Friday, 6 July 2012

International Schools (and how I got in the loop)

It seems to me that working in the international schools circuit, which provides incredible employment opportunities around the world,  is a well-kept secret.  So I’d like to share information with you about how to get in the loop!

While most educators stateside apply for jobs in the spring and summer, you need to start your application process in the fall for international schools.  Although many international schools are independently run, many hire through agencies such as Council of International Schools (CIS) teacher recruitment service and International School Services (ISS).  We registered (for free) through CIS and went to a recruitment fair in Chicago, which was quite the experience.  Since my husband and I were both looking for jobs at the same time (he is an art teacher) we were only willing to make the move if we both got offered positions within an hour of each other.  After several days of non stop interviewing and networking, we were really excited to both get a few offers but they either weren't in the same place or they were in parts of the world we weren't prepared to relocate to.  Because of this we didn't actually find our jobs through CIS, we found them on our own!  We continued our search by emailing principals and heads of schools directly.  The schools that we contacted were all accredited international schools, here is an updated list.  Most schools seemed to be looking for someone with a masters degree and at least two years experience.


So after many emails, even to schools that didn't have counseling/art positions posted on their sites, and a few skype interviews at odd hours because of the time difference things finally fell into place.
I was offered a position at ACS Hillingdon International School and immediately after as luck would have it a position opened for my husband at TASIS The American School in England

I want to give you a better idea of the school that I work at because that is what I know first hand.  For starters here is a picture of what I drive up to each morning!



If you have twelve minutes you have to check out this video that was created this year for all four of the ACS International Schools.  There are two other campuses in the UK and one more that just opened in Doha.  Let me know what you think...


For me, working in an international school is completely different than any of the public schools I have previously worked at.  The first thing that comes to mind is my role and responsibility as a school counsellor (spelled with two L's in the UK).  Where I am now feels like the complete opposite of where I came from.  I will post more about my day to day life at work another time but so much of what I do revolves around the large population of Third Culture Kids (TCK) at my school.  I spend a lot of time welcoming new families, saying goodbye to students and helping the ones that stay that had to say goodbye to their best friends.  My work is all about transitions, which I am now very passionate about and am currently making a documentary on!

Our school is located on the Hillingdon Court estate, a Grade II-listed mansion house!!  The mansion itself is maintained with beautiful period architecture and grounds.  I have to pinch my self some days because it all feels like a dream. There are days where I sit with a lunch bunch group and I realize that every single student sitting at the table is from a different country, or times where I'm sitting in the cafeteria after we return from break talking to students about their holidays to Africa, Greece, Switzerland, Thailand and the US, or when I ask a kindergartener where she has lived and she lists 7 countries and she is only 5!  We celebrate diversity and have a multicultural day every single month, more to come on that later.

If and when you begin researching all of this yourself, you will most likely find that the registration process and the expense that goes into getting registered, flights, and hotels for a recruitment fair, you might feel a bit overwhelmed (we registered through CIS for free so look into a few agencies).  While you may be putting money out at first, the benefits package with most international schools will help even things out.   The formal benefits package varies from school to school, but you will find the following offered by many international schools:
  • Housing or a housing allowance
  • Round trip airfare once a year for you and your dependents
  • Shipping Allowance
  • Move In Allowance
  • International Health Insurance
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Tuition Waiver for Children
  • Funding for professional development and conferences
The informal benefits are life changing and some are difficult to even put into words.  Being exposed to different cultures and getting to experience them first hand has been incredible.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know people from all around the world and building connections with them.  The travel opportunities are endless.  We haven't even been here for a full year yet and have already traveled to 7 countries!!!
Spain
Italy
France
Romania (This was through my husband's school where we worked with children that were placed in small family homes.  I will definitely do another post on this trip alone!)
Portugal (This was for a European Council of International Schools, ECIS, conference.  As a professional development opportunity this was paid for by my school, another post on this to come!)
Ireland
Greece
...with more trips this summer to southern France, Italy, Switzerland and Scotland!!  It doesn't get much better than that!

All of that being said I miss my family and friends MORE THAN ANYTHING!  Even more than comforts from home that I can't get here.

I wrote this post to share my experiences and opinions so far.  If you have more questions leave a comment or feel free to email me at laurensara@gmail.com.

Now it's time for a cup of tea before bed.  Cheers!

32 comments:

  1. I am super eager to be an international counselor - I went to the UNI fair in Feb. but nothing panned out, interviewed with a school in Thailand but sadly, did not work out. I would love to start a dialogue with you over email about your process, how you got started, and your experience thus far. Let me know if it would be alright to email you about this in the next few weeks.

    Jeff "The Counseling Geek"

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  2. Jeff,
    I'd love to talk with you more about the process. You can definitely email me at laurensara@gmail.com. I will be traveling for the next 2 weeks and am not sure what my internet connection will be like while I am away. If I can't get back to you while I am traveling I will respond when I return! I look forward to talking to you... something will come together for you! :)
    Lauren

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  3. This is awesome! I am an international school teacher in China getting my masters in school counseling, and once I do I'll be the school counselor. It's fun to see your blog!

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    1. That's great to hear!! I am glad you found it!

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  4. Hello Lauren. We oddly have a lot in common. I am also fairly new to blogging, and I am about to start my international school career...as a School Counselor. I also 'got hired' by contacting schools directly as opposed to attending a recruitment fair. My husband was online searching for my blog but somehow ended up at yours. I would love to connect with you. My blog is http://schoolcounselornomad.blogspot.com/ and coincidently my most recent post is about transitions. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    -B

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    1. Brittney,
      Wow!!! We really do have a lot in common! That's so funny how you found me. Can't wait to catch up on your posts!!
      - Lauren

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  5. OMG I stumbled upon your blog as I follow Danielle Schiultz's school counselor blog. I was so excited to know exactly what you are talking about as I moved from MN and taught at ACS Cobham!!!! I absolutely loved it and teaching overseas is unbelievable. I was an art teacher at Cobham in the middle school? I am back in the states and actually moved back to go to grad school to become a school counselor. My friend Anna Wright works at TASIS in college counseling. I look forward to following your blog!

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    1. Becky,
      What a small world!!! We have quite a few connections. How long ago were you at Cobham?
      Thanks for reading and hopefully I will post more soon!!
      - Lauren

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  6. Hi! Awesome blog. I ran into your blog via schoolcounselorcompanion.blogspot.com. I am from the States and into my 2nd year as the school counselor @ Tashkent International School in Uzbekistan. My school counseling blog is http://tiscounselorscorner.blogspot.com. Personal blog is http://uzbekvette.tumblr.com. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures. :)

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    1. Thanks for the message! I am definitely enjoying reading your blog, especially the posts and resources on transitions. Seeing sunny, beachy, photographs on your tumblr is making me very jealous right now!

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  7. Love your blog! Can't wait to read more - I am just starting my career as a school counselor (after being a teacher for 11 years) and found myself saying the same thing as you in terms of wanting to be a counselor vs. a teacher. Im inspired by your move overseas...could be in my future, too!

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  8. Jennifer,
    Thanks so much for reading! Let me know if you want to talk more about how to get the process of relocating overseas started. We are loving working in international schools and living in Europe! Best of luck as you begin your new career and keep in touch along your journey.
    Lauren

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  9. Great blog! I am currently studying a Master's Degree in Social Work. After I graduate I will then move forward with becoming a registered clinical social worker (can do all that a counsellor can do/apply for same jobs) in Canada. Can someone with this educational background work at an international school? thoughts? anyone?

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  10. Thank you!! The head of each international school and the divisional principals will decide who they want to hire for school counselling positions. That being said it is possible that they would hire candidates who have their masters in social work. If you had several years experience, a great resume and references they might hire you over someone with their masters in school counseling with less experience who isn't as good a fit. It is definitely possible, just depends on the other people applying and the opinion of those hiring. Hope this answers your question. You can always email me if you want to talk more, laurensara@gmail.com
    Best of luck!!

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  11. Everyone is talking education these days.International schools are growing very faster now a days.It gives excellent education to the students. It gives good opportunity to improve the students career life.
    International Schools in Bangalore

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  12. After working only in public schools in the United States I always thought that I would continue to work in the public school system. Working in an international school has really showed me a different perspective. I see an enormous amount of opportunities and experiences that are available to students and staff at international schools. I think at this point it would be a huge transition for me to go back to work or put my own children one day through public schools. This experience has certainly changed my thoughts!

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  13. Hi Lauren!
    I am in the process of getting my masters in School Counseling in Louisiana. I have been looking for international opportunities after graduation and stumbled upon your blog. I graduate in about a year and plan to apply for any positions available through ACS. Do they require 2 years of experience before hiring?I will have 1 1/2 years worth of experience from my school internship setting after graduation... Is that enough to be considered? Thanks for your help!

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  14. Holly,
    How exciting! Not much more to go before you have your masters!! From my experience, most of the international schools that we looked at expected a minimum of two years experience. I know how valuable the internship experience can be but I think most schools are looking for two years of working experience as a full time school counsellor. Hope this helps! If you have more questions you can always email me directly at laurensara@gmail.com.
    Lauren :)

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  15. International schools gives good and quality education to the students and giving good knowledge about the education.IB Schools in Bangalore

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  16. Hi Lauren,

    I am a teacher at an international school in Bangkok and I stumbled on your blog while looking for resources about international school counsellors. I have my bachelors in psychology and am looking into getting my masters, thinking of international education. From your experience, what are the requisites for being a school counselor for an international school. Is a counseling masters essential? I like teaching but when I think of a long term goal, this is where my passion lies and I would really like to start learning more about the process.

    Thanks for your reply and I look forward to reading more about your blog and keeping up with your success! cheers!

    ellie
    onedayilfllyaway.com

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  17. Ellie,
    So glad that you stumbled on my blog!!
    Although I have my masters in school counseling I have found that it is not essential for finding an international school counseling position. Some international schools, especially in the UK (where there are no school counselors in British schools) do not have this requirement. That being said I feel that getting your masters in school counseling really is the best preparation for this position. I know that some programs can be long and expensive, for me the time and money was well worth it. My masters program was two years and my internships were so helpful for me! I can't speak for other countries but will reach out to school counsellors I know to find out more about the qualifications at their schools. If I get more feedback I will definitely let you know.
    I LOVE my position and feel so lucky to have a job that I am happy to go to every single day (ok, most days)! I am happy to talk more so let me know if you have more specific questions or if you want to skype or anything. I'd love to ask you about a thousand questions about your journey so far. I have loved reading your blog so far and look forward to reading more about your adventures. Thailand is top on my holiday list, so I might be messaging you soon with questions...
    Thanks again for messaging and I would say follow your passions but it looks like that is the life you are living! Please let me know if I can help in any way.
    Lauren

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  18. Hi there,

    I just found your blog and found it very interesting. I just returned from a 2 year international counselling job in the United Arab Emirates. I am now doing my masters in counselling psychology in Canada. The school I worked at was from kindergarten to grade 12 and served mostly expats. It was a challenging but amazing experience. If your looking for information on the UAE just let me know! x98ckf@yahoo.ca I will write more of my thoughts after I finish this masters paper! Deadline is getting close!

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    1. I am glad you discovered my blog! Sounds like you had an incredible opportunity working in the UAE. I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts and experiences once you get a break in your masters program! Best of luck and thanks again for reaching out!
      Lauren

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  19. Hello Lauren!

    I am blown away by your blog and the opportunity you have had to work as a school counselor in the UK! I am currently a second year school counseling student in the state of Washington and I am very interested in counseling abroad once I complete my program. My fiance is also in education and works now as a high school science teacher and coach. I was curious as to how many years you have been working abroad? Do you plan to remain in the UK professionally? Do you enjoy your career in the UK more than the positions you held in the US? Curious :)

    Tiara

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    1. Tiara,
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! If you asked me ten or even five years ago if I thought I might end up living and working in London I would have laughed at you. Even making our move over here I don't think we really had intentions to stay longer term. Now, I'm in love with my life here and I absolutely LOVE my job. So, that being said I am not quite sure where the wind will take us. For now we couldn't be happier so we will just take it one year at a time... you never know where you might end up!
      As far as comparing my position in the UK to my position in the US I can send you more personal information about that. Send me your email address and I will gladly have more of a dialogue with you about my experiences near and far!
      I also have some tips for you and your husband if you are making an international move as a teaching couple. :)
      Lauren

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  20. I really appreciate the information you provided and it gives me hope for finding a better international position that the one I currently hold. I am working as a counselor at a college in Qatar. This will be my third academic year with the school, but I am looking for a change and a better fit.

    I tried clicking on the link for the "list" of accredited international schools, but it does not work. Would it be possible for you to email it to me?

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    1. Tessa,
      I am sorry to hear that you haven't found your dream job, yet. Your experience so far is what you need under your belt to move on to bigger and better. Trust me it's out there!
      I noticed that the CIS international school list is under construction at the moment http://www.cois.org/page.cfm?p=1262 It says to check back in for updates, so hopefully that will be finished soon.
      ISS does have their list posted though so you can check that out at https://www.iss.edu/schools/explore--list
      Hope that helps and best of luck to you as you continue on your journey!
      Lauren

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  21. Skype treatments can not be made to do something that they would not be comfortable doing. Treatments require the sub-conscious mind to agree with decisions made by the conscious to be healthier. The sub-conscious is responsible for (80% of the Mind in charge of all emotions and functions of th body such as breathing) and the conscious mind (20% of the mind in charge of logic and all decisions).

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  22. Hi Lauren- I stumbled upon this while looking up international school counseling opportunities- I graduated last Spring with my Master's in counseling and also have a degree in elementary education. I wasn't able to get a job in the DC area as a counselor for this school year but was thinking of pursuing an international opportunity for next year. I have 10 years work experience in teaching and working at an honor society (visiting colleges and working with students, etc), so I am wondering if in your opinion that would amount to the 2 years experience you mentioned they look for? Obviously this can only be determined by an actual head of school, but figured I'd ask anyway! Thanks so much for writing this blog!

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  23. Education is the key for success these days. International schools in Bangalore are growing very faster now a days. It gives excellent education to the students. It gives good opportunity to improve the students career life.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Lauren, I am glad I read your blog today. I work as a school counselor in Istanbul, Turkey and I am Turkish. I studied at a university here at Psychological Counseling and Guidance Deparment and had my master's degree at the same department but in an international university in Turkey in English. I worked as a psychological cou─▒nselor at a university counseling center for 4 years and than worked for a high school for three years and now I work for another high school for 1,5 years. I was always an international person and have lots of international friends and I love travelling and learning about different cultures. I wanna live abroad at least for a while. I am impressed by your experience and actually this gave me a courage to search for it. When you talk about school counseling, I am curious if we talk about the same thing? Is it mostly vocational counseling or psychological help? Do you think I may have a chance at an international school? pelin.saya@gmail.com is my e-mail, I would appreciate if you help me in any way. I will also check the links you mentioned here but as I am not american I am not sure how will this work for me. Thank you very much, hope to hear from you :)

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  25. Hi Lauren!! I hope it is okay if I email you with some questions. I am currently in my master's program for counseling in North Carolina. Saw you used to work in North Carolina, what city? My dream is to work at an international school in any part of Europe but would really love some advice/guidance on how to go about this. Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks for the blog posts!

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