The Challenges of an International Teacher – Life, Love and Work
As an expat psychotherapist living in Delhi, and working with expats both here and around the world with Skype, I see countless numbers of international teachers in my practice. Most of these educators love their job and are excellent at what they do. And most of them are women, no surprise. I am usually contacted by two different groups who face the challenges of an international teacher- life, love and work.
The first group are single women in their 30’s who feel their biological clock ticking and are having challenges meeting appropriate men abroad, particularly, but not limited to those teaching in third world countries. A subset of this group has been in a long distance relationship, sometimes for years, trying to maintain love from afar.
As any international educator knows, teaching in an international school is typically extremely demanding in terms of time. There is not always a lot of time and energy left over to go out and meet new people. In most international schools, there is a built-in supportive community. This is fine for married teachers, especially those with young children, but difficult for singles. Most of this community tends to be either other single women or couples. The field of education in general attracts fewer men than women, and international schools are no exception.
So what can you do if you’re a single woman teaching abroad and love your career but want more out of your life? One thing I counsel single women to do is to find out as much as they can before accepting a post, and specifically to ask if this is a single friendly community or city/country.
This may involve talking with other single female teachers who are working or have worked at the school. Ask if there are expat groups in the area that cater to singles. And if you have a specific interest like hiking, dancing or languages, ask if there are groups formed around your interests. This is not foolproof but it’s a great place to start.
The other group that comes to me for counseling is married women who are experiencing difficulties in their primary relationship. Again, the pressures of international teaching, in addition to raising children, leaves little time left over to prioritize one’s relationship. Yet this is exactly what needs to happen.
In most cases, when one partner comes to me with the primary issues being their relationship, I prefer to see both people for couples’ counseling. If one partner refuses, I will see the partner who is willing to come and we can make some progress this way. But seeing both partners together is ideal.
Sometimes this may involve just a few sessions to get back on track. I can give the couple tools for making their relationship a priority. Simple things like a date night, where they can’t talk about kids or work, or learning to really listen to each other, etc.! We can also work on basic communication tools, which though simple enough, can sometimes be experienced as life altering.
In situations where both partners are teaching at the same school and their children go there as well, the thought of separating can seem especially daunting. This is all the more reason to try to work on the relationship.
It goes without saying that international teaching is a particularly stressful career. It is important to try to find ways to reduce stress by meditating, exercising, finding something to do outside of school that feeds your passion, or learning to relax in other healthy ways.
Remember, that creating a life you love begins with you and is largely an internal process of learning to see the cup as half full instead of half empty. And you are ahead of most people in that you’re already doing work you love!
You can contact us at email@example.com an we’ll be happy touring a free 30 minute session with Dhyan Summers.