As I said previously, our first international teaching job came about more by luck than by judgement. I was already looking on TES Jobs for positions in the UK and one evening, feeling particularly fed up, I clicked on the international section out of curiosity. Had things been better at home, I think it would have stayed in the wishful thinking pile. Alongside our favourite long distance car journey game of ‘what would you do if you won the lottery!’
As it was, China seemed like the perfect option so I applied. Of course I wouldn’t actually get the job. We wouldn’t really go! It just provided us with an escape plan, a secret escape plan. We dreamed of the salary, the saving opportunities, the travel opportunities and went about our Christmas holidays as usual.
Of course, I was then invited for a Skype interview. I was terrified.
It turns out that SLT in international schools are indeed pretty normal human beings. And that aside from internet connection issues and time zone differences, Skype interviews are kind of ok. If you have internet connection issues, which is quite likely if one of you is in China, then it’s awful as I would later find out, but that first chat was fine.
It is standard to have a couple of Skype interviews, possibly one with an SLT member and one with the relevant HoD. Then, if the school is interviewing at a recruitment event you might then be invited for a face to face meeting. This is what happened to me. I enjoyed my day trip to London and although the interview was tough in places I did well. I received a life changing phone call a day later and that was that. We had agreed to move to China!
After signing initial contracts, I was emailed a very comprehensive document called the New Staff Onboarding Checklist. It seemed scary to me and involved collecting a variety of documents from police checks to legalised copies of every certificate I’d ever been given. I needed to pay for letters from the doctor for each of us stating we were fit to work overseas and we began to investigate additional vaccinations that might be sensible.
All in all the collection of documents was time consuming and expensive. But the school did provide us with the information we needed and the checklist was helpful.
Trying to figure out the visa requirements for China was a nightmare. We tried to find guidance online and failed, so we always said we would write our own guidance to share with others in the same situation. After living in China for almost 2 years, I think I understand why the guidance doesn’t exist. It would be outdated almost immediately, as the goalposts move so often and without warning. The one tip that we did read about which paid off was to send our visa applications by post to the office in Edinburgh where it was supposed to be a quicker turn around. We’ll never know if that is actually true but we’ve found them to be very helpful.
Once all of the paperwork was sorted, it was time to tackle what my mom and I came to call The Big Move. How would we decide what to sell, what to give away, what to take and how to get it there?