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Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunset

Teachers tend to research every aspect of a situation.  We can’t help ourselves, we like being prepared.  So, it’s no big shock that regardless of how excited we are about our new posts overseas, many of us also look for the ugliness.

When I first read the term ‘runners’ in expat blogs, I honestly thought the conversation was all about jogging.  Eventually, I realized what was being discussed were those who broke their contracts mid term without officially resigning.  The reasons for doing this are as varied as our reasons for applying for these jobs.  I don’t personally know any runners (although I have read some of their posts), and I have yet to set foot in my new school in my new country, so I honestly do not yet know what it’s like “over there.”

What I do know is running hurts everyone and accepting an offer to work in the UAE should not be taken lightly.  Yes the money and benefits are good, the travel opportunities are amazing, the lifestyle is intriguing.  These are all wonderful things, but we are being hired to teach the country’s children and we’re expected to do this within their parameters and cultural norms.  Our home countries expect the same of their teachers, as do we as parents.

Before accepting my offer, I really thought about what I was committing to. I asked myself some tough questions, mostly about my adaptability and ways of coping outside of my comfort zone.  I broke out into a cold sweat thinking about some of what could go wrong, but I needed to because, like most teachers, I do not want to shortchange my students (or myself for that matter).

So, I reached out to teachers who are working in the UAE.  I emailed people I have only met online, and I was surprised at their candor.  Some of the persons that I reached out to posted responses in public forums; some emailed me privately.  All were happy to share their experiences and all but one said they would do this again. They cautioned that it’s because they’ve learned a new level of open mindedness and flexibility and in return they’ve grown within their new culture.  They stressed how valuable it is for us to learn as much as we can before arriving. Over researching and asking too many questions is a good thing, so that we can better prepare ourselves for the journey ahead —- and we can do well by our students.  It also helps to weigh the pros and cons of the situation and to know how much you are prepared to deal with them.

So, go ahead and try to contact those teachers you don’t know, email your recruiters and buy those books about the UAE. One key thing to keep in mind is that someone else’s experience is not necessarily what yours will ultimately be when you are in a similar situation. Prepare, do the research, keep an open mind and trust yourself with the information that you have at your disposal.

Finally, with every new situation there will be favorable and unfavorable circumstances. This is true regardless of whether you are in your own country or not. Work on building a good network of people that you can rely on for advice before you get to the UAE. Our personal and professional goals are interlinked with our decisions to work abroad, so let’s make the best of it. Most importantly, make sure this is the right move for you because none of us wants to be a runner, unless it truly is for the cardio.