International Educator Interviews: Kim in Dubai

Today I bring you the second interview in my new series of International Educator Interviews.  I can’t wait to introduce you to my friend, Kim, who is now in her seventh year of international school teaching. Kim started out as an elementary educator and has recently transitioned into a new role as a school counselor.

Skiing in Lebanon

Skiing in Lebanon

Where are you now and what are you currently teaching?

Currently, I am an elementary school counselor working with students in grades 3, 4 and 5. When I first came overseas, I was a grade 4 teacher in an American international school in Dubai, followed by a middle school French teacher. I then had an opportunity to move to Beirut and take part in the Primary Years Program (PYP), a program that I was curious about learning. After some time, I moved cities yet again returning to Dubai and entered my third international school where I became a grade 5 PYP classroom teacher. The school in Dubai was expanding and I had a professional opportunity to continue to expand on the social/emotional aspect of learning, an area that I have always been very passionate about so that aided in my decision to return to Dubai. I am now working as one of the Elementary School counselors at the same school and love it.

Dubai MarinaDubai Marina at night

How did you get your first international teaching job?

I went to my first job fair in February 2007 to find out more about living and teaching in an international setting. I enjoyed my time teaching in Canada though I loved to travel and knew I needed more. Over the weekend at the job fair, I took part in 11 interviews and had 9 different job offers which I narrowed down to three top choices. Quickly, I needed to decide where I wanted to be and what part of life was being offered to me. I knew I wanted to be surrounded by an expat population, close to travel options, and to honor some of my financial goals. For these reasons, I chose to move to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after never having been there before.

Visiting CanadaA summertime visit back home in Canada

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

This is my third international school in 7 years. My first school was in Dubai, and after three years of new professional opportunities, travel to more than 6 countries each year, new friendships and lots of socializing, I decided it was time for a change. My fourth year I moved to Beirut, Lebanon to work in a new school in a new country. Before I knew it, I was back in Dubai taking on new challenges at an international IB school. The travel and way of life suit me well.

What made you decide to teach internationally?

I always knew that I would be living and working abroad, from a very young age. After teaching in my home province for 7 years, I realized if I didn’t go soon, I may never leave. I started to inquire that year and was granted a two-year leave of absence from my school district. During the second year, I decided that there was more going for me internationally than returning home. I love being able to travel all around the world during my time off. As everyone else that is living and working with me is doing the same thing, it is easy to have people to travel with and many destinations to go to.

Holiday Travels in IndiaHoliday travels in India

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

At the beginning, it may seem like there are only challenges. The educational systems are different and take some time to get used to, as do your colleagues. It takes time to redevelop your strengths in a new setting and discover the strengths of others as well. Everything takes time to adapt, discover and understand.

UAE Flag 40th AnniversaryFlag celebration for the 40th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates

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

It is far more rewarding and interesting teaching internationally as the students come from all over the world. In addition, there is usually more funding available for technology, resources and professional development, making it difficult to return home to work without these options.

Beach in DubaiOn the beach in Dubai

How do you go about making a new place your own?

Every experience is what you make of it. By being open-minded and willing to make my life abroad, permanent, I have found my experiences to be much more rich. Usually in each of the places I have lived, I have let go of the idea of living temporary and made it much more permanent despite the fact that I may be there for only a short time. My living space has always been very important to me, so I have painted the walls and purchased the necessary furniture to make my surroundings comfortable. It is always important to become a part of clubs, such as sports teams to be a part of life outside of only the school setting. As time moves on, you will find that you have great communities in various aspects of the city and your life.

Home Sweet Home in DubaiHome Sweet Home in Dubai

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

It depends on where you are in your life and career. Are you single, married or with a family? What are your needs in a living environment? Is this the beginning of your career, middle of your career of end of your career? Are you going abroad for the cultural experience, the professional experience or to move ahead financially? Are you wanting to be placed in an area that has significant travel options? Once you are able to answer these questions, you being to discover the options that are available and make the necessary decisions from there. In each place, there will always be a community of people in which you will integrate into and the rest of the experience is up to you.

During my first three years in Dubai, I was interested in traveling the world, expanding my professional horizons and enjoying the expatriate life. When I was living in Beirut, I had more of a chance to interact with the local community and take part in cultural activities while visiting a variety of geographic locations. I loved speaking French, learning Arabic, and walking along the Mediterranean Sea. Of course, the food was delicious, too!

Upon returning to Dubai, I was curious to continue in the IB Program and interested in transitioning my professional development to counseling with children. As my school was expanding, this was the perfect opportunity to make this transition. I really enjoy my new role in a school that I have been familiar with.

Sunrise-use kim's captionBeautiful moments in Dubai: “I was driving to the mountains this morning to meet some friends for a little cycling excursion. The nice thing about leaving when it is dark out is that the sun rises and one is able to witness something as spectacular as such. Dubai is NOT all about plastic and material items- not if one chooses. I love moments of watching the sunrise.”

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

I have enjoyed each of my experiences abroad as each experience has taught me something new and given me new professional opportunities that I would not have been able to have when working at home. After being in the Middle East for some time now, I always dream of moving to Europe where I can improve my French or German, take part in the seasons, enjoy the outdoors and spend all of my hard earned teacher savings.

IMG_8664East meets West: “I love the decor of the Islamic section of this shopping mall; the Starbucks sign makes it seem a little surreal. Then again, I was in an indoor air-conditioned mall in Dubai where everything is surreal.”

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

You just know. When you are able to answer the question: “Am I leaving to move on to somewhere else?” or “Am I leaving to run away from somewhere?” If either of those questions have a solid answer, it may be time to leave. If not, it is always a great thing to ride the wave of what is working for you away. There is no sense fixing a situation that does not need to be fixed.

Teaching in DubaiTeaching abroad is not all glitz and glamor.

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

Just do it! If you are thinking about it, are adventurous, and open to new possibilities, then it is for you. Talk to others who have been involved, sign up on Search Associates and get your documentation ready for a job fair. Make a list of what you are looking for in your experience and discover the options that are available today. Just do it!


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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