Because where you rest your head at night and where you spend your time while not working are important, we’re going to discuss the types of accommodation you may be offered when accepting a job teaching overseas. It’s important for your emotional wellbeing and makes your time there much more pleasant if you have a living environment that suits you.
Therefore, make sure your living arrangements are clear and you’ve accepted them before you leave. Many inexperienced overseas teachers going on their first trip might trust it will be Ok, and be glad to have the offer of a job, but the accommodation might not be what you expect and that can make you miserable and homesick.
Check with the school what the living arrangements are, as they can vary enormously.
Ask questions such as:
1. Is accommodation included
You might assume it is, and this is normally mentioned but best to check. Sponsored staff in international schools will normally be given accommodation or an accommodation allowance as part of their expatriate relocation package. If you’re being given an allowance, there won’t be a property ready for you to move into, which is daunting for a first timer moving away. The allowance means you have a choice of which location to move to and the type of property you want. You’ll pay your own rent and have your own landlord but you might have to top up the rent if you choose a nice place outside of that allowance – your choice. It usually works out cheaper to have accommodation included, and they may ask you to pay bills or deduct some utility costs from your salary. This means it’s up to the individual whether their main priority is to save money, in which case, accept a job with accommodation included, or if you want a choice, take the allowance. Not all schools will give you the choice of either, you may have to accept one or the other. So make sure you’re clear on the offer from the school.
For language schools, there is likely to be no accommodation included but the school might help you find somewhere to live. In this case, be clear on the costs of local housing as ESOL teachers are often paid less and you need to be able to afford the rents.
2. Is it shared?
Some schools (I worked in one) expect their professional teachers to share accommodation. I lived in a 4 bed villa with 3 other housemates! This may or may not be acceptable for you so be clear on this before you go. I was told there would be 1 or 2 other housemates, but no, it was 3. I would say most international schools give teachers their own apartments which usually have 2 bedrooms and are furnished. The standard can vary tremendously though, which is why you need to…
3. Ask to see photos
Nothing wrong with this! Ask to see photos of what the housing looks like so you can see how modern it is and what’s included. Then you’re more in a position to decide if you’d be happy there.
4. What’s the location and proximity to the school?
Some schools have their own housing on-site and the school owns the buildings. This may mean you feel like you’re at work even on the weekends! But it does mean it’s a short trip to work and back, and there’s a lot to be said for that! Most schools don’t own their own buildings but use private landlords who they pay directly. This means the properties could be anywhere in the city and may or may not be close to the school. This brings me to another point on transport…
5. Is transport included?
Some schools provide a minibus which picks the teachers up in the mornings and drops them back in the afternoons, and some don’t. You may have to find your own transport or buy a car if it’s not walkable. Sometimes even if it’s walkable, you can’t due to weather extremes in hot countries or poor roads and pavement infrastructure. You may or may not have to pay for your transport so definitely worth checking what’s included.
6. What kind of property is it and number of bedrooms?
You’ll definitely need to know this if you’re relocating with a family. Some schools only employ single teachers so they can put them in their apartments, and some are more flexible, providing houses or villas for families to live in. This is particularly for teaching couples and if the school is providing schooling for your children. Make sure you check who your school is willing to provide visas for – if it’s just you or the whole family as you’ll need to be housed accordingly. In the Middle East, it’s common for expats to live in compounds (gated communities) which are usually very nice and have many amenities on site. They will often have a website you can look at in advance.
7. Does it accept pets?
You may not think of this, but many people now have cats and dogs and refuse to travel without them. It’s possible that this might be an option for you to be housed in a property that will accept your pets. It also may not be an option so be clear on this before accepting the job or negotiate with the school on the type of housing you need. You will be responsible for the costs involved with transporting your pets as I’ve not heard of a school willing to do this.