I am back in Budapest and fully vaccinated! I do not regret making the trip at all. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break from being alone in my apartment. Not only did I get to see my new house that I recently bought and furnished and my family, but the weather was amazing. Sunshine is SO good for the soul! Not only that, but Arizona was “open” for the most part, so it was possible to eat out, go shopping, and do other activities. This was probably my first visit home ever that I didn’t want to come back. I could have stayed a bit longer since we are still teaching remotely, but two weeks teaching in the middle of the night was more than enough!

We are supposed to go back to in-person teaching on May 10th, so that’s just one more week of working from home. I really hope that that date holds and we get to go back. I definitely like a lot of aspects of working from home, but I am ready to mix it up a bit and finish out the year with my colleagues and students. When we return, we’ll only have six weeks left until the end of the year. It’s going to fly by and I am very much looking forward to summer vacation.

As for the situation in Hungary, daily cases continue to drop and now more than 4 million people have been vaccinated in the country (out of 9.7 million). Things are starting to reopen and I was thrilled to be able to sit on a terrace for the first time in a long time. That said, we still have the worst death rate in the world, which is pretty scary.

The next frontier is vaccine passports (or immunity cards as they call them here). There are already problems with that for those of us who are not Hungarian, not to mention the odd decision that the government made to give the immunity card immediately after the first vaccine dose even though people are not fully protected until two weeks after the second dose.

Earlier this week our school gave us the option to travel back to our home countries to get vaccinated if we wanted. We had another two school weeks until our spring break, so if we traveled right away that would make for a three week trip home, but it also meant working Budapest hours while being on West Coast time (for me) – a nine hour time difference!

I didn’t initially jump at the chance because I wasn’t particularly anxious about getting mine. Although it was still quite unclear when expats in Hungary would be able to get vaccinated, I felt sure that at some point we would. Worst case scenario, I’d be able to get vaccinated when I went home for the summer holidays at the end of June. Then I ran into a friend at school who had already booked her trip home and it got me thinking more about it. I looked into vaccine appointments and flights and talked to my family about it and suddenly I REALLY wanted to go. I booked my flight for a few days later and got my Covid test in preparation to fly. And then, the very next day, we got word that we could now register for the vaccine in Hungary as expats. Some of our Hungarian colleagues have already started getting their shots, and now it would likely be in the coming weeks that we could get ours too. I debated back and forth about canceling the trip (it would mean saving that money for the flight and not having to work ridiculous hours), but in the end I realized I already had my mind set on going and it would feel like a huge disappointment to cancel.

So, I leave early tomorrow morning and get the vaccine on Wednesday. I registered for the J&J one-dose vaccine so that I will be fully vaccinated for my return to Budapest. I already feel lighter knowing that I have the appointment. I am full of hope for the summer and a return to something that looks like normal.

A year ago Thursday we got our first two Coronavirus cases in Hungary. Schools closed a week and a half later not to reopen for the rest of the school year. Toward the end of May things started opening back up again, and the summer was even more relaxed with some international travel allowed. (I booked a week-long trip to Sicily but then decided to cancel.) As school started in late August and people returned from their holidays, numbers steadily increased wildly beyond anything we had seen in spring, yet no new lockdown was put in place. (Looking at the graph of cases in Hungary, our spring cases are dwarfed to the point that it almost looks as if we didn’t even have any spring cases.) We had a “lockdown light” beginning in November with restaurants closed, an 8 p.m. curfew, and high school students going back on distance learning. Then December came, and cases started falling just as quickly as they shot up. At the end of January, we reached a low we hadn’t seen since mid-October. News of one vaccine after another came out and it looked like the end was really in sight. And then things took a turn and, even more quickly than in our “second wave,” we reached a record number of cases (yesterday). Schools were ordered to close as of Monday and the country will be in a strict lock down again for at least a month.

Here we are back in March a year later and it feels like we are right back where we started. Teaching our grade 7 curriculum makes it all the more obvious that we’ve been at this for a year now; lessons and units that we painstakingly adapted from in-person to online are already formatted for this year’s students. This year when we arrived back to school in August, the lobby was still decorated for our Mother Language Week celebration at the end of February–as it is right now. Calendars have once again been left in classrooms set to the month of March. Spring is again here enticing us to go outdoors with the longer days and warmer weather at the same time that we are being encouraged to stay at home indoors. It really does feel like déjà vu.

We are told that this time it will only be a month, but of course we know now not to count on set timelines. I feel like this time it will be harder to keep people indoors as we have been living with this virus for a year now. Last spring when the cases were under 200 per day, I, like many others, avoided leaving the house as much as possible. Now that we have been working and living with cases in the thousands every day, it doesn’t feel as imperative to stay indoors. There is also no longer the novelty of everything suddenly pivoting to online. Last year I watched online film festivals, saw every performance of the New York City Ballet Spring Digital Season, did live Zoom yoga classes, and participated in online happy hours. This time around I can’t be bothered with any of that. I just want to finish this month of online teaching and for the vaccine to be spread far and wide in the meantime.

I’m ready to go back to normal life.

Traveling is the way of life for an international school teacher. Each school year is usually filled with so many fabulous vacations that you almost feel bad sharing with people who have “normal” jobs. A year ago this time, I spent my “ski break” in South Africa visiting my friend Lauren who had stationed herself there for six weeks during her sabbatical year. It was a long way to travel for just a week, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a country I’d always wanted to go to when I had a friend to show me around and be my travel buddy.

In hindsight, it turned out to be the perfect “last hurrah” before beginning the Year of the Staycation. At first we thought we’d only have to give up our spring break in April, but we soon realized that summer was out too. We started this school year knowing that it would be a year of not traveling. At first it seemed like some local travel would be possible, but since November, hotel stays aren’t even allowed throughout the country unless it is business related. To be honest, when faced with the choice of travel within Hungary or just having a week off at home, I kind of prefer the latter. I’ve spent my weeks at home doing yoga, cooking, taking language lessons online, and catching up on projects that I wouldn’t normally have time for.

One benefit of not traveling this past year has been saving money. I actually saved up enough to put a down payment a townhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona where my family lives. Now when I visit them, I’ll have a place of my own to stay, and when I’m not there, I will rent it out on Airbnb. My first guests come this weekend and I’m so excited to “host” them. This has been a fun project, and it’s made me think of all of the travel I have done and what has attracted me to choose certain accommodations and how I can make the stay special for my guests. I am living vicariously through them at the moment!

As for the Covid situation here in Hungary, we have been under restrictions since the middle of November. Curfew at 8 p.m., no indoor or outdoor dining at all, and mandatory masks everywhere you go. Our high school students have been learning online since mid-November as well. Cases had been sharply decreasing since the beginning of December, and with the vaccine rollout, it seemed that we were really on the road to the end. The last month, however, has seen cases on the rise again and the vaccine rollout has been slower than we had all hoped. Some think the rise in cases is due to the more infectious U.K. variant of the virus. When we go back to school next week, we’ll try to tighten up some of our school procedures and restrictions as an extra precaution. Still no word on when teachers will get the vaccine, though we have been assured that expat teachers will get it alongside local teachers.

My only summer plans involve going to Arizona for a month to see my family and stay in my new house. I did see an advert for a dreamy week-long yoga retreat in Sicily for the weeks between my return from Arizona and the start of school. In normal times, I would have booked that in a heartbeat. If only I could be confident that that was actually a possibility this year.

The new snow day?

I woke up a few minutes early on Wednesday morning so that I would have time to wash my hair before school. I turned off the alarm on my phone and the first thing I saw was a text message from my ride to school saying, “I don’t think you are coming to school today as per the director’s email?” I clicked over to my school email and saw the director’s email sent at 11:40 p.m. the night before with the subject line: “URGENT COVID-19 Update.” One teacher in the middle school who works with students in multiple grades had tested positive for Covid and therefore the whole middle school would move to online learning for the next week “out of an abundance of caution.” There would be no classes on Wednesday so teachers could get ready to make the switch.

No school today? It felt like getting that call on a winter’s day that there would be no school due to snow.

It was 6 a.m. and there was no further information, so I went back to bed for two hours. haha. I know that most teachers probably jumped up and got to work, minds racing, but I’m a good sleeper. What can I say?

By the time I got up and finally washed my hair, a team leader meeting had been scheduled for 10 a.m. I had time to run out and grab a coffee before the meeting. We had an hour-long meeting with the team leaders followed by an hour-long meeting with the full MS faculty (both on Zoom, of course) before using the rest of the day to prepare for online learning the next day.

I ate the lunch that I had packed for school, and then started getting my lessons ready to go online. We did distance learning for 13 weeks in the spring, so it was mostly a matter of getting set up. I don’t think any of us expected a closure so soon, so we hadn’t had a chance to really prepare the students (or ourselves) in advance.

After two days of teaching from home, the positives and negatives of distance learning quickly came back to me.

Positives: No commute means I can sleep in and mornings are much more relaxed. I love being able to go to my kitchen to cook or heat up some lunch. Not having to get all of that ready the night before makes the evenings feel so much more relaxed as well. Normally, I get home, make dinner, pack a lunch, and hope to finish a few things around the house and still have time to watch a show before bed. Teaching from home, I just close my laptop and there is so much more time, not only because I don’t have a commute but also because I don’t have to prepare so much for the next day. These last few days I found time to exercise for the first time since we started back at school!

Negatives: Zoom fatigue is REAL and it doesn’t take long at all to set in! The first three classes of the day and I was already getting a headache from looking at my computer screen. But it’s not only classes that are online: every meeting and co-planning session are on Zoom too (and that’s not to mention that grading becomes an online task as well!). And I think it goes without saying that it is so much harder teaching students online. It’s harder to tell if they are engaged, harder to give them opportunities to collaborate with each other, harder to immediately see if they need support.

While it was kind of exciting to get that “snow day” message on Wednesday morning and kind of fun to change things up for a week, I feel a little less overwhelmed knowing that this isn’t the start of distance learning for the rest of the year. It sure seems like this is going to be part of our new normal for the rest of the year though. At a moment’s notice we will be expected to switch from one teaching format to the next. I’m sure that as we are now better prepared, we won’t be given full days off with no classes to get prepared. I’m hoping that if we do go to full distance learning in the future that we will have some sort of rotation schedule where we have a day teaching online and then a day for offline work. As a school, we are still working on what that will look like. Hopefully we figure it out sooner rather than later because the numbers in Hungary continue to rise well beyond anything we saw in the spring.

Two weeks in

Two weeks of the 2020-2021 school year are in the books and our school’s Covid response is constantly changing and evolving. We started the school year with masks required in common spaces, but once students (or teachers) were in a room and settled at their desks, it was ok to remove the masks. If a teacher required a mask in their classroom (for any reason) that was ok too. I personally opted for masks on in the classroom because I have a really small room and wasn’t able to space out my desks to a comfortable distance.

By the end of the first week, cases in Hungary were on the rise. We went from new daily cases in the single digits or teens over the summer to cases in the hundreds by the end of the first week of school. “Out of an abundance of caution,” it was decided that we would all wear masks all of the time at school when indoors. When possible, some teachers would take their classes outside for a mask break or to teach a lesson outdoors (the weather has been lovely lately!). We also heard from the government that all schools would not be shutting down like they did in spring but may on a school-by-school basis if necessary. At an all-school meeting, we got some clarity about this idea that we will be living with this for a while, so the goal is really to do whatever possible to safely keep school open as long and as much as possible. This gave me a new way of thinking about seeing the daily case numbers. As the new daily cases in Hungary continued to rise well about our peak in April (210) to the 200’s, 300’s, and 400’s of new cases per day, the question isn’t how high do the numbers have to get before we close campus again, but what can we do to say open, and when does our school specifically need to close.

At the end of the day Friday (at the end of our second week of school), we got our first known case of Covid in our immediate school community, a ninth grader. We were immediately informed that grade nine students would be learning from home next week (as a precaution) and that grade nine teachers would get a Covid test over the weekend.

So far it feels like we are doing everything right to keep our students and teachers safe. We’ll start week three on Monday with masks on, no ninth grade teachers or students in the building, and the question in the back of our heads of whether our grade level might be next.

Today was the first day back to work for teachers. We haven’t all been on campus together since March 13th. I didn’t have that surreal feeling that so many other teachers have had of returning to my room to find it just the way I left it on a Friday afternoon in spring not knowing that I wouldn’t return on Monday since I’ve been up to campus to do various errands during the summer. It was, however, both wonderful and strange to be back together face-to-face with all of our colleagues. The sentiment throughout the day was how lucky we are to be able to start our school year together on campus with our students. We also celebrated the fact that all of our teachers (both returning and new) were able to make it into Hungary as we know that has not been the case for many schools around the world. We have a few teachers still working from home as they finish up their mandatory quarantine, but all of us will be ready to welcome our students into our classrooms on August 25th.

While we celebrate our good fortune now, we know that this situation may not (probably won’t?) last for the duration of the school year. Without sharing our full plans for our COVID response (which is still being finalized and isn’t ready to share yet), we are currently in a “Phase 2” with Phase 1 being a pre-Covid world and Phase 5 being full distance learning for staff and students. I feel fortunate to be working at a school that has a plan in place that is safe for students and staff and that is flexible in case we need to change things along the way. One of the benefits of working at an international school abroad has always been the independence to do what we think is right for students and our school community without having to get tangled up in district, state, or federal bureaucracy.

Here’s hoping for a great 2020-2021 school year, whatever may come.

When I first started at my new school in Budapest in 2014, I remember meeting the teacher across the hall from me who was starting her seventh year and I thought that was incredible. Seven years at the same school! In the international school world, teachers tend to move on much more quickly than that, and staying as little as two to three years is very common.

Well, time flies, and here I am starting my seventh year in Budapest. I always say that I’m willing to try living just about anywhere for two years (the general initial contract for international schools), and I can always move on if I don’t like it. I never would have thought I’d land in a place for so long. Indeed my third year, I started thinking that maybe I’d do a “soft search” and if my dream job in a dream location came up, I’d snap it up before I had a chance to worry about having any big regrets about leaving. But then by the time job search time came in the fall, I knew I couldn’t leave. I think I had this “plan” of the soft search for two or three years before I finally gave in and admitted I wasn’t going anywhere. Now I’ve committed to a new apartment (my third in Budapest) for two years, so it looks like year eight will be happening as well.

And so, in less than a week, year seven begins (for teachers anyway). We’ve been extremely lucky here in Hungary that our Covid-19 numbers have been very low (only 1-25 cases per day since the end of May), so we are able to open our school relatively normally (temperature checks at the door, but no masks or social distancing). I believe all of our new teachers have arrived as well (including our new school director!). Who knows how the year will play out and whether we will have to go to distance learning again (we did 13 weeks in the spring), but my 16th year teaching is sure to be an interesting one either way.

This week I bring you Sarah who left my school last year after nine years in Budapest to move with her family to Lima. It was so fun to interview her and get a glimpse into her new life in Peru. She is definitely missed here in Budapest!

Where are you now and what are you currently teaching?

We live in Lima, Peru. I’m here with my family: My husband is the Middle School principal at our school and my two daughters are in grades 8 and 10.

My current job is “Research Skills and Technology Integration Teacher” but next year I’ll be the Director of Library Services. I’m a long-time middle school English teacher and most recently a librarian. I love my current position which gives me lots of flexibility to work with teachers in planning research tasks, but I’m also looking forward to being back with the books in the library next year.


Student club “Sign-Up Day” on the quad at Colegio Roosevelt in Peru

Is this your first international post or is this one in a string of many international posts for you?

This is the fourth place I have lived with my family. My husband and I started in Beirut, then moved to San Salvador, El Salvador, and then to Budapest.


Aphrodites Rock, Cyprus

What made you decide to teach internationally?

When we were first married, we went to a party and met a couple who were living in Jordan. They had lived in Rio de Janiero and had a summer house in Vermont. Their life sounded so exotic – we wanted to give it a try. As teachers, being able to travel extensively wasn’t something we thought was within our reach.


Our house in El Salvador, on the property of our school, Escuela Americana

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

We just moved to Lima a few months ago, so this is fresh for me. One of the things I have found tricky at each new school is how little people seem to ask me about my previous “home.” Also, each school has its own culture, so I try not to refer back to how things worked in the last school and keep it positive and focused on learning how things work (for better or worse!) at the new school.


Our apartment in Lima this Christmas

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

It’s been so long since I have taught in the US, I can’t comment on this with any authority. I will just say that one of the things I love about the international schools is that we are all together teaching each other’s children, watching them grow and learn, and doing things socially all together.


With my elementary kiddos in the library in Budapest

What’s it like living in Lima? What’s your favorite thing about being an expat there? What is challenging?

Lima isn’t an easy city because it doesn’t have good public transportation and we got very used to that in Budapest. Also, the traffic is pretty terrible. But, it does have cheap taxis, so it’s easy to get around that way. There’s a ton to do and the restaurant culture here is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Food is like a religion here. There are lots of very expensive places and also tons of mid-range and cheap places, and they are all equally delicious. The expensive ones offer more drama, more innovative dishes, and gorgeous ambiance. But the cheap ones have good fresh food and a fun local beat.

My husband and my daughters go surfing on Sundays. There are classes you can pick up from the shore. Evidently, it’s good surfing for beginners as well as advanced surfers.

Parts of Lima are dangerous, but our neighborhood is very safe. We live in San Isidro which is next to Miraflores (kind of the “Miami” of Lima). Our area has lots of embassies as well as shops and restaurants. Miraflores is right on the water with more bars and tons of restaurants. We can run or bike down the Malecon, a swath of paved paths that hug the coast. It’s beautiful with many different parks and sports machines along the way.


Playa Sunzal, a favorite beach in El Salvador

How easy/difficult is it to meet locals and integrate with the local culture?

In general, I find it quite difficult to get out of the expat bubble because I’m not the most outgoing person. I love the bonding and relationships built among the faculty at the school, so I tend to keep to that group. However, the times when we have been included in activities outside of the school bubble are some of the best memories of our times overseas.

The places I have connected best with “locals” have been in the schools that had more local teachers. No surprise there! In Beirut, we had the most invitations to do things outside of the expat bubble and that made our time there very special. Our housekeeper invited us to her house for a Palestinian meal of roast chicken and homemade french fries in her unfinished “rooftop” apartment. It was one of the most magical nights ~ she was quite a storyteller. A Lebanese teacher friend brought us to her mother’s house along a river in the mountains where we joined in the family’s typical Sunday lunch: an absolute feast of kofta, fattoush, soft pita bread, honey pastries….oh man, I can still see her unmolding a plate of stuffed grape leaves.

In Budapest, we were invited to an annual New Year’s Eve party at the home of a British guy married to a Hungarian woman. The highlight was cramming ourselves into their classic old apartment packed with interesting people we’d never met – and the moment when they marched out a suckling pig, raised their glasses, and sang “God Save the Queen” and the Hungarian National anthem back to back.

So, I’d say that the best way to get out of the expat bubble has been to push myself out of my comfort zone.



How do you spend your holidays? How often do you visit home?

We go home at least once a year and more often we go twice. We want our children to have a strong connection to the US and to their extended family. Luckily, both sides of the family live in New England, so we can easily see everyone during the Christmas and summer holidays. We spend lots of time bopping around but we feel it’s important to see our family in their own homes. We own a small cabin in Vermont and we spend a couple of weeks there each summer, too.


Our cabin in Vermont


When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from when you first started teaching?

Our priorities have changed as we’ve added children to the mix and as our positions have changed. My husband is a principal, so more and more we are looking for dynamic directors and schools interested in innovation and technology. Our children are teenagers so at our newest school we were also looking for a school size that would provide plenty of extra-curricular and sports opportunities. And, of course, being in an interesting location is still very important. That said, I firmly believe that EVERY place has its bonuses – in some places it’s just harder to see what those are.

How do you know when it’s time to leave?

I’m not sure! We’ve left each place for different reasons and it’s always been kind of a “gut” feeling, although it’s something we certainly discussed over and over. In Beirut, we left after three years because we wanted to see if the overseas life was really for us or if it was just Beirut that we loved. In El Salvador, we left after five years because my husband was ready for a principalship. In Budapest, we left after nine years because…um… I guess we left because we wanted our children to experience a new place and we were ready for a change. It was heartbreaking to leave there, but it has been fun to experience a big move together and a new culture.


Our first year in Budapest at the Folk Art festival in Castle Hill

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching?

Definitely go for it! Once you take the leap, don’t look back. When you go home, focus on your friends and family and what’s been happening with them. Don’t try to fill them in on all of your travels – it will probably be too much for them to fully engage in.

After a long hiatus, I am back with some great International Educator interviews lined up for you. First up is Emily who has been teaching third grade at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) in Indonesia for the last year and a half. I really connected with Emily’s story and her strong attachment to her first overseas teaching post.

Is this your first international post or is this one in a string of many international posts for you?

My first international post was in Nairobi, Kenya. I thought I’d go on a two-year adventure and then head home. But like many of us, I was hooked. I worked at the International School of Kenya (ISK) for five years prior to moving to Indonesia a year and a half ago.

Ubud Bali

What made you decide to teach internationally?

When I sought my first post, I was simply eager to see more of the world, and I thought Kenya would be a good place to start. Now that I have been abroad for over six years, I am more aware of the many benefits to living and teaching internationally.

(Almost) private beach, Lombok

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

No matter where in the world you are, teaching at a new school is always a little manic at first because you have to figure out the curriculum, get a pulse on the school ethos, and learn a whole bunch of acronyms. JIS is no exception. It’s a large, high-energy school with hundreds of faculty and a lot going on every day.

When you move to a new country, you are also busy with visas or other paperwork, settling your new home, and making friends. You might find yourself stumbling through the language, figuring out how to get from point A to point B, wondering what exactly this is that you’re eating, finding out what precious products you can or can’t get in-country, wondering why the locals are laughing at you this time, and trying not to fall into a pothole while looking at everything around you. These transition times can be overwhelming, but they are part of the experience we are choosing and I relish them.

Borobudur Temple, Java

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

The curriculum, professionalism, facilities, and students are all aspects of international teaching that I appreciate. The two international schools that I know well are similar to certain independent schools in the United States. There is freedom that comes with not having to adhere to public school regulations, and I also find there is a “positive pressure” to be the best professional you can be. Many teachers at international schools have made a conscious decision to be there and want to make the most of their time, so I think that translates into minimal complacency or professional stagnation. Both JIS and ISK are well-resourced schools, situated on big campuses with great facilities, and powered by a huge team of support staff. Generally speaking, I have found my students to be very open-minded, adaptable, and worldly – but not pompous. With educated, well-travelled parents, it is no wonder that so many students are inquisitive and motivated learners. What’s more, I think some international students maintain a sense of innocence longer than they might in the States. This was especially apparent in Kenya, where we were less inundated with Western culture. 

Morning hike, Flores

What’s it like living in Jakarta? What’s your favorite thing about being an expat there? What is challenging?

On the one hand, Jakarta is hot, hazy, and gritty. So one challenge for me is not having the temperate climate and blue skies of Nairobi. The other side of life in Jakarta, however, is very polished: air-conditioned shopping malls, an endless variety of bars and restaurants, inexpensive spas around every corner, and comfortable housing options. It’s all very easy compared to Kenya, which isn’t to say I felt that it was hard to live there either. Everyone always cites “traffic” as the worst thing about Jakarta – and it is really horrendous – but it sort of just becomes a fact of life and you have to adapt (or spend a whole lot of time being frustrated). Taxis or motorbikes are cheap and easy to hire, making getting around totally possible. If you go the wrong direction at the wrong time of day, however, good luck!

How easy/difficult is it to meet locals and integrate with the local culture?

It hasn’t felt very easy for me to meet locals outside of work. I’ve learned a bit about the culture, but I am certainly not integrated. I need to push myself to go beyond my school community. I hope I’ll have more to say on this subject after being here a bit longer.

Lake Naivasha, Kenya

What is a myth about your adopted country?

This isn’t quite a myth, but many international visitors (especially those who fly directly in and out of Bali) only see a small sliver of what Indonesia has on offer. The vast number of islands, cultures, languages; the contrast between rice paddies, coral reefs, volcanoes, and skyscrapers; the tension between tradition and modernity; the juxtaposition of an omnipresent call to prayer and a debauched nightlife……  In short, there is much more to Indonesia than the Bali of Eat, Pray, Love.

Taj Mahal, India

How do you spend your holidays? How often do you visit home?

I maximize my time off school. I’ve explored seven countries in the last year alone – most recently, India – and might reach my 50th before I leave Asia. When I travel, I like a balance of tourism/culture, relaxation, and the outdoors. I’m less balanced when it comes to food and drink – the more, the better! Sometimes I like to be planned and pampered, but I am usually happy with spontaneous and simple.

“Home” is a complicated word for me these days. I go back to the East Coast of the US most summers for a couple of weeks, and I’m lucky to have family and friends who are happy to visit. I’m not sure what it will mean to “settle down” one day.

When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from when you first started teaching?

I have worked at a total of four schools, and each experience has been valuable to me one way or another. Each has also been bigger than the last. Though I’ve enjoyed the opportunities that come with working at a very large school, I also appreciate the intimacy of smaller schools. I thrive when I feel like an integral part of the community with a hand in the school’s vision for the future.


The rare sight of blue sky in Jakarta, taken from a rooftop in my neighborhood. You can see part of the central Jakarta skyline on the far right.

How do you go about making a new place your own? (That is, both your new accommodation and your new country.)

This takes time – about two years for me if Kenya is an indication. I have a small, but cozy and modern apartment here in Jakarta. I’ve filled it with some of my favorite photographs and craft pieces from my travels – as well as a very comfortable couch and some beautiful local teak wood furniture. I created the illusion of some outdoor space by covering my small balcony with potted plants and Astroturf (which is surprisingly effective). As comfy as it is, I would consider moving within Jakarta to be closer to a more interesting neighborhood or to have a square of real live grass! As for feeling like a new country is your own, I find this always takes leaving for a while and then returning. I remember returning to Nairobi for my third year after a summer in the US and bursting into tears with relief when I stepped out of the airport because the feel, the smell, and the noises just seemed to say, “Welcome home!”

 Pacu Jawi (Cow Races), Sumatra

How do you know when it’s time to leave?

While the going is still good. I would rather be sad to go than desperate to get out. When I left Kenya, I knew it was time for a change of pace professionally, and I wanted to explore Asia, but I miss it every day. I think this is a good problem to have.

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far? Is there anywhere you are hoping to land a position in the future?

Kenya will always have a special place in my heart as my first international post. I loved the school and grew immensely as a teacher during my time there. I fell in love the pace of life and the good vibes of Nairobi. And so much of the country is simply stunning. I went on countless safaris, became quite familiar with the white sands of the coast, and camped at a lake just outside the city at least once a month. The verdict is still out on my next move, but I adore Japan and also hope to explore Latin America one day.


Masai Mara, Kenya

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching?

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.


Find the full series of Interviews with International Educators here.

If you are an international educator and you would like to be featured on The Present Perfect, contact me at thepresentperfectblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

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