When I was 25 I decided I wanted to teach abroad. I started investigating the choices I had and discovered an entire world I knew existed, but had zero knowledge of.
International schools start hiring in the fall and aim to be done by the end of January. Most hire from the international school educator pool, as teachers stay anywhere from 2-7 years at one school before moving to their next location. What positions they don’t fill through networking, they fill at international school job fairs.
Given that I began my research in January, and I’m not one to make a fast decision, I decided to explore the Latin American teaching world for the next 6 months, start my international teaching profile over the summer, and sign up for two job fairs for the fall and winter.
All of this to say how I found myself in Georgia, Atlanta in December sitting in the opening session for the AASSA international school job fair.
Mark, the coordinator of the job fair, ended his opening remarks that first evening with a statement that has carried me through the last near-decade of my life.
“Just remember, when all this is said and done, that you did this to yourself. Some of you will leave here having signed a contract. Some of you will leave here with an offer, or multiple offers. Some of you will leave here without either. Regardless of what happens, you chose this. And if you find yourself abroad next fall, remember that this was all by choice.”
This statement came back to me as my heart beat insanely fast while walking up to my first table to drop off a resume. It came back to me as I interviewed with 7 different schools. It came back to me as I nervously called my mom to tell her I had 5 offers and was deciding to move to Ecuador. It came back to me as tears streamed down my face in the airport, as I sobbed myself to sleep the first night in the hotel school paid for, as I searched for an apartment to live in, as I battled the first two months of overwhelming loneliness, and everytime I had to say goodbye to my family for the next four years.
It came back to me when those goodbyes started to include my then boyfriend at the beginning of each summer break when I’d fly back to the States, when he proposed to me, when we’ve struggled with the stressors (and joys) of having a bicultural marriage, when both our kids were born, when we’ve had to learn (and relearn) how to balance marriage, kids, and work.
It is often easy to dwell on the specific circumstances we find ourselves in, forgetting that we are the ones who chose those circumstances. Any time I find myself overwhelmed, remembering Mark’s words helps me frame my situation in a clearer light. In that reflection, I often realize that I’m the one with the control to make the next choice too. I find the foothold needed to just keep moving forward.