Teaching in Qatar

I am 29 years old and currently teaching Year 1 (5/6 year olds) at the International School London, Qatar.  I have 21 children in my class.  As it is an international school there is a range of nationalities (currently there are 13 different nationalities in my class.)

Our school is a combined primary and secondary school, within the primary there are 450 students.  It is relatively new school and the roll is continuously growing.

The first thing that struck me about Qatar when I first arrived was the lack of grass - there isn’t any! Also, in the summer months it becomes too hot to be outside, so the children play indoors.  On the flipside, a ‘wet play’ is virtually unheard of. When the weather gets cooler you can usually guarantee that the children will get some time outdoors. Many children in my classroom are quite well travelled and are developing awareness of global differences first hand.

Moving Overseas

The reason I moved to an international school is that I was itching to travel.  I thought I would be overseas for a year or two but it’s been six years now!  While I miss home I still feel there are so many other places to experience so I’m not too sure when I will return.

The biggest benefit in teaching here in Qatar for me has been the people. Many of the other teachers I work with have a wealth of knowledge of working in international  education.  Many have been teaching internationally for years, so there are always interesting stories and ideas being passed around.

The tough part is that it takes a while to feel ‘at home’ in a new country but then you get to meet other people and it’s great.

Advice for Other Teachers

Things to think about when hunting for a job in an international school: Have an open mind and be willing to consider any opportunity you are given.

The best thing about my international teaching experience is definitely the people - other teachers, but also the children you teach, and also their parents.  Once you leave your home country you also realise that the world really is a very big place. For me, travel has been the biggest reward,  there are so many more places to visit.  Instead of shrinking, the list of places I want to travel to grows.  Also I know that some of the friendships I’ve made while teaching overseas will be lifelong.

If you are keen to teach internationally then don’t let anything get in the way.  Like everything, it takes a bit of planning but you can make it work for you whatever your situation is.   I have friends with young families that have moved overseas and have loved the experience. 

When you do make the move overseas, it’s inevitable that not all will go to plan.  It’s really important to take note of all the positive things that are happening rather than dwell on what isn’t quite how you wanted it to be.  Once I move to a new place it takes me about six months to actually settle in.  The best advice I can give is to get out and meet people – they are your best resource.  Joining a sports team certainly helps to make friends quickly.

Living in Qatar

There are many pros and cons of living and working in a small country in the Middle East. It does take a long time to get things done here  but after a while you realise that that’s all part of the lifestyle. It’s better – and less stressful – not to expect things to happen according to a specific time-frame; it makes it so much better when things work out. Also you have to get used to negotiating the traffic and the ‘no mercy’ style of driving that is Qatar.

Earlier this year, I was privileged enough to be invited to a Qatari wedding. I was blown away by this experience; by the extravagance, the noise, the food and also by the hospitality. As it was a female only event (the groom has his at another location), the ladies were able to remove their abayas and show off their beauty. It was amazing, particularly the amount of effort that had gone into their hair, make-up and dresses; dresses with actual jewels and more frills than I’d seen before in my life. There was plenty of food, music, dancing and mingling. When the groom arrived, the ladies covered up, official photos were taken, the bride and groom left and the ladies uncovered once again and the party continued into the wee small hours of the morning!

Meeting new people and making friends has been a highlight of my time in Qatar. Because there is such a big community of expats living here in Qatar, there tends to be a lot of emphasis on creating an eventful social calendar. There are numerous clubs and organisations that host gatherings throughout the year. These include dinners, dances and balls, sporting events, garden tours, even an Oktoberfest and a car treasure hunt!

For me, an unexpected highlight has also been the many sporting events. I have been lucky enough to attend many different international sports events including tennis, football, rugby, Moto GP, power boat racing, gymnastics and athletics. I’ve also been to several local football matches and have begun supporting Gharaffa, our neighbourhood team. At first glance, the crowds at these events seemed to be very different to what I was used to. It was mostly men, usually dressed in their white robes. Often the locals consume loads and loads of sunflower seeds, throwing the shells onto the ground. But after you get past these differences, you see that crowds all over the world still get excited and cheer and everyone is there for a good time. If the football isn’t exciting enough then there will be drumming and chanting to get the crowd going.

I think I’ll probably stay in Qatar another year and then possibly look into moving to Asia.  Who knows what will happen, the opportunities in international education are endless, the world is my oyster.  The key thing I have learned is that you have to make it work for you – and that’s easy to do if you are able to look for the positives in each situation that arises.  It hasn’t all been plain sailing but it’s been a fantastic ride and I do not regret it at all.


Teachers International Consultancy is an organisation that specialises in international school recruitment. For advice on what to consider when thinking about teaching internationally visit: www.findteachingjobsoverseas.co.uk

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