Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
Image of Hilary Wilce

The Quandary - 25 Feb 2010

Should I go and work at an international school, or will I end up in an educational backwater?

Hillary's Advice

Mmm, let’s see…It’s February, it’s dreary and damp, and The Times Educational Supplement is full of adverts for teaching jobs in the Middle East and the Caribbean…. What’s not to like about a job that swaps sun and sea for commuting to and fro in winter traffic jams?

If you are genuinely up for it, and prepared to accept that one of the fundamental laws of moving abroad is that coming back is often harder than leaving, then why not? I’ve lived and worked on four continents and know that these years abroad have given me a rich knowledge of the world that I couldn’t have got any other way.

However – there always is an ‘however’ – this comes at a price. By going abroad you may well be stepping off the ladder of your career, and have to work hard to restore this when you get back.

So think very strategically about such a move. In terms of your CV, a job in a high-profile international school is likely to be a safer bet than a stint in a village school in the African Rift Valley. And while one year in the sun could be forgiven as just an adult gap year, a longer spell away might make it harder for employers to take you seriously.

On the other hand, you could end up landing the perfect job just because you have had a particular kind of experience abroad. It’s always going to be a gamble, and only you know whether you want to take it.