I have had many people ask me about how I found my job teaching over seas. It's a bit of a long story, and I blame it completely on fate.
For a while, I've had a desire to go live/work over seas. I grew up in Finland, and a piece of me will always be there. I've considered going there for a short period to work, but at the end of the day, there was always an excuse why I should just stay put.
Over my Thanksgiving holiday, I took advantage of the full week off and traveled to visit one of my oldest friends in Zurich, Switzerland. She is from Finland and was working there last year. I fell in love with the country and thought thats where I wanted to come back to. On my flight home I had a window seat, and the aisle seat next to me stayed empty until the very end of boarding. I had the two seats to myself on the way to Zurich, so I was disappointed when someone came and claimed the spot. She had her computer open, and I glanced over to see photo albums and folders very similar to my own - full of children engaged in activities and learning. Turns out she was a teacher from Colorado now working in Switzerland and was just traveling home for a funeral. I am certain she was hoping to get more work finished than she did, but she was so extremely kind in sharing her experience in how she found her job.
I could barely contain myself as I landed in Atlanta and immediately googled the job fair she had attended: CIS in London. Lucky for me, I had just enough time to get my self registered with the organization and then accepted to the job fair. It was the first weekend of December and the deadline was early January for the fair which would take place at the end of January. I had never been to London, so this seemed the perfect excuse to take care of a bit of travel and work at once!
Monday morning I had a scheduled mid-year conference with my principal. No time for nerves or debating how to ask for a reference, I was short on time! I explained to her my desire to attend the conference and explore the possibility of a job overseas. I taught for 7 years at the same school, and I did not have a reason to want to leave. I needed to fill a personal itch, though, and I knew this was the opportunity I had to pursue.
Prior to the job fair, I researched a bit about the schools and countries. It was overwhelming as there were so many different opportunities available! I had experience only in the primary classroom, but I have a strong technology background. I decided to market myself for both primary and technology positions. I received some communication from schools prior to the fair and actually arranged for an interview in London prior to the fair starting. I spoke with the kindest representatives from a school in Taiwan, and they helped prepare me for what was to come the next few days. I should also mention here that my current employer reached out to me prior to the job fair, but I did not give the e-mail much thought. The Middle East was not high on my list of regions to move to (complete ignorance on my part).
The fair started Thursday evening with an intro session for newcomers, which I was thankful to attend. I was able to hear the perspective of some school leaders that were interviewing, as well as meet and see some of the other candidates. Friday morning was a day full of school presentations. During each time slot, there were so many interesting options. I chose to attend the presentations of schools which had primary openings or were otherwise very intriguing. I listened to leaders from incredible schools share about what made their school unique and why I should come work there. I wanted to go everywhere.
Friday night was not the highlight of my time at the fair. It was the sign up for interviews. We'd been prepared to convince the recruiters to interview us in about 30 seconds of handing them our CV. Each school sits around the room with paper charts behind them of which openings they have. I went to confirm interview times with schools that had contacted me, and I went to make a case for why others should interview me. It was a series of highs and lows in a matter of seconds. Saturday there were a few more school presentations, but I spent the day in interviews.
My very first official interview Saturday morning would turn out to be the job offer which would lead me to Doha. I couldn't immediately accept the position, though, as I had a full day of interviews ahead. The day went beautifully, and I felt very confident in my interviews. That evening was a social gathering for all the interviewers and interviewees. I had made some friends at the fair with other candidates, and it was great getting to share and chat about our experiences. What was a bit uncomfortable, was being in the room with all of the people I had interviewed with earlier and knowing I did not want to pursue jobs at some of those schools. I will be honest here again; there was a single school which had completely captured my attention, and I received a long hand-written note right before the social hour letting me know that the ONE opening in the entire school was filled. As I chatted with a CIS counselor and was sharing my experiences from the day, the representative from that school came past. Without any control over my emotions after two long, stressful days, I broke out into giant tears. I was completely helpless as my eyes filled and tears streamed down my face. The representative from CIS was so helpful and we spoke about the roller coaster of emotions that I had experienced. I cleaned up in the restroom and headed back out for another refreshing beverage.
It was at this point that my first interviewer approached me. I was still not sold on the idea of the Middle East, mostly because I was very naive about what life would really be like here. I spoke with the two school administrators for a long time that evening, and I was given the answers to everything I wanted to know. I felt genuine respect and caring from the representatives. I place a great deal of value in relationships with students and my leadership. It was that evening that the school offered me something far beyond the details of a contract offer; I saw the character of the leaders that I would be working with.
I ate breakfast with a fellow candidate the next morning. We had met each other Friday morning and realized we were both from Atlanta. She had been teaching overseas already and was looking for a new teaching experience. We've since kept in contact, just like I've done with several other teachers I met at the fair. She and I spoke at length about my decision, which was still not firm at this point. In 30 minutes I was due to the first school to give my final decision about the job offer. This friend I made Friday morning helped me make a rational, and what would turn out to be the best possible decision for me. I accepted the position in Doha.
The absolute worst part of the entire fair was then having to reach out the school which I had decided to turn down offers from. I genuinely enjoyed all of the meetings and saw such amazing opportunities at each of the schools. Ultimately I went with a gut feeling that proved to be spot on.
Later that day, I interviewed with the technology team that happened to also be in London that weekend. (Fate, remember?) We chatted over some coffees at Starbucks, and I listened as my dream technology position was described to me. When the position was offered to me, I did not need even a second to consider it. I had accepted a position at the school as a primary teacher or in this tech capacity. I was now formally offered the technology role, and everything inside of my was screaming and shaking with excitement.
Would I go again? Absolutely. Was it what I expected? Yes and so much more! Did I end up where I thought I would? Not at all - but that is what I loved about the event! I had the chance to meet so many incredible people and learn about so many amazing opportunities that I would never have known existed. I went looking for a change and left with the opportunity of a lifetime.
I did not go to London for a "Girls Trip." I certainly did not go to film a "Finding Love Overseas" show as my students suspected. I went to attend the Council of International Schools job fair.
I started my academic career at the age of two in Marseille, France. At age three, I went to school in Freiburg, Germany. I received my first report card in Tikkurila, Finland.
When we moved to the Atlanta area in 1994, my dad was given a 3 year contract. I had no idea that I would still be here 20 years later.
Atlanta has been an exceptional home, and it is also where I started my career as an educator. As I started year 7 at a wonderful school, I realized I needed something different for me. I signed up for the job fair after I met a girl from Colorado now teaching in Switzerland. She sat right next to me on my flight home from visiting my friends in Switzerland. During my trip, I also got to see my old friend from Germany and his friends from various parts of Europe. I was reminded of the ache that I have had to expand my horizons.
Based in Doha currently, I am a technology-advocating learning junkie.