Friday Five: Back in the USA

Friday Five: Back in the USA

This is my first summer back in the United States since before I moved to Poland. I am excited but I am going to miss my laidback European summers. I won’t be jetting off to Spain for time on the beach and I won’t be walking down the street for ice cream everyday… although maybe that is a good thing! I am excited to be back for the summer though. I am excited to spend time with my family and visit all of my friends. It’s a summer full of transitions and fun… and one small rant about airports! 

One

Welcome Back- O'Hare Chaos

They need some teachers' help

I have landed in many airports over the years and I have gone through passport control in so many places and O’Hare is terrible. To be fair, O’Hare is the only American airport I’ve landed in after an international flight- maybe all other airports are better. I’m about to go on a small (ok…🙄medium) and very justified rant about this now.

The directions aren’t clear going through. The employees are yelling these directions and if you aren’t in the right place at the right time, you miss out. Non-native English speakers are confused and instead of answering any questions, the employees just continue to yell directions. There are like 2 signs with directions and only in English and then you are expected to know what to do. It is like a lesson in the classroom gone horribly wrong.

I am a native English speaker, I am an American, I have been through passport control at O’Hare several times and it still stresses me out to the max every single time.

I feel so terrible for the people who don’t know what to do, try to ask for help, and just have the same directions they didn’t understand the first time screamed at them.

Then the little electronic check-in or whatever is completely unorganized. There is no one directing traffic and machines that are open when you leave the line and walk over aren’t still open when you arrive. Then those machines are very tricky for older people to use and understand which creates more chaos. AND why is there no expedited line for Americans? I am always envious of EU passport holders going through so quickly in Poland or UK passport holders zipping right through in England and I never get to zip through a passport line.

What O’Hare needs is a few teachers who have handled indoor recess duty for days…maybe weeks in a row. Teachers who have had to repeat the same directions over and over in the same way and rewording the directions different ways. Teachers who understand how valuable a meaningful anchor chart can be on the wall. Who know the value of pre-teaching and laying out clear expectations for what is going to happen. They need some teachers who understand that you don’t need to yell louder at non-native English speakers you need to explain things clearly, simply, multiple ways, and allow for wait time. A few teachers in there and the whole mess could be care  straightened out. 

You know what they need, you have the safety video at the start of your flight you should watch a customs video at the end of your flight while the plane is heading to the gate! See, this one teacher figured out a way to calm the chaos. Let me just run this idea by someone in charge of airport security…

After passport control there was a hilarious luggage situation. Several people, myself included, didn’t see their luggage come out. I had 1 out of 4 suitcases! 😲😧Then the baggage employee started… wait, guess what he started to do! YELL! At everyone! Then he called down and announced these exact words…. that I wrote down because I found them so hilarious! “Everyone! Stop talking to me! I AM TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!!!! They have magically found a luggage thingy that wasn’t unloaded. Your bags will be here soon! I don’t know. It is magical! MAGIC!” That last magic was screamed so aggressively I jumped a little! 😂

Once I got outside and saw my mom and brother I was relieved. So relieved I almost broke down in tears. One I had made it back into the US. Two I finally had someone to help me with all of my luggage… and there was a lot of it. 

Two

Adjusting to America

I will not lie and say I have completely adjusted back to being in the US. Reverse culture shock is real! I’ve heard from many expats that re-entry can be just as difficult (or sometimes more so) than leaving. The biggest shock I’ve had to readjust to is how cold my parents keep our house! I haven’t been in air-conditioning in years. My parents don’t actually even have air-conditioning but they have so many fans. The fans are always on and I am always in a sweatshirt under a blanket! I can assure you in a few weeks I will not be complaining about the chill. It’s all about readjusting.

You know what else I have to adjust to? Being so close to a Target. I cannot even tell you how much I miss Target when I am abroad. The times I miss it most are when I need a specific item for my classroom and I know the exact location of it in Target and have I have no idea where to even begin the search for it in Poland. That is the worst! Although I have to admit I am now able to find lots of things in Poland. I have only been to Target once since being home and I have a new personal mantra for when I think about going to Target. “You are poor. You should not go.” It’s working so far but a girl can only hold off for so long! 

A third adjustment is living with my parents again! I’m almost 30 and moving back home after being so independent is an adjustment to say the very least. People (aka my mom and dad) want to know what I am doing at all times. Where I am going? How much money I am spending on things? Why does it take you so long to get ready? 😂The questions just don’t stop! I absolutely love my parents and I am so glad to spend time with them but it’s weird after being so independent.

The good thing about living with your parents is that my mom makes me coffee every morning and brings it to me. AND… you’re not going to believe this! My dad offered to give me his credit card to go to Target… what a brave man! Then immediately told me, just as he did when I was fifteen, that he expects receipts and I am only authorized to buy an HDMI cable. 😂😂Don’t worry, I only purchased the authorized item! 

Three

Sibling Bonding

My youngest brother is the only one currently at my parent’s house. He and I have had a lot of time to hang out. So far we have gone on an adventure to Target (that was no fun because we didn’t even get to aimlessly wander the entire store to buy things we didn’t need) and the grocery store. We’ve watched a lot of Netflix together and have joked around a ton! I think we’re getting on our parents nerves a bit because we like to cause a bit of trouble but it is so great. I do miss the time hanging out with my siblings when I’m not in the US. We purchased an absurd amount of freeze pops (another thing to adjust to- things come in such large quantities) that we will enjoy together. We are currently in intense negotiations about chores at the moment because neither of us want to mow the lawn. But, just like when we were children, it it isn’t mowed when my parents get home from work we’ll be in trouble. 😂We are also planning on purchasing hammocks and putting them up in our parent’s backyard to chill outside! Should be a good summer for the two of us! 

 

FOur

The Cutest Old Lady

I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THIS! This maybe should have been number one but here we are at four. 

I sat next to the cutest, old, Polish lady on my flight! She gives tours in Warsaw and part of one of her tour groups was coincidentally behind us on the plane. She must be a very good tour guide because she promptly put herself in charge of us and guided us through the flight. She pulled out pens when they handed out the border cards which I guess you don’t even have to fill out anymore because it is all digital. 

This is one thing they scream at you as you’re waiting in line.PUT THOSE BLUE CARDS AWAY! I DON’T EVEN WANT TO SEE THEM! SIR, I SAID PUT IT AWAY WE DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. YOU DON’T NEED THOSE! Such high-stress! 

The cards were only in Polish so she helped the ladies behind me fill it out and asked for a card for me. They didn’t give me one because they thought her and I were flying together. Then they still didn’t give me one because I was American and they said I wouldn’t need it. That, thankfully, turned out to be true. 

During the flight she watched the flight screen for the whole trip. I cannot imagine watching that screen for nine hours but she did it. I only checked it when the little boy on the plane would yell out, “only 7 more hours.” Then I would check in on our progress and get antsy about sitting still for so long! She took a little nap and rested her head on my shoulder and I didn’t even mind one bit. 

When I asked if I could get out of our row she told me I had excellent timing. The man on the aisle was also up so I only disturbed her and she doesn’t mind at all. Then she complimented me because I ended up returning from the bathroom before the man on the aisle and she was so impressed with my timing. I explained that I was a teacher and quick bathroom breaks were my thing… she didn’t really understand that but it’s ok! Then every time the man got up she asked if I needed to use the toilet or if I needed a walk around the plane. She was so kind! 

When we landed I explained the electronic passport thing… what is that thing called? to the ladies. Then we stood next to each other in line and I explained how it worked again. They successfully made it through passport control and after picking up her bag she told me to have a wonderful time in the US and gave me a hug. She was heading to North Dakota. I hope she’s having a good time here in the US! 

 

Five

Next Up: Cousins Camping

The Rice family loves nature and the outdoors. My grandma loved birdwatching and the whole family enjoys being outdoors. Cousins camping started a few years ago. Now, I used to go camping a lot but I have not been camping in probably 5-ish years. My vacations have been a bit more glam than camping while in Europe. My sister made it very clear that we are NOT glamping but real camping. 🙄I hope I survive! While you’re reading this I am heading to go camping with all of my cousins. I’ve missed out on a few cousin’s camping weekends while in Poland and I am really excited to get to go to this one. I haven’t seen my cousins in so long and I miss them tons! I haven’t seen them since before I left the US for Poland 3 years ago. I know this weekend is going to be filled with fun shenanigans. I did pick up some Polish vodka in the airport just for this occasion. I have two cousins who are also turning 30 in July so I brought them each back a small gift (read: vodka and a shot glass) to celebrate! Watch out northern Wisconsin, the Rice’s are going to have some fun this weekend! 

How’s your summer vacation going?

What fun things do you have planned?

How do you feel about the airport upon re-entry to the US? 

Is it that stressful everywhere? Is there somewhere worse than O’Hare? 

 

Deciding to Teach Abroad: Should I Go For It?

Deciding to Teach Abroad: Should I Go For It?

In yesterday’s Friday Five I explained how I knew I wanted to teach internationally. I had the itch to travel, to get out of my comfort zone and see the world. I wanted something new. Maybe you’re considering teaching internationally as well. I sat down to write a quick post about what it is like to live and teach in a different country and I accidentally created a whole blog series… I guess it happens! 

This will be the first of many posts explaining the process and a bit more about teaching internationally. I can only speak from personal experience and the experiences others have shared with me. If you have any additional information or ideas to share, please do so in the comments below. I am by no means an expert but I do know a thing or two. 

Making A Choice

Deciding to teach abroad is not one that should be made on a whim. When I decided to move abroad I knew several things going into it. I talked to the people I love deeply and considered their opinions. I spoke to those I knew who taught internationally and gathered their experience. I made a lot of pro/con lists and I considered a lot of options. Hopefully this post can help you reflect on your decision to move into the world of international teaching. 

Disclaimer: I am going to talk about international teaching not teaching English in a foreign country. I am a certified elementary (actually grades 1-8) teacher. I have a degree in education and hold teaching certification. I do not have my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. I teach all of the core subjects and my school operates similarly to schools in the US. There are many schools internationally where you do not need to hold an education license or degree. There are many schools where you can teach English to children. I won’t be talking about those schools. I have never worked at one. Just wanted to give a heads up before we got into it. 

Don't Go!

Let’s talk about all the reasons you shouldn’t go. It is essential to be extremely honest with yourself during the consideration process. If you aren’t you could end up in a world of hurt with no close family and friends around you to help you out. I don’t want any of these things to sound harsh but I do want to be honest about teaching and living abroad. 

You are running from something.

This is perhaps overall general life advice but you cannot run from yourself. You cannot run from your experiences. You cannot run from your problems. You cannot run from your past. You cannot. Moving to a new country doesn’t automatically mean that you’re a new person. Your life doesn’t become suddenly new. It is the same you, the same past, the same problems in a new country. The teachers I have met who moved to run from something are still running. Their experiences abroad have been difficult. They have had big breakdowns with none of the people who know and love them around. Be careful if you want to move abroad to get away from something. 

You are running to something. 

This one might sound strange but I have met so many young teachers who moved internationally to find the partner of their dreams. Perhaps moving for love could be a factor but it shouldn’t be the only factor. Also, dating a new country probably won’t go the same way as dating in your home country. Different cultures have different unwritten rules and expectations for dating. In Poland guys never speak to you at bars. They will not approach you. This can be alarming for some people who moved here to find the partner of their dreams. I’ve talked to a lot of teachers and a lot of young women especially list this as a top reason for moving internationally. Do you date a lot in your home country? Do you put yourself out there? How do you handle rejection and dating in your home country? I wouldn’t say this should be a very high priority on your list. Of course, date while teaching internationally but don’t go international just to date. Ya, feel me?

You’re not independent and don’t like to be alone. 

Let’s be real. There is a lot of alone time when you teach internationally. You have to be independent and able to stand on your own two feet. You have to be able to land in a new country and set up a life for yourself all by yourself. Despite having friends you sort of are all alone. Can you problem solve all by yourself? Are you ok being alone? I don’t necessarily mean lonely but alone. I think those are two different things. 

You have never spent a holiday away from your family or you have never lived far from home. 

Ok, hear me out on this one. Holidays are a big deal for many many people. Traditions live around holidays. Ask yourself if you will be ok not being home for Thanksgiving. What about Christmas? Can you handle your birthday all on your own? Is it ok if you can’t make a family member’s funeral? Wedding? It stinks missing out on lots of family time. But I knew I could handle it. I already skipped Thanksgivings and Easters. I already celebrated my birthday far away from home and I survived. Some people need to be close to family. A very good friend of mine in college explained that some people had wings but she had roots. Having roots isn’t a bad thing. But are you going to be really upset Facetiming your family on Thanksgiving? They’re all together hanging out. Eating pumpkin pie and watching parades. You’re alone and can’t even make your own pumpkin pie because you can’t find the ingredients. Is that ok to you? I do still celebrate Thanksgiving with a lot of fellow American teachers but I’ll be honest, it is not the same as hanging out at home. Not at all. Can you build new traditions around the holidays and be ok with leaving old traditions behind?

You are in a serious relationship and your partner isn’t joining you. 

I don’t mean that you’re married and your partner is coming with you. I mean that you have a partner that you’re leaving behind and going to try to make it work long distance. How strong are your feelings for this person? Is it hard to go a few days without seeing them? Can your relationship handle this? Do you trust them? This might sound silly but consider your relationship with your pets too. I left behind a family dog whom I love with all of my heart but who is also 15 years old. I can’t tell you how hard I cried hugging him goodbye at Christmas knowing that he might not be around the next time I return to the US. Can the relationships you’re leaving behind handle the distance?

You just suffered some sort of trauma in your life. 

This isn’t Under the Tuscan Sun. You aren’t going to hit a rough patch in your life, move abroad, buy a tuscan villa and fall in love with life. That is Hollywood and we live in the real world. Your life isn’t Eat, Pray, Love. Wandering around the world after enduring a trauma is very traumatic. Going back to the alone piece, you won’t have your support system with you. The people who listen and dry your tears won’t be in your timezone. You also won’t have the supports of the doctor’s and therapists you’re familiar with. The people I’ve seen struggle the most teaching internationally are the people who have suffered a trauma and moved abroad to teach. 

You have no savings. 

It is expensive to move especially if your school reimburses you for all your moving expenses in the first paycheck… or if they don’t reimburse you at all. Even though you can end up saving a lot of money while teaching internationally, the start up costs can be a lot. When I first moved to Poland there were a lot of start-up costs. I was reimbursed for some of them but I did have to put a lot of money into my move. Think: plane tickets, extra luggage, shipping, first month’s rent and security deposit, trips to IKEA, new phone plans, dinner with new friends, etc. The list could really go on and on. Moving is expensive and moving internationally can be even more expensive. Make plans so you don’t end up in a tough situation. 

You are set in your ways and perhaps close-minded. 

Living internationally is going to shake up your life. Like your whole life. It is going to shake you to your core. This sounds super dramatic and I don’t mean for it to be but… The majority of your beliefs are going to be tested. Can you handle trying to look at things through a new perspective? What happens when your core beliefs are challenged? How do you handle people doing things differently than you’re used to? I once witnessed a serious breakdown because someone felt the McDonald’s cheeseburger in Poland had pepper. I’m not kidding. If you value your McDonald’s a certain way… rethink things. In all seriousness, you need to be able to handle being the outsider and having people not understand your values in the least. 

You don’t want to start over.

Sometimes I just crave my classroom with all of my things that I have in storage in the US. Starting over is hard. I worked long and hard and spent so much money to build up an amazing collection of books. Now I have none of them… although, I have spent a ridiculous money on books since I’ve been in Poland. Starting over is hard and it isn’t for everyone. 

Yes! Go!

Now let’s talk about why you should go. Deciding to go was one of the most exciting decisions I’ve made. If these sound like you then start applying! 

You’re open to new possibilities.

Teaching internationally totally opens up your world. I have learned so much about myself as a teacher and I have learned so much about education since teaching internationally. Not only have I learned so much about myself as I teacher I have learned so much about myself as a person. I have tried things I never thought I would try. I have made the most amazing friends with people I might not have been friends with in the US. I am open to any experience that comes my way and that is a very important attitude to have. If you’re open to new possibilities and looking at things from a new perspective then international teaching is for you.   

You want to travel.

I really love traveling. I would actually love to be a travel blogger but… I don’t want to put in any of the work to actually do that. Flights in Europe are so cheap. I have been to so many different countries since moving here. I took a weekend trip to London once. When in your life do you ever just fly to London for the weekend just because? I went to see Beyoncé in Germany. I’ve been to Venice and visited friends in Spain. My passport has gotten a workout and I have seen so much. I still have so much to see. If you like to travel international teaching will open up that possibility for you. 

You want to learn and grow as a person.

I am all about personal development. You think I like growing and learning as a teacher? I LOVE growing and learning as a human? I seriously love it! I have learned so much about myself. I know who I am and I know what I stand for more than before. When you’re put in different situations than the ones you’ve always been in you learn a lot about yourself and you grow a lot.

You can handle being on your own.

I’ve always been the kind of person who is ok to to march to the beat of their own drum. I moved far away from home my first year after college. I learned a lot through that experience but I really learned how to stand on my own two feet. Being able to stand on your own is important. I have great friends here who are really like a second family but at the end of the day I am on my own. I like it and I sort of thrive when thrown out into the world all by myself. 

You can handle being away from friends, family, and pets.

I’ve missed out on friend’s weddings. I have missed out on the birth of my friend’s children. My dog might not be alive when I come home. That one hurts… a lot. But I knew going into this and I am ok with missing out on some stuff. Moving abroad has made my friendships at home grow stronger. I did lose a lot of friends when we just didn’t put in the time. The friends I have stayed in contact with will be my friends for life.  

You’re open to learning (and maybe failing at learning) a new language.

I attempted to learn Polish. I tried so hard and I also failed so hard. I know the basics and I can get by in a shop but I can’t have a full on conversation. Language is a struggle that some people can’t handle. In Poland most people know English and it isn’t too hard to figure things out while shopping or out in the world. Learning a new language isn’t easy but I think it is so so important to familiarize yourself with the language and the culture of your new country. I’ve learned so much about Poland, Polish and Polish culture.

Your family supports the idea.

This is really important. If you go abroad and your family doesn’t support the idea you are going to feel conflicted. It can be hard to make life choices that aren’t supported by your family. You are going to need your family support while living abroad. I constantly lean on my sister for support and advice, similar to how I did at home but in a different sense. If your family supports your choice, go! 

Deciding to go is no easy task. Once I knew that I was going to go I decided to keep that choice to myself. I didn’t want to hear other people’s opinions on it. I only told select people in my life about where I was applying and what my plans were. Once I knew I was going to go I didn’t want to be talked out of it by anyone. That worked for me but I know people who tell everyone. Deciding to go is a really exciting time.

Please share your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments below. 

Next we’ll start talking about applying and interviewing. 

Bon Voyage! I Have An International Teaching Job

Bon Voyage! I Have An International Teaching Job


In 2010 I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain. The experience was so rewarding that I knew it would not be my last time going abroad. When I first started teaching I knew I needed to go back abroad to teach and so I set myself with a timeline. I want to teach abroad by the time I am 25. During my first 3 years teaching the idea of teaching internationally seemed so distant. At times it felt like it was completely unrealistic. After a job change, I realized it was closer than I thought and now that moment is here! While I am 26 now soon to be 27 I still have made my dreams come true! I could not be more excited about it.

Next year I will be teaching internationally in Poland. I am excited and nervous but I feel ready. It feels like the right choice. As a big believer in gut instinct, I think I am making a great choice. Get ready for some interesting and informative blog posts in the coming school year about international teaching!