition Summer

Summer is around the corner and many international teachers look forward to returning to that place called home. Personally, I eagerly await my summer visit to the Pacific Northwest.

Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek, Columbia River Gorge

As an engineer, I moved to Los Angeles; Huntington, WV; Raleigh, NC; and Portland, OR to start new jobs. Each time, an orientation was followed by a slowly ramping up of responsibilities. Learn the processes, the work flow, the people and begin contributing. Meanwhile, I found it easy to get my home life up and running. Bank accounts transferred and language barriers did not exist as I obtained a phone, places to live, utilities, groceries and almost anything else.

Teaching is different. On the first day of school, students are nervous yet ready to begin. The fact that my life may be in a crazy state of turmoil is low on their radar. I’m the new teacher and I have to hit the ground running. There is no slow ramp up with students. A sweet spot exists at the beginning of the year. Who is the new guy? What is he like? Is he up for us? International teaching adds an additional twist. Not only is there a new batch of students, a new grade level, new coworkers, new procedures but life outside of school must be established. This can be difficult with language barriers and process that are different from the States. For example, in Taiwan little can be accomplished without the Alien Resident Card, which takes several weeks to obtain. As we move to China, our belongings must wait for us to clear customs before they can arrive. This means that our household summers in Taiwan longer than we do and will arrive in Beijing weeks after us.

So far, the transition to China seems to be moving along smoothly. Our new school is doing a fantastic job communicating with us and making us feel part of the community. I’m curious as to how people transition to new jobs and cultures. What do you do? A retired US ambassador recently talked at my school and when he was finished his wife gave a few words. She said her goal was to establish “home” as soon as possible. Once home was set and the family felt stable everything else could continue. This is our first big move with children. Advice? Thoughts?

Cross-posted on travel blog


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