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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A dinner outing with the director and administration

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to your start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read about the ones we have discussed so far.

Must-have #7: A dinner outing with the director and administration

IMG_0063-1In some cultures it is very much of a bonding moment between people when they share a meal together.  It is a time when you can really relax and have some nice conversations with each other.  Getting to know your director and other new teachers in this kind of setting will help you with future encounters with the director and also with your potential new good friends. Having a meal with your bosses can really start your relationship with them on the right track.

How nice is it when the administration treats you to a nice dinner out somewhere in your new town?  It really just sets the stage right to have a great start to your first year.  Sure it is not that important and of course it does not have anything to do with your job specifically, but it is nice to get some bonding time with the other new teachers as well as your new bosses. Also, there is the fact that you probably don’t have so much money when you first arrive to be going out to eat at a nice restaurant. Plus, you probably do not even know where the good restaurants are just yet anyway.

If there is not a dinner planned though for all the new teachers, it definitely feels like something is missing.  If there is a dinner planned, then there are a few scenarios that might happen.  Most often the admin plans a dinner out in the center of the city at a nice restaurant.  You can really take in your new “expat lifestyle” in this scenario!  If you have a director that is a little bit more personable, he/she might invite you over to have dinner at their house.  In this scenario, the director is really making an effort to show the new teachers that they are now “one of the family” on the staff at the school.

A less desirable scenario is when the dinner is just held at the school itself. Maybe the admin staff will get the cooking staff to make something special for everyone. Having the “dinner out” at the school is probably not making a very good impression on the new teachers, but depending on cooks, it could actually be quite nice.  Another way to not make the best impression is to have the dinner at some cheap restaurant (just across the street from the compound where all the teachers are living) with little planning involved on making the outing special in any way.

In either scenario, the conversations and experience had at the “dinner out” with the new staff will surely be ones that you remember.  A fun time is usually in store with a lot of laughter.  Take it all in because this dinner-out evening is just the beginning of your new and exciting expat life in your new host city.

Some members on our Facebook page have shared about eating out with their administration during the new teacher orientation week they experienced at their international school:

International School Geneva – Campus des Nations – “At IS Geneva there was barely an orientation week (just 2 half days) let alone any sort of dinner.”

International School Singapore (10 Comments) – “The head of school throws a BBQ dinner for the new teachers and one later for all staff to mingle with the new staff.”

Discovery College (Hong Kong) (5 Comments) – “We had a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Also a drinks/appetizers with the larger ESF organization.”

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Not that you would ask about this topic at your interview or anything, but it might be important to ask the administrator who’s interviewing you the details of the new teachers orientation week.  You do want to know how they support new teachers to make a smooth transition.

On International School Community we have a number of principals and directors of international schools that are members. Currently, we have 20 Directors/Heads of School that have joined.  Some of the international schools they work at are:

The Bilingual School of Monza
• International Community School Addis Ababa
Olive Green International School
International School of Dusseldorf
ABC International School (Tokyo)
International School Groningen
Garden International School

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school include a dinner out with the director and administration as part of their new teacher orientation?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to your start at your new school, in your new host country.

Must-have #6: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

You just get off the airplane.  You have what seem to be a million bags with you. You are quite tired from your long flight journey to your new host country.  You are frantically looking for the person that said that they were going to pick you up from the airport.  You find them and they bring you to your new place that will be your home for the next few years.   So many things on your mind, so many things to worry about, and SO many things to buy!

Sure, you can prepare ahead of time and get some of the local currency at a bank in your home country before you get on the plane.  Sure, you can make it a point to visit an ATM at the host country airport or try and find a local bank near your new house that has an ATM.  But even then, you will have to use the money that you have in your home bank account and for many people, they might not have the finances to support starting up a completely new life and home.

How nice then if the international school that you will be working at gives you a settling-in allowance on your arrival to your new host country?! Getting cash in the local currency straight away is definitely a perk and a very nice benefit to look out for when searching for a new international school at which to work.

International School Community members have a wealth of information to share! Here are a few comments about their experience getting a settling-in allowance at an international school they have worked at:

“As soon as I got off the plane and claimed my baggage, I met the school principal at the arrivals gate, he introduced himself, and handed me an envelope with 1,500,000 won (roughly $1,500). Seriously, it was that quick.”  – An international school teacher at Seoul International School (68 Comments).

“Upon arriving at our apartment, we were given an envelope with some cash in it. This was our settling-in allowance. It was enough to go to a Walmart-type store and get all the basics you don’t bring with you but need right away. Cleaning supplies/trash can/kitchen utensils (beyond the basics). The school already provided all the basic furniture, bedding, and kitchen stuff (pots/plates/cutlery) but all of the odds and ends were purchased with that settling in allowance. It was great to have local currency right away…but it sure didn’t last very long!” – An international school teacher at Graded School Sao Paulo (16 Comments).

“They gave the first month’s salary in cash upon arrival.” – An international school teacher at GEMS American Academy (Abu Dhabi) (23 Comments).

“Upon arriving in Tokyo, the administration at our new school handed us an envelope fat with 300,000 yen. The previous schools we had worked at never gave us a cash settling in allowance in the local currency, so we were not only shocked, but a little perplexed as to why we needed so much cash. But as our first week in Japan wore on, we realized how valuable it was to receive our benefits in hand. First, it meant we didn’t have to bother with transferring our money into yen and losing some due to exchange costs. Second, as renowned as Japan is for its technological advances, it is still mired in the dark ages when it comes to paying with plastic. Virtually every transaction, no matter the cost, is completed in cash. Having yen in our pockets made it much easier to do small grocery shopping and even to make larger purchases at furniture and housewares stores. Finally, not having to spend your savings,turn in receipts and then wait for reimbursement is a great perk of receiving a local currency cash allowance. It made our transition into our new home smooth and a bit less stressful.” – An international school teacher at Seisen International School (22 Comments).

“I didn’t get a settling in allowance really (boo!) we did get given an extra baggage allowance which we received in local currency when we arrived so guess that is something?” – An international school teacher at Greengates School (British Int’l School) (5 Comments).

“The Canadian Academy has a decent size settling in allowance. Seems large at first, but was used up quite quickly, as Japan is VERY expensive. So perhaps not as good as it seems. (I think it was about equal to one paycheck….?)” – An international school teacher at Canadian Academy (Kobe) (10 Comments).

Getting at least some help monetarily during your first days in your new host country is very much welcomed by all international school teachers!  Though you typically go through your settling-in allowance very quickly, it is still nice have.  At many postings, you often don’t get your first paycheck until the end of the month that you start working.  There are way too many things to buy during those first few weeks, that it would be impossible to wait until you get your first paycheck!  Not to mention all the money you end up needlessly wasting when you buy certain items impulsively at one store (because it is near to your house), not knowing that the other store (down the block) sells that same item for half the price.  I’m sure that has happened to all of us at one time or another!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to the settling-in allowance: Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the settling-in allowance you will get (or not get) working at that international school . Here are a few of those comments:

“You get one flight per two year contract. There is a 1500 USD appx. local settling allowance, and the school gives an interest free loan of one months salary to assist with settling costs. Shipping – be careful as if you are transitioning from another international post, you must use your home of record for quotations. Some people buy furniture, others rent furnished, some take out car loans, others buy 2nd hand cars. There are plenty of different options.” International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)

“At the end of your contract the school provides travel and transportation to home of record. Annual flight allowance (KIS pays up to Rs 12,000 / person once every term contract). Shipping allowance for staff on term contract upon joining and at the completion of service. Also there is a transportation allowance. Settling in allowance is given upon every term contract signed. Lunch / tea in our school cafeterias while the school is in session is provided to teachers.” Kodaikanal International School (25 Comments)

“VAIS paid for round trip airfare from the US to Hanoi and back to the US for school year 2011-2. For school year 2012-3, there’s a cap of $1,700. VAIS paid $500 settling in costs. For school year 2012-3, there’s no settling in allowances. There are no free lunches. Lunches cost $3.50.” Vietnam American International School (26 Comments)

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school offer a settling-in allowance?  Please share your experiences!

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: An organized trip to help you get furniture for your new home.

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to your start at your new school, in your new host country.

Must-have #5: An organized trip to help you get furniture for your new home.

It is not ideal to arrive the first day/night in your new host city only to arrive at your new apartment and find it VERY unfurnished.  It doesn’t necessarily start you on the right foot with regards to settling-in with your new life when maybe you do not even have a bed on which to sleep.  For sure there are many international schools out there that place their new teachers directly into furnished apartments or houses (e.g many international schools in Asia or the Middle East), but there are still quite a few international schools that can’t offer that same benefit. And even if your new apartment is furnished, many times it is not FULLY furnished with all the things you need and would like to have.

So….what to do then?  The first step to getting new furniture into your house is typically by going to in nearest IKEA in your new host country.  Now how do you get there (or another furniture store)?  Navigating the public transportation in a new city when you don’t read or speak the local language can be a bit stressful and a bit of a headache.  Taking a taxi in many European cities is just not the norm and can get quite expensive. Even if you take public transportation there, how will you get all your new things back with you?  We all know we leave with many more things than we thought we were going to get when we first walked in!  It would be a must then (since you most likely will not have a car) to pay the IKEA shipping fee as you are checking out.  In some countries that fee isn’t so bad, but in others, it can get a bit expensive.  Don’t forget too, that everything will be in the host country language, including the drivers of the IKEA shipping truck that comes to your house in a few days.  Trying to let the drivers know that they have the right place (when and if they finally arrive) will be one of your first stressful (or very funny) culture shock moment for you, that is if you are not able to speak a word of the language of the locals.

How great would it be then if your new school helped to coordinate your first visit to IKEA?  There are some international schools that appoint a go-to person for all new teachers.  This person will plan many trips for you around the city, but most importantly, they plan the all important trip to IKEA.  A colleague of ours has worked at a school where this go-to person was actually the director.  The director even offered to drive his own mini van to IKEA himself.  He also offered for the new teachers to use his credit card to pay for all the purchases at the check out when the new teacher’s own credit card didn’t work at the register because it was first time they used it overseas or something (of course that new teacher paid the money back to the director as soon as they could).

Another colleague of ours worked at a school that had a go-to person that even organized a large moving van to come and take the purchases to each of the new teachers’ homes after the shopping trip.  The guys driving the moving van even brought the furniture items up from the street level, up many flights of stairs to some teachers’ apartments; very lucky indeed!  As an additional benefit to the new teachers was the ability to request help putting the furniture together from the school’s custodian (up to around 3 hours).  Not having to put together your new IKEA furniture is just what you would dream of having, especially after exhausting day of being a new teacher at an international school. Oh, and we forgot to mention that the new teachers also got an nice, sizable allowance from the school to spend on buying furniture as well!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to housing – Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the potential furniture needs that you may require. Here are a few of those comments:

“Housing is provided for single teachers. There are five schools houses about one or two blocks away from the school campus. Houses are not coed. Each teacher gets a bedroom and a bathroom and shares living space with 2 to 4 more teachers. The houses come fully furnished and they are equipped with appliances.” Colegio Inglés A.C. (Torreon) (12 Total Comments)

“Total US dollar equivalent of annual benefits comes to approx: $15,800. The School provides modestly furnished housing for teachers on temporary visas who are single, providing a one or two-bedroom apartment depending upon single or shared accommodation; (b) for a married teaching couple with no children or with one child, and who are temporary visa holders the School provides a two-bedroom apartment or equivalent. All housing contains the following appliances and furnishings: stove, refrigerator, beds, sofa, dining room table and chairs, washing machine and basic kitchen utensils. The School will retain ownership of these items, which will be kept in good condition by the Teacher. The School will pay the rent, condominium fees, and property taxes related to the apartment/house. The employee is responsible for all other expenses, such as utility bills (water, electricity and telephone bills) but installation and maintenance charges for these utilities as well as Internet connections (not usage) shall be at the School’s expense.”  School of the Nations (11 Total Comments)

“Apartments are located at Riffa, within 10 minutes drive of the school. They are within walking distance of most amenities. Most apartments are two/three-bedroomed, with good sized rooms, kitchen and two bathrooms. Most of the teachers reside in two apartment buildings close by to each other. All apartments are fully furnished. All items that you may want to purchase to personalize your apartment are readily available in homeware centres. Rugs and other traditional Arabic items are readily available at affordable prices. Apartment water and electricity bills (up to BD8) are paid directly by the school. Telephone bills are paid by the teacher.” Naseem International School (Bahrain) (19 Total Comments)

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school organize a trip to help new teachers get furniture for their new homes?  Please share your experiences!