4 Teaching Abroad Lessons

The 2017-2018 school year has officially started here in the UAE and in the short weeks, I’ve been back to work I’ve learned a few lessons about teaching abroad. In this post, I’ll share with you four lessons I’ve learned so far.

1. Be Patient

I was one of about 500 that arrived as a new hire in the month of August even after many had been received in July. Talk about an influx of new teachers who needed to be trained, provided with professional work numbers, placed into their subject area positions throughout six emirates and overall guided through transitioning into a new country. Doesn’t come as a surprise when processes and procedures are delayed. It’s only natural to become frustrated and even easier to fall into a negative mindset of complaining.

Sidebar: You can complain all you want but that will not solve your problem.

I’ve seen it in trainings and in random conversations. I’m grateful when I notice it because it helps me guard myself against that spirit, not saying I haven’t been frustrated or exasperated. What I am saying is that over the last month I’ve learned that being patient, persistent when necessary, but patient and calm will take me further than complaining. To be honest, this is number one because if you know me you know I’m typically an anxious messy ball of emotions. This move to the other side of the world has helped me to slow down and smell the Arabian coffee or tea whatever your preference!!!

Calm is contagious… try to stay calm and help others do the same.

2. Be Flexible

Things will not always go your way. Coming into a new country that has a foreign system can be all types of overwhelming. Especially when there are hundreds of people to organize. From what I’ve observed it’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are humans being moved and tried in different spots until the edges connect perfectly. Did you catch the part where I said “being moved”? Yup! Many of my colleagues have been moved from one school to another or from one emirate to another. I too was moved to a different school. No one is safe from changes! Being flexible will help you accept the changes with a positive attitude. As a matter of fact, I am extremely happy with my move. I love my new school and my coworkers both ASP and Mainstream are simply amazing.

Change could be unexpectedly wonderful.

3. Be Ready to Improvise

Nothing some colored paper, post-eds, markers and masking tape can’t fix.

My new school is really a new school. Over the summer the original building was demolished and a brand new practically state of the art building was erected in its place. That being said the renovations are still a work in progress. How does this affect me? I don’t have all of the functionalities I’m used to. So I’ve had to find ways around it until the upgrades are complete. Over the span of my career, I’ve learned to think on my toes and wing-it accommodating for the unexpected and the out of my control. That skill has proven me well here. I’ve looked for alternatives and made it work without a hitch. Excited to see my students dive into math.

Think outside the box.

4. Show Interest

Abaya’s traditionally black because it was one of two colors available way back in the day. Men wear white and women wear black.

I’m in the Middle East! The culture is completely different from what I’m used to. It’s more conservative so I’ve become more conservative. I don’t want to call attention to myself so I do my best to fit-in in my own way. I ask a ton of questions whenever I get a chance. I want the ladies I work with to know I respect their culture and customs. I want my students to know I am not interested in them as simply a number in my class but as young ladies who I can learn from. I demonstrate this by showing interest in their language. I promise to teach them math and they will teach me Arabic. I think they like the arrangement. I’m looking forward to cultivating relationships and friendships with my Arabic and non-Arabic coworkers as well as my students.


Well cultivated relationships make life richer.

If you have ever considered working abroad regardless of the country I think these 4 lessons will help you have a smooth transition. Coming from a corporate orientated country it’s easy to find the ways the system could be improved when you are away from your comfort zone. It’s easy to become frustrated and not understand why things are done the way they are on your new turf. But always remember that you are in their territory and you must be willing to adjust and acclimate in order to be successful.

Let go of your expectations and be free as a bird or cool as a cucumber! Just go with the flow. You’ll enjoy the experience so much more that way. 

View More: http://photos-by-mavi.pass.us/natalie-blog

Have you taught abroad? Share your lessons learned in the comments below. Would love to learn from your experiences! Did you enjoy this post? I invite you to like, comment and share!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s