If you’re one of the many considering a post overseas, you’ll find umpteen vacancies over in our International Zone, plus tons of tips on preparing for the big move. But nothing beats hearing what it’s really like from candidates who have already taken the plunge. Following on from our interview last month with Jo Short, who is about to jet off to Kuwait to begin a job in the sun, this month we speak to Louise Padfield, who is teaching a Year 4 class at an international school in Nigeria.
First of all, could you tell us where you’re teaching now?
I am currently teaching a Year 4 class at Famaks International Schools, Asokoro, Abuja, Nigeria. www.famakschools.com
Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like?
It’s a school that follows the British National Curriculum. Therefore the teaching is very similar to teaching in the UK. We use all British books and resources. The only difference in the timetable is that the pupils learn French. They also have Big Writing on a Friday after break, and social studies lessons every week – about how Nigeria is changing and its history. I have PPA when the pupils are with their specialist teacher. The pupils have specialist teachers for French, art, ICT, music and PE. However because I specialise in PE I occasionally take my class for this. I have a teaching assistant in my class: she’s a Nigerian lady, and she is in my class everyday. She teaches the pupils social studies and I am her mentor. The other difference is that I’ve only got only 22 pupils in my class rather than 30+ as would be the norm in Britain (I’m working in a private school, so this may be different in public schools in Nigeria).
What are the major plus points?
There are a few plus points: the number of pupils in my class, as I mentioned above; the money is tax free and I have free accommodation and my own car; and I was given a laptop upon arrival, and have free internet access. My only outgoings are for food and petrol, and I get two meals a day in school. I manage to live on £350 a month and still eat out regularly and go clubbing at least once a week.
And the minus points of teaching overseas?
The bugs are definitely a minus point! They get everywhere. I have now got a good aim and you learn quickly to shut the doors straight after you. We do have issues with electricity in Nigeria: there is nothing worse than being in the middle of cooking dinner, or being in the shower, or in the middle of teaching – while using the interactive whiteboard and the electricity goes off. It is very annoying and you never get used to it.
Can you tell us a bit more about the place?
I live in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. It is safe here but there are some areas of Nigeria where safety is an issue. There is a Hilton Hotel where I go on weekends to sunbathe, and there are a lot of expats here so it is easy to meet people who have similar interests. There are lots of markets and you have to learn to haggle on the price for things. You can buy British foods, but not everywhere – and they are expensive. You have to be careful where you eat. There are many good restaurants and takeaways in Abuja, you just have to find them.
I think you were previously working in the UK: what are the major differences?
In Britain I had just graduated from university (July 2009). I was volunteering in a special needs school, and was then employed by them as a special support assistant. I was working with autistic children aged 3-19. SEN in Nigeria is not taught in the same way. The deputy head teacher and I are trying to implement a SEN policy for the school at the moment so we are hoping it will be successful. SEN doesn’t have such a high profile in Nigeria as it does in the UK and there are cultural differences in attitudes towards SEN.
Can you tell us why you decided to teach overseas, and the application process?
I had always wanted to travel, so I searched on Eteach and applied for all the schools abroad that were accepting NQTs. I had two interviews and was successful in both; I chose Nigeria because it was the better option at the time for me. I will not say that it has been easy to move abroad. It was hard and at times very upsetting. I am very glad that I came, although I have decided to return to Britain at the end of this term because I wish to complete my NQT year.
I wrote a covering letter about my experience and interests, attached my CV and emailed all of the schools. After a day or two, I was emailed back by the headteacher with questions for me to answer. He wanted to be sure that I had thought it through; he encouraged me to do more research and gave me the email address for a teacher who had already moved from Britian and was teaching in the school. He also asked me if I had any questions. He then emailed me with a choice of days and times to have my interview. It was all very quick.
I had my interview over the phone. It cut out twice so they had to ring me back! After the interview I had an email three days later saying that I was successful. I then received the contract – make sure that you read this well and do not sign until everything you want is in writing. I then signed and emailed it back. After a day I received all the information I needed to acquire my visa.
Ten days later I was on the plane to Nigeria. When I arrived in Nigeria, a man met me before customs and took me through, He then got my luggage and the director of the school came to pick me up. I was taken to my house and they helped me move in. I was introduced to the two teachers I was living with.
Would you recommend teaching overseas to others (and if so, why?)
I would only advise people to move to Nigeria if they have the support of their family and friends as I did, and if they are willing to accept the significant cultural differences that exist. Then they can enjoy the things that the country offers. I am glad that I did my research and that I was prepared.
What was it like, using Eteach International to find your placement?
Eteach made the application very easy; the website is simple and clear.
Would you use Eteach again?
I am currently using Eteach to find a job for when I return to the UK. I have recommended the International Zone to friends who have also got jobs abroad.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just always remember:
· You can never do enough research.
· Get everything in writing.
· There are places in Britain where you will not walk alone at night – it is the same here.
· Contact other expats to make friends.
· Keep to your contract.