There’s no way to prepare for India. Friends who have traveled or lived here, attempted to paint a picture of what I might experience. People tried to describe it with words, but there’s no way to do that with words. Words help us describe our emotions and our thoughts, but words are inadequate to describe India. You have to experience it. I don’t have a vocabulary that easily explains a hundred different things going on at the same time, matched with how I’m feeling about those exact things all at the same time. There’s so much visual and audible stimulation in every single little city block that after two weeks of traveling along the exact same roads, back and forth, every single day, I still cannot be fully sure of ever where I am. I’m very excited by it and so glad I made the decision to come. I’m very happy. But with that said, it is so chaotic, fast – and yet also, so very slow, and in every possible way my five senses are stimulated to the point I think my head is going to explode some days.
The globalization/modernization/commercialization that has happened in Chennai in the last 4 years is unbelievable according to those who have been here longer. There are modern, technology-driven, high-rise buildings going up everywhere, yet right next door people are sleeping on the dirt and cows are freely rummaging through the trash on the street. People that are disfigured, without limbs or with strange, curious skin afflictions, are left to beg. The highways, sidewalks and train tracks that are being constructed are primarily being built by hand with very little machinery. I’m trying to digest it all. God’s nature is dramatically beautiful through the tropical plants and flowers and the powerful, mighty ocean, yet I watch fishermen, from my 4th floor balcony, come into the grassy area that meets the sandy beach and poop. Right there. How do you prepare for this? I am observing life in the raw: human beings living and making their way. Surviving. It is absolutely incredible.
Because the weather can be so wretchedly winter in northern Iowa during the UNI fair, get a hotel that is close to the convention center, preferably within walking distance. If not within walking distance, get a hotel in Waterloo, not Cedar Falls, even though these two cities are only about 8 miles from one another. Make sure that your Waterloo hotel provides FREE shuttle service to the convention center each day. Live and learn. I did not do this. I preferred to rent my own car and stay in Cedar Falls with a fellow couchsurfer which would have been a wonderful plan had the UNI fair been in the summer and not in the winter.
On Thursday, my plane was delayed out of Chicago because it had to be de-iced. And then it was delayed some more. And some more, which meant I missed my early interview appointment with a wonderful school the evening before the fair started. But it also meant that someone else cancelled their room at a convenient hotel and I got their room when I walked in, begging for mercy, to simply park my rental car in their snow-filled lot.
I was disappointed that the interview had to be rescheduled, but totally relieved to jump into a hot shower and rinse off the stress from driving in wintery conditions. Driving and walking in sub-zero conditions made me reconsider ever living in a place that would experience winters like this. I thought of this as I interviewed over the next couple of days.
Frenzy. Anxiety. Stress. Manic emotions of UP-UP and DOWN-DOWN – all happening within a really short period of time. Really up. Really down. Over and over and over again. These recruitment fairs are not for the faint-hearted.
One of my up-ups was arriving at my message folder in the conference center, at 6:30 am on Friday, and finding yellow slips from three school administrators who wanted to interview with me. Some people arrive and find none. It is a good sign when school recruiters take the first step at the fair and reach out to you. These were in addition to the one interview that I already had scheduled that day. There were an additional three schools that I wanted to interview with and would approach at the Round Robin, in the main conference ballroom, which would begin two hours later.
I had carefully handmade “Ichiro” packets which is a trade-name of a personal PR kit. I left these kits in the schools’ message mailboxes earlier that morning and when I approached their tables in the Round Robin, they all seemed to know me and told me they loved my packet. Another up-up. In fact, one of the recruiters told me they showed my Ichiro to the UNI staff and told them they should give me a prize for having the BEST “Ichiro”. Another up-up.
The Round Robin was the most hectic thing I’ve ever been through. Vague memories of being in college, before there were computers, waiting in long lines to schedule for classes, getting to the front, finally, and finding that the class you really needed just filled and you would have to start over and re-arrange your entire schedule. This was a very similar situation. It is very important (I can’t stress this enough) to REALLY prioritize the schools you would want to work for. Know this in advance of approaching this large, crowded room. If a map of the ballroom is provided, know where those schools are, have them circled in advance on the map. When the doors open, practically run for the schools’ tables who left you yellow slips. After that high-tail it to your prioritized schools. There is NO TIME to stand there and figure out what schools you might like to work at. All this needs to be done in advance. As you approach a table, notice the length of the line. If it is long, a quick decision has to be made: is it better to stand in this line or let that school go, and move on to the next priority school? Quick decisions have to be made constantly and mental exhaustion caused me to leave the room entirely to regroup for a few minutes. It all happens very, very fast. The decision I arrived at, in those few, precious moments of quiet, was to let the remaining, bottom priority schools go. Don’t even approach them. I couldn’t take it; my nerves were frazzled. What I had was a total of five interviews scheduled and that was enough.
All of my interviews went really well, but there were two in particular that were spectacular! One of those schools scheduled a second interview for the following day and I was encouraged. The five schools I interviewed with represented these countries: India, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela. Before I went to bed on Friday night I talked with my mother, my daughter and several friends about many thoughts running through my head. The decision I made, as I fell to sleep, however, was focused on one school in particular. If I was not offered a contract to that school, then I would likely turn down offers made from the other schools, because there are other schools that I am interested in talking to next week at the SA/Cambridge Fair in Boston. When I walked to the conference center on Saturday morning, and approached my message mailbox, I found two yellow slips from other schools requesting another interview.
In the end, the one school I was most interested in offered the contract to my one competitor, two schools told me that they wanted to continue their search in Cambridge and I chose to let the other schools go in anticipation for Cambridge. So, I didn’t get a job – -yet. My heart is good and I’m encouraged. I checked out of the hotel, drove to my sweet couchsurfers’ home in Cedar Falls, went out for pizza and beer. She and her roommate and boyfriend are wonderful. She gave me her lovely bed. I slept so well. I awoke to the sun shining, birds singing and an email from a school who wants to interview next week at SEARCH Associates in Cambridge. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
I loved The Clash. In the early 1980’s, their sound and energy penetrated the rebellious age of punk all over my college campus. Not only did the British punk movement influence me to chop off my hair and dye it pink, I also got my ear double pierced, grew a “tail” that reached to the middle of my back and attempted to get a pink flamingo tattoo on my tummy. (As it turned out, the tattoo store was closed and I never got the nerve up again to go back. Thank heavens!) The Clash’s screaming, jumping and body slaming dance moves resinated with the questions I was asking myself about my life’s decisions. Their lyrics summed up many of my college experiences: Should I stay in my relationship or should I go? Should I continue waitressing or should I go? Should I stay with my roommate or should I go? Should I do an “all-nighter” in the art department or should I go?
Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
This rendition is by Sergio Lourenco:
I also wore a button on my backpack that said, “I Want It All.” Although the button is long gone, the philosophy stays with me. My life has been filled with blessing upon blessing. I am rich with experiences and I am grateful, but I want more. Not more, in terms of money or possessions, more in terms of living true, loving more and experiencing adventure. I want to know more people, from all different backgrounds and cultures. I want to fall in love with the entire world. I want to feel spiritually and physically alive through once-in-a-lifetime adventures and service. I want to be more authentic, sharing my gifts with the world.
So now, years later, I’m asking the same question: Should I stay or should I go? This time, I’m talking about my job, the Dallas art scene, my home in Texas and my country. I’ve been exploring how to combine my love of teaching with my love of adventure and travel. Teaching art in an international school may be my way to do that.
• There is a registration fee which includes participation in recruitment fairs for a specific period of time. (Fees shown are for single individuals. Married teaching teams may have different pricing.)
UNI = Individual/$150
ISS = Individual/$185
SA = Individual/$200
• In order to register you must hold current certification as an elementary or secondary teacher
• Candidates who are single with no dependents, or married candidates who are part of a certified teaching team are most successful
• Most schools prefer to hire teachers with a minimum of two years relevant teaching experience
• Due to visa restrictions, many schools cannot hire teachers over 60 years of age
• Many schools offer contracts on-site during recruitment fairs that are held in various cities across the globe
This overseas placement service has worked with certified educators, year round, since 1976. Additionally they offer an annual recruiting fair and referral services for all levels of educators, in all subject fields. UNI does not charge placement fees to either candidates or recruiting schools. I’ve been told that there are typically around 20 art vacancies each year. I’ve also been told that, typically, there are more overall vacancies posted at the UNI Fair than there are educators to fill them. According to the forums I’ve read, most people really enjoy their experience at the UNI Fair. For many, the only complaint is the weather.
For the past several years I’ve tracked available art positions that were made known to UNI and these are some of the results:
The 2012 Fair had 23 openings in art in various countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, UAE, Morocco, Costa Rica, Thailand, India and Venezuela.
The 2011 Fair had 22 art vacancies and included many countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico and Egypt.
The 2010 Fair had 22 art vacancies in schools located in countries such as China, Egypt, Qatar, Guatemala, Korea, Israel, UAE, Greece and others.
The staff at UNI are friendly and helpful to work with. I’ve emailed them many times over the past few years with an assortment of questions. I recently asked why they thought their recruitment fair was unique and why they felt their recruitment company is “the best”? I wanted to know what the advantages would be of my choosing to be represented by their firm over the others? I was also curious to know if they offered incentives that other firms did not. The response I received was this:
“We are unique in the fact that we are the only university in the country that has an event like this – the other recruiting events are put on by companies. So we have a very unique advantage to be cost effective as a non-profit so a variety of different schools attend our event. We have the large schools that will be recruiting through multiple organizations but also very small schools that only come to us.”
Other teachers, who teach internationally, have told me that UNI is somewhat physically difficult get to in February, when they hold their annual recruitment fair. There’s always a chance of blizzard, making it nearly impossible to get to northern Iowa or back home again afterward. When I inquired about this, the staff at UNI agreed that chances of storms in the Midwest are possible in February. However, during the past UNI fairs, there has only been one storm that affected a large amount of people. The altered transportation schedules had more to do with conditions in Chicago and Minneapolis airports than with northern Iowa. Yet, it is cold, especially for warm blooded Texans. As I understand it, there are coat racks at every entrance for people to use as they stand in line for interviews. Brrrrrrrrr……..
So, should I stay or should I go? Teaching overseas is not for everyone but according to a forum entry I recently read, “Do your homework about schools and jump on for the ride. There is nothing more exciting.”
Would anyone be willing to share knowledge about living/teaching overseas?
Have a dose of what life is really like living here – from Turkish in 1000 easy lessons to learning the secrets to making the perfect kebab! Highs or lows this is our random observations from the melting pot of crazy that is my life in Mersin.