This is a funny time to be posting about something that normally happens in late July or August in most American International Schools, but some of us are signing new contracts (or our first international teaching contract) and are beginning to wonder what happens once you get to your new country? How long does it take to get the internet set up? When will I meet my new co-workers?
Every school is different, and every country has different lengths of time for doing things (or different red stamps in the case of China), but I can tell you what we did at various orientations I’ve attended.
Mexico- Tuxtla Gutierrez
A lady from HR picked me up from the airport and took me to dinner at midnight. Then they took me to my apartment where I was greeted with a box of goodies (basics like bread, jam, tea, sponge, juice mix), a really old basic cellphone, and given a uniform to wear to work.
I was taken on a tour of the campus, shown the curriculum books I would be working with, introduced to my future classroom assistant…and that was about it.
Some of the returning teachers showed me where a good gym was, introduced me to a great yoga instructor, and showed me how to use the bus to get to the mall. It was also returning teachers who helped me set up my internet that arrived the VERY NEXT DAY!
In China, everything was very organized thanks to a Chinese and American team (both a local and a returning American teacher). They met me at the airport even though my flight was late and my luggage was lost. They brought me to my apartment and were ready first thing the next morning to start showing me around.
I got my physical exam that foreigners need to pass before they get their long term z visa. I had to abstain from eating breakfast this morning because of the blood work (which was even harder than it would normally have been because I woke up at 4 again!). They are pretty thorough! They took two vials of blood (with only minimal squealing from me), chest x-rays, stomach x-rays, an EKG, a vision test, my blood pressure, and they weighed me. All of this was done in a series of rooms that I quickly worked my way through. I would say that all of that testing only took 30 minutes or less! I’m very healthy!
My Orientation Guide helped me set up my phone, took me to an ATM, helped me get my internet set up for a full year (it took a week before it was working though), and took me grocery shopping at the best expat grocery store in town.
They also bought us new teachers dinner at a great place to eat that is only a couple of blocks from my apartment!
I had a full week of orientation before the returning teachers arrived.
I arrived on the same plane as two other teachers. We were greeted by our school Director and another teacher who had arrived on an earlier flight. All of us crammed into a mini-van for the hour ride to Ojeda in the dark.
We were taken to our lovely houses in the same complex. The houses were set up with pots, pans, plates, cups, and two 5 gallon jugs of water. We had to get food the next morning at the Director’s house (she lived next door) . Then they took us grocery shopping, shopping for household goods (like my basic rice maker that I spent $57USD on!), and to the vegetable market.
I remember a whole hour long presentation on what was acceptable to wear at school (apparently past teachers thought see-through shirts, stilettos, and mini-skirts made great teaching outfits). haha
Two weeks after I arrived the tech guy finally got us set up with internet and cell phones.
Thanks for the insight! As I’m planning our new teacher orientation for the fall, I’ll be taking these ideas into consideration! What was your favorite thing that any school has every had ready for you/done for you when you arrived?
Thanks for visiting!
I love having drinking water and simple snacks like bananas and tea already in my apartment. As someone who has lived and taught in three different countries I think the biggest time saver would be having the apartments set up with internet from day one. Also having a phone ready to use like I did in Mexico (or a SIM card for my iPhone). My friend says she worked at a school that gave her a basket of sharpened pencils, dry erase markers, erasers, and Lysol set wipes and that made her first day at work great!
Thanks for the advice!! 🙂
You’re welcome! I hope it was useful!
I too am planning an orientation for two fellow teachers who are coming to China (Nanning) in two weeks and that is how I came upon your website, which is fabulous by the way!
The points about snacks etc. is well stated.
Besides creating an orientation system, I am working on a packing list and pre-departure info package. Is there anything that you think is essential to include?
Hi Emily. Thanks for visiting. I’m happy that you are enjoying my blog.
I actually posted my version of a packing list for China: https://teachingwanderlust.com/2014/06/18/china-packing-list-for-international-teachers/ If I had to choose the single most essential item (other than a laptop and iphone) it would be my ankle length down jacket. I wore that baby everyday for about six months ON TOP of my longjohns and pants!
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Thank you so much for this post and blog! I know this is an old post, but hope this response finds you well. I have an MA from UCLA in history/archaeology/linguistics but returned to school for certifications in Secondary Social Studies and ESL. I will be student teaching in the fall, applying to international schools for the 2020-2021 school year (and beyond), and have been researching international teaching *obsessively* ever since I found out about it only about a year ago. Most of my remaining questions focus around simply what it’s like to embark on such an adventure, what the living situations tend to be, heck, what life itself is like! What’s it like going to the movies? Grocery stores? Restaurants? Is it easy to make friends? I know a lot of it is dependent upon the country and school, so your blog has helped greatly! Thank you for creating it and sharing your experiences!
Sorry for the super delay in responding! I dropped out of the blogging world while my son was little and I am just starting to get back in the swing of things. I hope you have found useful info here. Let me know if you have any questions that I can address in future posts.