5 ways to help new international school staff settle in

There’s a lot to take in when starting a new job abroad – here are some ways schools can help staff settle more quickly
24th February 2021, 11:08am

Upon moving to a new country, a new international teacher will hopefully have all the obvious things taken care of: the working visa and residence permit, induction activities, help with housing and orientation.

International schools: Helping new teachers to find their feet overseas

But there are other key areas that can help make the moving process that bit easier that may get overlooked - but are definitely worth the effort.

1. Bank support

One of the first things a teacher needs to know is where and when they will receive their salary, how to withdraw cash and how to transfer money home. Such things are simple at home but perhaps a lot more complicated in a new country.

Plus there may not be internet banking or systems set up such as direct debits, and some countries still use only passbooks and lack ATMs - again making an everyday task a lot more complicated.

Therefore, it is helpful if school staff attend the first visit to the bank. The banking process needs to be explained clearly, preferably with step-by-step instructions. Advice should be given as to which accounts/debit/credit cards to opt in or out of and how to request cash or a transfer, for example.

Even better, schools using a bank with an English speaker makes even more sense. A contact who deals with school staff can be incredibly helpful.

Further, new teachers should be made aware that when transferring money home, it is financially preferable to wait for a good exchange rate.

This is especially relevant when the currency is changed in the host country then sent home. When transferring to a UK account, I have literally “made” hundreds of pounds by waiting for a good rate of exchange.

2. Furnishing a house

Schools usually offer good support for finding a property. But what then?

Without a vehicle, it can be difficult, exhausting and time-consuming to furnish a house. Multiple taxi journeys are stressful. One school I worked at provided a bus with a driver to buy home furnishings. The school bus was ideal to transport these larger items, and he helped me move it into my apartment, too (for a well-earned tip, of course).

A further gesture I have received as a new teacher is the “first shop” in a supermarket. The school provided a driver and vehicle to take us to the local large supermarket to stock up my fridge.  

This made the settling period easy and quick, and a new apartment can feel more like home very quickly.  

3. Buy and sell exchanges with other teachers

Another helpful initiative I’ve benefited from is being put in contact with a teacher leaving the country - and we arranged a deal for me to buy their entire home contents and a car.

This was the easiest moving experience I have ever had, as I rented the old apartment and everything was already there for me - and it saved the other staff member a lot of hassle, too.

Schools can easily do this by providing prospective teachers with access to classifieds and “for sale” posts of ex-teachers and current teachers at the new school - for whole house clearances or one-off items. It’s a win-win for everyone and makes settling in that bit easier.

4. Support with vehicle purchases

I have bought both a motorbike and a car while abroad. The motorbike was from a current teacher so this was fairly straightforward. The car, though, was bought through a dealership when I had newly arrived in the country.

This was quite daunting as I needed to work out for myself what a good price for this particular brand of car was and arrange for a mechanic to check over the car. Thankfully, a friend was able to support for translation purposes.

However, when teachers need to make a large purchase, which may involve legalities, perhaps a school translator can accompany the teacher - or a staff member confident in helping out.

After all, these experiences can be quite nerve-wracking and support through this process, from viewing vehicles to the purchase, would be a great provision to offer.

5. Connecting with the community

After the basics are in place? What keeps a teacher happy?

Often the answer is a great workplace in conjunction with satisfying hobbies and outside interests.

New teachers should be directed early on as to where they can find groups that support their favourite hobbies, such as salsa classes, yoga, football, cycling and cinema.

In several schools I have found “my people” by joining a walking club, salsa group, Korean spa group (yes, really!) and a book club. New staff should also be made aware of opportunities to connect with the community, such as camps, beach cleans and picnics.

Such groups can be difficult to find if you do not know where to look, so I would urge those in charge of orientation to question new staff to find out what their interests are outside of school.

In summary, if your job is to support orientation, keep these often-overlooked areas in mind. In the disorientating time of moving abroad, new teachers must feel supported throughout.

Jess Gosling is a Reception teacher for the British section at Taipei European School. She tweets @JessGosling2