Out of My Comfort Zone

I recently finished Out of My Comfort Zone: Retired Teacher Experiences Living, Working, and Traveling Abroad By: Carol Coffey. I taught with Carol Coffey at JFKS in Berlin, Germany, she’s a friend of mine. Her book is filled with authentic antidotes of her experiences and travels. She shares her challenges and pleasures in adjusting to life in Germany. Some of them will make you laugh while others will make you want to share her experiences.

Carol Coffey Out of My Comfort Zone

Carol during her trip to Tunisia.

Carol Coffey’s book is available on Amazon.com Out of My Comfort Zone: Retired Teacher Experiences Living, Working, and Traveling Abroad

Carol went to Berlin as a fifty-something single woman, embracing expat life after retirement. She did just that, living and traveling for two years in Europe. She traveled throughout Switzerland and Norway, and into the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. She traveled as a single woman through Tunisia and Turkey and cruised along the Nile in Egypt with a group of friends. Her travels took her throughout Germany, and into Italy to explore the coast of the Mediterranean. Through it all she had a sense of humor and a zest for life that will inspire others interested in expanding their lives through travel.

Photo Credit: Amazon

It’s also available on Amazon Kindle Out of My Comfort Zone: Retired Teacher Experiencs Living, Working, and Traveling Abroad

Expat Living, Taking the Plunge for the Third Time

Expat Living

Over the course of my life I’ve lived as an expat for nearly a decade. Last year I made the decision to begin preparations for a year of living overseas.  My initial plan was to spend a year living, traveling and writing throughout Italy and Europe with my dog Tanner. Italy is still my desired landing spot, but other issues have crept in.

European Union Countries and the Schengen Agreement

Within the EU Americans can travel freely for 90 days, BUT at the end of 90 days you must leave all participating EU countries for 90 DAYS before returning. Here is a map showing the Schengen Agreement countries. The only countries not currently participating in the Schengen Agreement are Bulgaria, Romania, the UK, Ireland and Cyprus. In addition there are non EU countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland participating. With pet entry requirements being strict into the UK I have no interest in crossing that bridge. Besides which, I really want to have a stable base (apartment) for Tanner and I to launch our travels from.

Plan B Living as an Expat

My video about embarking on this expat adventure with my dog Tanner.

Expat Adventures


Berlin Cafe


Cafe Anneliese in Berlin

After much consideration, research and energy I have decided to go the route of living as an expat again. The reality is that I want to live and work overseas and I want to do it with my dog in a desirable location. Given the above limitations I’m focusing on Plan B, living as an expat. Both plans have pros and cons, no question about it, but I’m happy with my choice. This choice will offer me a job I enjoy, additional income, an apartment to base my travels from and, a stable environment for Tanner. It will also provide the opportunity to travel extensively overseas for one to two years.

Visas and Work Permits

These are,  in my opinion the two biggest stumbling blocks travelers face, when finding a way to experience expat living. No question about it, if you want to be legal (and I do) these two are critical and they can be a real pain in the butt. As I began searching for overseas jobs I considered Language Schools, knowing those would allow me some flexibility. Then I began finding that (at least in Italy) Language schools don’t want to sponsor your visa or your work permit. According to the website for the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C. your employer MUST sponsor your visa and work permit.

When I was living as an expat in Germany it was simple, efficient and painless. I’m certain a lot of that had to do with the efficiency of the German government and the German American school I taught for in Berlin. Regulations to live and work in Germany.

So What’s a Woman to Do?

Go with what you know, is my best suggestion. In my case that means finding a teaching position with an International School in a location I love. There are multiple ways to do this. In my opinion the best way to tackle this task is to use a recruitment agency. Having lived as an expat previously I’m familiar with the process of using a recruitment agency; I highly recommend it.

The Three Main Recruitment Options For Overseas Teaching Within the U.S

Search Associates

International School Services

University of Northern Iowa


Search is the agency I prefer. I have also used ISS (International School Services) and they offer great services for prospective teachers, much like Search Associates. They were well organized and there were directors from around the world in attendance. So why do I prefer Search Associates?

In my own experience attending fairs through both agencies I felt that the ISS job fair was impersonal and too large. In contrast I felt that my Search Associate cared about my success and happiness. He took the time to mentor me and discuss the three offers I received and to guide me in making a decision. (I listened to his opinion and eventually after much deliberation I accepted the job he recommended in Berlin.) His insight and opinion were spot on, I was happy with my job, the school and the support of the community and administration. My other job options were in Sumatra and Venezuela.

If I had the time I would try UNI this time around. I have heard excellent remarks from both administrators and teachers about this recruitment fair. It is held each year in Iowa. Directors from all over the world attend this fair to hire teachers. It offers excellent hiring opportunities for teachers.

Other Options For Searching for Overseas Teaching Jobs

TIEonline This website is another excellent option for those searching for international teaching jobs. I mentioned this in a previous post.

In my opinion the sites I’ve listed above are the best options for finding an overseas teaching job in an International School. There are other sites that offer teachers an opportunity to post their resume and search for ESL jobs and Language School jobs. I bought Nomadic Matt’s book, he offers an extensive list of possibilities for those wanting to teach ESL or teach in a Language School. His book is well researched and offers insight that you would otherwise spend a great deal of time  searching out on your own.

There are many options out there for teaching abroad. If you have a degree and teaching experience you are pretty much guaranteed an opportunity to teach overseas. There are great jobs throughout the world, and countries that probably make visa/work permits a thousand times simpler than the EU. It all depends on which destinations appeals to your sense of adventure.

ESL and International School Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

When you spend hours of your precious time searching for ESL or International Teaching jobs you do not want to be scammed. There are some specific steps you can take to protect yourself and to confirm that the ESL job and offer is from an actual Language School, seeking teachers. These same guidelines apply to International Schools.

1. Look up their website, this doesn’t guarantee they are legitimate, but it’s a start in the right direction. Recently there was an International School job scam where unsavory individuals created a bogus website and posed on Skype as a real person, from a real international school. ESL job candidates face the same concerns.

TIEonline is a site I highly recommend.

This website has active job listings from International Schools around the globe. It also offers real contact information for the schools with vacancies. Additionally the site offers articles, information and the option of having your resume online and available to schools heads hiring candidates. A one year (online) membership is $39.

International School of Stavanger Norway’s Experience with Internet Pirates

Recently Dr. Linda Duevel, Director of International School of Stavanger Norway wrote this article for International Schools Review on internet pirates extorting money from candidates.

Tips for Protecting Yourself

1. Google the school and see what you find.

2. Google Map the schools address and see if such an address and business exist.

3. Look for the Director on Linkedin.

Other Tips

Through reading the job forums on ESL sites such as ESL Cafe, TEFL.com and others I have learned tips that these sites recommend.

1. Don’t send money for visas and other expenses.

2. Call the school and confirm that it exists. Talk to someone on the staff and confirm they have an existing ad, hiring teachers.

3. Google the school’s name with the word Scam, see if anything comes up.

4. Contact the website if an employer requests money from you or seems to be bogus.

International Schools Review

This is a great source of information. To have full access to all portions of the site you pay $29 per year. I highly recommend joining if you are searching for a job in an International School. This site offers regular reviews from staff who are working in the schools and who have worked there in the past. Reviewers rate a school in the following categories from 1-10.

1. Academic Integrity of the school.

2 Effectiveness of Administration

3. Director’s involvement in academics.

4. Fair and equitable treatment by the Director and the Board.

5. School has adequate educational materials on hand.

6. Attitude of local community toward foreigners.

7. Cost of living in relation to salary.

8. Satisfaction with housing.

9. Community offers a variety of activities.

10. Availability and quality of local health care.

11. Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel.

12. Extracurricular load is reasonable.

Read and Review

The site allows you to search and read reviews on school heads as well. My rule of thumb is to read many reviews and to read about school heads in all director/school head positions they’ve held. People being vindictive can give a bad review to a school or administrator because they are unhappy. If you see MANY negative reviews pay attention. That is a BIG red flag. If you see one or two negative reviews and many positive reviews then you are likely to have found a good school.

Chldren in costume

epSos.de Flickr

Look For a Pattern

As I said there are always going to be people who complain or say negative things. Look for patterns; does that same school get negative reviews from many people in the same categories? Does that school head have similar negative reviews in other schools? Do you see a pattern of people unhappy with the visa, travel and shipping? That is a critical point so read those comments carefully. Does the school housing get terrible reviews? PAY ATTENTION…you could be living in that next.

My Experience

I faced my own experience with an ESL job scam when I was offered an interview with a school in Italy. I was on to them within a half hour. I googled them, I google mapped their school and I searched for a website. Last I sent a “gentle” email asking some questions. Within minutes I realized it had to be a scam and I contacted the ESL site I was registered with and let them know. Sure enough they’d had another complaint and were investigating the school. In the meantime they’d pulled the schools ad from their site.  Trust your gut, use your head and do your research to avoid ESL and International School Job Scams. There are many great ESL jobs and International Schools out there, so do your homework.