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After teaching at an international school, how easy will it be to return to the UK?

There are many reasons a teacher would consider travelling abroad to teach at an international school. International schools can be found in most countries and provide a wonderful opportunity to live and work abroad. 

There is strong demand for certified teachers, especially those that are native speakers and can teach in English. Amongst the top benefits of making such a career move include earning a high salary with generous allowances and benefits, being able to immerse yourself in a different culture, gaining valuable work experience, and getting to use your downtime to explore the region you are in better. 

For many such wanderers, there often comes a time when you will likely want to go back home. As long as you are still a UK citizen, you should be able to return. However, a major concern for many is what this time away could mean for their careers. Here are a few steps that can help as you seek to regain your footing after much time away. 

1. Check If You Can Return

While having valid citizenship should not interfere with your ability to enter the UK, there may be other impediments to your departure. You should ideally start by reviewing your work contract. If you are on a temporary contract, simply check when it ends and notify the school that you do not intend to renew. 

If on a permanent contract, you will need to check on the terms for terminating it, including the amount of notice required. Depending on the country you are in, you may also want to check if there are any possible roadblocks to you leaving. Some countries may have restrictions if you have debts or are embroiled in legal proceedings. 

2. Plan Ahead

Once you have your affairs in order, the next step is to start planning for your return, long before you get on a plane. Thanks to the internet you can easily get started on everything from finding housing to making job applications. You can also update yourself on changes in the education sector that may affect you and even network with old colleagues and potential employers. 

If you intend to follow another path like going back to school, you can start early by checking what colleges offer the qualifications you want and their application process. Try to decide what you want to accomplish and plan ahead. 

3. Culture Shock

Be prepared for some reverse culture shock. Especially if you have been away for a long time and rarely came back home. It can take a while to readjust to even an old environment, especially if you are passionate about immersing yourself in local culture and lifestyles. Your manner of speech and behaviour will likely have altered without you noticing and will make you feel like the odd one out even when back home. 

Even how people treat you will feel different. In many parts of Asia, foreign teachers are highly respected and treated with deference. Once you return to your native country, that special consideration will no longer apply and you will have to adjust accordingly. Even the respect you grew accustomed to from students and their parents may not be quite the same. 

Also, be prepared for the hit to your wallet. One of the perks of teaching abroad is that most destinations offer a much better cost of living. Most parts of the UK are rarely as affordable and you will likely find yourself spending much more on food, housing, transport, and so on. 

4. Take Stock of Your Skills

If you intend to re-join the UK workforce, you will need to take stock of your skills and qualifications to see where you can fit in. You may be restricted to returning to teaching, or may be able to expand your horizons into other career options. 

Look up the local job market to find out what opportunities are available. Many sites allow you to complete online forms that can help match you to vacancies in the area you intend to move to. 

5. Be Flexible

For many returning teachers, there may not be as many opportunities as you would have hoped for. Some subjects like physics and maths do have strong demand, while others do not. It is advisable to be flexible about your career options if your speciality is not well sought after. 

You can opt for one of the career matches on job sites, or even be a supply teacher. This will let you keep in practice as you await a better opportunity. It will also let you become better acclimatised to your new teaching environment. 

6. Apply, Apply, and Apply

This also requires being flexible. Unless you have a strong job prospect, you should try for whatever viable job opportunities present themselves. Apply to as many job matches as you encounter, ensuring that you do not end up having to interview for multiple positions on the same day. 

Ensure that you strengthen your application and resume by collecting good performance reviews and testimonials from wherever you have worked. You can even record classes to better demonstrate your skills. Try to secure strong references like your headteacher and head of the department. 

7. Get Ready for Interviews

If you have been teaching at the same school for a while, chances are your interviewing skills will be a bit rusty. Look up how to prepare for this interaction. Research on the kind of questions to expect and practice how you will respond. Again, update yourself on everything relevant to teaching including changes in curriculum, teaching standards, discipline in schools, and more. Look into the current discussions on both industry-wide and local subjects. 

Teaching abroad can be an exciting and enriching experience. It is however not advisable to go back and forth too many times if you want to advance in your career. If you do not find teaching abroad to be as rewarding as you hoped, return and work on furthering your career back home. If you decide you like it abroad, commit to it and your efforts will bear fruit. You can always opt to return when you retire after a long and fulfilling teaching career abroad.