Settling in to a new country

This is the third time that I have moved and settled in to a new country. Some of the things I have learned while doing this:

1. Ikea is in almost every country in the world and it is amazing. It is so nice to have a familiar home and furniture store to go to where I can find what I need.

2. Feeling “settled” is key to feeling more at home and comfortable. This time I have had the opportunity to get “settled”. Because I do not have a job yet, I was first unpacking and cleaning and arranging furniture. More recently, I have been making final trips to Ikea and other stores to get the last items we need. Being far away from home in a new country where I don’t speak the language is tough so it is important to make a place that is home for us.

3. Running errands is a momentous job at first. To figure out where to get passport photos taken, get a key cut, get good vegetables and fruit, or get a pair of rubber boots can be almost impossible when you don’t have a department store or if you don’t know the name of the store. I have made 3-4 trips to a place called Mammut in Budapest. It is a mall. There are two of them across the street from each, Mammut I and Mammut II. I have gone around and around these buildings searching for the places I need to go. Luckily there are maps that I can use but usually when I figure out where I need to go, I find out that I am about as far away from that point as I can get. So I walk to that place, then I find that happens for the next place I need to go to. I allow myself plenty of time for these trips to Mammut! I am most grateful that most of the “errands” I need to go can be done be in this one location. I am also grateful that the maps in the mall are available in English and that most of the people who work in the mall speak some English so I can ask for help. Yesterday, I had a wonderful new friend give me a guided tour of the mall and the market that is behind the mall, as well as a small spice shop where I can various items that might not be available in other stores. She showed me great places to get certain things and it makes me so happy. It makes life so much easier! I think my perspective of this task of “running errands” is somewhat jaded since I am coming from Shanghai where doing these types of things tended to monumentally difficult because there were no malls and few people who spoke English. It was often easier to just not do the task! I am so thankful for many of the little things that are so much easier now!

4. Figuring out the lay of the land and how to get around is important. Until I feel comfortable moving around the city, knowing I won’t get lost, I usually stay very close to home and miss out on exploring a new place. Learning how to move around Budapest has been greatly enhanced by a smart phone app called “Smart City”. I use this by inputting the address I am starting from and the address I am going to, and the app calculates the best route to get there by public transportation. It tells me exactly which bus, tram, or subway to take and how long to walk to the final destination. The best part is that it will track me while I am on the journey so I know immediately if I am taking a wrong turn. I have used this app numerous times and I can easily get almost anywhere in the city. The ease of the public transportation system also helps to make moving around the city enormously better.

5. Niall and I have been exploring our immediate neighbourhood. We did a mini pub crawl last Monday night and we discovered several great little places to go to that otherwise we would have completely missed. The first place was a very modern and classy bar. The second was a much less classy, bar/dance club. The third and fourth places were both pub/bars where we walked downstairs to the basement and there it opened up into a clean, nicely decorated large room. Each of these places looked run down from the outside but great on the inside. Both of them are across the street from us and just do not look like what I expect a place like that to look like. Lesson learned: explore everything because you don’t know what kind of gems you can find.


The Hard Parts

Travelling around the world is amazing. I am so glad that I have this life and I would not change it. But there are the hard parts as well.

1. It has taken Niall and I about 3 months to figure out how to do banking in Hungary. We received our bank account within the first few weeks in Budapest. In order to get our account we had to sit in the bank for about two hours doing paperwork and waiting for the processing. We have since gone back to the bank three or four times because we cannot either access our account or we move the money to the wrong place. When we do online banking we have to enter a new access code every 10 seconds. We are still not quite sure what we are paying for service fees because we get some amount of transactions free and then after that we pay. Who knows?

2. Making phone calls in a new country always gets me. Hungary has been especially difficult because when you call certain numbers you need to dial a +36 in front of the number. Other numbers you have to dial a 1 and other numbers it is 06, or something like that. I thought I had it figured out when I learned about the +36 but apparently that was not true. There have been times when I try to make a phone call and it just won’t go through no matter what I try to put in front of the phone number. So then I try to look it up online and it is just as confusing trying to understand it. Eventually I just give up!

3. Asking for help is hard. I do not like to ask other people for help. But living overseas in a country where I do not speak the language, I have to ask for help. I have to ask for help to make a phone call or to go to the bank or to find a place to get my hair done. I try to look at it from my own perspective. What if someone was asking me for help? I love to help other people. I feel useful and productive when I help others. So hopefully when I ask for help, those people I am asking like to help too.

Jumping Group

4. We have met some amazing people in Budapest and (hopefully) made some lifelong friends. But at first, I find making friends is hard. I question: “Do they want to hang out with me? Do I want to hang with them? Do I feel connected? Am I doing the right things to show I want to be friends? What are they doing to show they want to be friends? Am I reading the relationship right? Are they just being nice? Am I just being nice?” When I first moved overseas, I assumed that I would be able to make new friends that were similar to my “old” friends. My old friends are my best friends who I have known for years. These are the friends who I can see once or twice a year and it feels like we have never been apart. These are the friends that I know and who know me. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to make friends like that again, especially overseas. My “old” friendships are very deep. My new friendships were going to be new for awhile before they could be that deep, if ever. I has to stop striving for the “old” friendships and instead just make new friends, without expectations and assumptions.

Those are the hard parts and there will always be hard parts. There may be more but I can’t think of any. Maybe that’s because this is an amazing life, wherever you are!

November 1 is All Saints Day

All Saints Day is the celebration of the Christian Catholic saints. The date of Nov 1 was chosen in 835 AD to counteract All Hallows Day commemorated in the non-Christian Celtic world. “According to Celtic traditions, on All Hallows Day the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the non-living becomes thinner so that the worlds can communicate with each other.” See (Halloween in Budapest) or (All Saints Day)

Hungarians celebrate All Saints Day by going to the cemetery to remember friends and family who have passed away. We have heard that it is quite amazing to see a cemetery on November 1 in Budapest. This year, November 1 fell on a Saturday. Niall and I were having a lazy Saturday and we had no big plans. We had just finished lunch with some friends and were heading back home when we thought we might go to one of the cemeteries in Budapest. We looked up some information and found that the most famous cemetery in Budapest was Kerepesi Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery in Budapest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Hungary (Kerepesi Cemetery). Burials ceased at the cemetery in 1952.

We started driving to the cemetery. It was not hard to spot once we got close since it was so large. We saw a long stone wall beside the road. We had some difficulty finding the entrance so we had to turn around eventually. As we were coming back we turned down a road that looked like it went along the cemetery wall. This road turned into a small path beside a tram line. Eventually we got to the end of the path/road and stopped. We had noticed a man riding a bike that we had passed a few minutes earlier and we also saw a few people standing next to an entrance that was across the tram line. The man on the bike eventually came up and spoke to the people standing by the entrance and they seemed to start moving into the entrance so we got out of the car and walked over. We found out that this part of the cemetery is not always open to the public but we could get in it right now. We walked in and did not find what we expected, which was all the people and decorated graves that we had heard about. Instead we found an old, somewhat decrepit and broken down cemetery that was very quiet and empty. Many of the graves were broken or falling over. There were also some huge, decorative graves and tombs. Some of the tombs doors had been broken or moved. It was an eerie feeling going inside the cemetery, not a ‘creepy’ cemetery feeling, but rather because it was so old and quiet. It felt like we should respect and remember those who had been buried there so long ago. We had a great opportunity to walk around a little bit and see some of the graves. We did not stay long and when we drove away down the road and turned back on to the main road we passed the main entrance that we were originally looking for. It was much busier with people and looked more like what we would have expected!

Later we were talking to some of our friends about our experiences and we found out that the part of the cemetery we were in was the Jewish section. This section had been neglected for a long time. Here is some more information about it:

KEREPESI: Address: BP. VIII. Salgótarjáni út. (Salgotarjani Street) “The Kerepesi cemetery, opened in 1874, was the Jewish section of the city’s monumental cemetery, where many national heroes, politicians, and cultural figures were buried. The Jewish cemetery is a separate part of the 55 hectares of The New Public Cemetery ( Új Köztemeto) opened in 1847. The Salgótarjáni út entrance was built like the entrance of a castle from designs by the famous architect, Lajta Béla, in 1908. The entrance building includes function rooms and a caretaker’s flat . Until recently, the Kerepesi Jewish cemetery was abandoned and totally overgrown despite its many magnificent tombs. From the entrance was wild vegetation. The former pre-burial house decorated with Oriental-Mesopotamian reliefs is abandoned with a collapsed roof. The last burials were in the 1950s. Recently, part of it has been cleared of brush, freeing some of the most important tombs — tombs of industrial magnates, Jewish noblemen, and other prominent figures, including the poet Jozsef Kis. Bela Lajta, one of Hungary’s most noted architects, who designed more than half a dozen tombs in the Kerepesi cemetery.” source:

Kerepesi ut Jewish Cemetery (Neolog)  Address: Budapest, VIIIth district. Salgotarjani ut. Phone: 314-1269/ Attendant: Borbála Baros. The cemetery was founded in 1874. It is eternal home to many representatives of the pre-war banking and industrial aristocracy, as well as to outstanding personalities of the contemporary cultural life of Budapest.



Here are a few pictures we took in the cemetery. Here is also someone else’s blog post on visiting the same section with a more pictures: Old Jewish cemetery in Budapest

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The First Teaching Post…8 years ago


Kuwait Towers

8 years ago, I came overseas to teach. It was well before then that I decided I wanted to travel. My parents were travellers and had exposed me to the world. Although I did not actually travel a lot as a child, I heard all about various places in the world. When I started my career as a teacher, I wanted to go overseas but I knew I needed some experience first so I started teaching in Canada. Only 1.5 years later, I was preparing for my first teaching assignment overseas in the Middle East, in Kuwait. I remember landing in the airport in Kuwait and that is when it really hit me. Oh no, what did I just do?

The first few days in a new country are the hardest. It is exciting but it is overwhelming. In Kuwait, I was shown my new empty apartment. There were a few basic necessities in it and it was minimally furnished but it felt empty and lonely. I was exhausted after almost 24 hours of travel and I was jet lagged. I was also hungry but I did not have a way of getting food. Luckily a couple of new colleagues helped me get some food and then I settled in for a long sleep.

Eventually I was settled in to my new apartment and I was starting school. It was hot, hot, hot all the time. The sun beat down constantly. It was new to me. I was used to have at least a few “bad weather” days in a month where I would close the curtains and stay inside for a day. My Canadian blood was telling me to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. But there were a few days where, even though it was sunny, I closed the curtains and pretended it was raining and stayed inside!

The school I worked at had 11 PE and Health teachers from elementary to high school. My first year there, I taught grade 6 and 7. My second year there I taught grade 9-12. All the PE teachers were housed in one office. My desk was under the air conditioning unit and I slowly became accustomed to extreme changes in temperature, which were worse than in Canada! Our classes took place mostly outside in the extreme heat for the first few months of the year, then extreme cold for the middle few months of the year, and a few months each year between the cold and the hot was the most beautiful temperature you could find. That time was worth the extremes of the rest of the year!

In the two years I was living in Kuwait, I travelled a lot. I went to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, China, France, Switzerland, South Korea, Jordan, and Egypt. Thus began the life of going to a different country or destination each holiday in the school year. Who does that!?! Well, international school teachers do that! It is still something that I marvel at often.

October 23 in Budapest

My goal will be to share present and past travel experiences throughout my international teaching experience. I would like to give insight and information into the places I have lived and travelled for the people close to me and to anyone else who would like to know.

I will start with the place I am current living, Budapest. The past week was a holiday in Budapest. October 23 is the day that Hungarians celebrate the 1956 revolution against Soviet occupation. Here is an article that explains a bit more about the meaning of the day: Hungary’s October 23. 

Budapest is an incredible city. We have been living here for almost three months now but it already feels like home. It is easy to become familiar with the city and moving around it. Transportation is simple by either car or public transportation such as trams, buses, and metro. The beautiful buildings and amazing character of the city is easy to fall in love with.

In my experience, the Hungarian people are good group of people. I would not like to suggest that they are very friendly or outgoing but I believe they have good hearts. In my experience in not speaking Hungarian, most of the time when I start speaking English in public places, Hungarians will apologize for their “lack” of English, despite it being quite good. I can never understand why they would apologize when I should be sorry for being the person who only speaks one language in their country! Another way that I have seen the “heart” of the Hungarians is with our puppy, Hamish. He is an adorable puppy and wherever we go in Budapest, people will stop to pet him and gush over him. Hungarians are the not most unfriendly people but when they see Hamish they completely change into big softies.

Budapest is a city of festivals. Since we have arrived here, we have gone to at several festivals, including a music Festival, aBeer Festival, a Wine Festival, and a Palinka and Sausage Festival. We have not had much chance to see many of the sites in Budapest because we are often going to these events that are only here for a short time. Many of the festivals come back year after year. (Palinka is the Hungarian alcohol. I do not know a lot about it but I know it comes in different flavours, such as cherry among others, and that I have not heard of one person who likes it that is not Hungarian, and that it burns!)

There will be much more on Budapest and Hungary in the future! Here is a picture of Hamish to show why he is so popular!


What it’s all about!

This blog is about what international teaching is all about, how to do it, what is so great about it, and what is difficult about it from my experiences and perspective. In the two previous posts, I have discussed a little about how to get an international teaching job and how I got started in this global community.

For the 8 years, I have been living and working overseas. I now consider the world my home. The discussions I have with my friends and colleagues are about where we are travelling on our next vacation, what we liked about the last place we travelled, and when you are planning to go home again. My neighbours are both next door but also in the next country or the next continent. My former vice-principal and his wife who lived across the hall from us in Shanghai, now live in Poland, while we are in Hungary. These are our neighbours!

Last week, one of my best friends from university came to visit. She is currently working and living in Izmur, Turkey. She came to Budapest for a week long holiday and she brought 3 friends and colleagues from Ismur. One night we invited some of our Budapest friends over for dinner with our Turkey friends. One of my Budapest friends (H) is close friends with my best friend’s (M) Turkish friends. This person has pictures of both H and M on her fridge! These are the connections that can be made when you are international educator. Both my friends and I are moving around the world and making short term and lifelong friends. The connections are numerous.


For our wedding, my husband and I received a beautiful framed world map from my husband’s sister. Coloured pins came with the map so that we can put a pin in the places we have visited, lived, or hope to visit. We can colour coordinate our pins. The yellow ones are for places either one of us or both of us have lived. The green pins are for places we have travelled together. The red pins are for places that I have travelled and the blue pins for places Niall has travelled. The map filled up quickly and we ran out of pins.

This is what international teaching is all about: having neighbours all over the world, making great friends and connections both short term and long term, and seeing the world!

How to

International schools are schools throughout the world where students can attend in English or their native language (French, German, Dutch, etc). These schools are created for expat families living away from home. Generally the intended outcome is for the students to obtain an education that is similar to one in their home country and therefore can pursue continued education there, while living away. Most of these schools are recognized by international education organizations, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or accredited by organizations in the United States, such as the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The families whose children attend these schools tend to be involved in business or a job in that country away from home or are diplomats in that country. There are numerous other reasons families move overseas, such as mission or humanitarian work, to experience a new culture, to be near family, etc.

In order to have schools overseas, there also needs to be teachers. Teachers can get a job in an international school, generally, with a minimum of two years of teaching experience. This guideline is negotiable depending on the school. The best and probably most common way for a teacher to get a job is by signing up with a job placement organization. There are two main organizations used by teachers: Search Associates or International Schools Service (ISS) These companies will help you set up a profile online. The international schools will also do the same and will post positions that are available. You can then search positions that are posted and apply to those positions. I have always worked with Search Associates and found them to be quite good. I was assigned an associate who works for the company and supports me and assists me in finding a job, if possible.

The timeline that international schools are working with tends to be extreme in that recruiting for new teachers starts much earlier in the school year than at home. Current teachers at a school need to give their notice if they are returning the next school year or not by about December. Even before that, schools will encourage teachers to let them know if they will be leaving the school. Therefore, as a teacher that is looking for a position, one needs to be prepared very early in the year. My husband and I made our decision to leave our school in Shanghai about a year in advance. We began preparing to leave in the summer of 2013 even though we wouldn’t be at the new school until August 2014. The preparations involved setting up a profile on Search Associates, getting references, preparing our resumes/CVs and cover letters, and exploring networks throughout the world.

The job fair is next. Job fairs are located in various major cities throughout the world, including Bangkok, London, Boston. The first job of the recruiting year is held in about January and they are held every couple of weeks throughout the world until about April or May and even into the summer. The job fair experience is intense, exciting, and exhausting. There are hundreds of teachers and schools gathering in one location to do the hiring process. Schools are looking for specific positions they need to fill. Teachers are looking for the right location and the right school. The job fair starts with an arena style meet and greet where all the school administrators have set up a table or booth for their school and have posted the positions they need to fill. The teachers then roam around speaking to principals and superintendents of schools hoping for an interview. This is the time where teachers and schools will set up a time for a more formal interview to take place that day or the next. Because the job fair only lasts 3-4 days, everything is done at an increased pace.

The first job fair I attended was in Boston in February 2009. I had previously worked in an international school in Kuwait but I had not been to the job fair. I managed to find that job through friends who were working at the school. I had some information about the fair from colleagues who had been to it. As a female Physical and Health Education teacher, I did have some interest from schools so I had several interviews. My decision came down to a large, well known school in Shanghai and a small school in Zimbabwe. Although I was tempted to go to Africa, I decided on Shanghai because I wanted a large city and a large school where I could meet lots of people and gain more experience.

My second job fair experience was in London in January 2014 with my husband. As I am working on my Masters to transition into a new career, I knew it would be difficult to find something in the new direction I was hoping to take due to my lack of experience. Therefore we would be looking for two PE and Health positions since my husband, Niall, is also in that field. The London fair turned out to be quite competitive and at first we felt quite discouraged because despite our solid previous experience we didn’t have much interest from schools. The issue was partly that we expressed interest in finding two jobs. We decided that we would then need to just look for on job for Niall and I would tag along as his spouse, while continuing to work on my Masters courses. We were able to discuss that with some schools and extensively interviewed with a school in Hong Kong as well as a school in Budapest. In the end, the Hong Kong school decided not to hire us but Niall was offered a position in Budapest. We accepted four interviews later and have been excited about it ever since.

(copied from

The Beginning of the Travel Bug

I started travelling in university. In my first year, I signed up for mission trips to Montreal and New Orleans. In my second and third year, I did not get to travel as much so I was trying to find a way that I could. I went with my dad on two humanitarian trips to Sierra Leone, West Africa, where I helped to teach teachers about teaching literacy, after I finished my undergrad and also after one year of teacher’s college. Finally I finished being educated and was ready to educating the young people of the world! But I found out that if I wanted to work in an international school, I needed two years of experience so I managed to find a job at home. It was my dream job teaching Physical and Health Education in high school but I couldn’t let go of the dream to travel. After working there for a year and a half, I was full on exploring overseas options. I found a job being advertised in Kuwait. I then contacted some friends I had who were living there and they mentioned a job that was at their school. So I applied and got the job and was heading overseas. The full impact of that decision did not sink in until my plane landed in the Kuwait airport and I walked out of security into the “gauntlet”. The gauntlet was a long path in the airport lined with people waiting for arriving passengers. The thing about it was that most of the people waiting were men and it was a somewhat unnerving walk through the airport. Luckily I only had to walk a short distance before I found the people who were there to pick me up.

I did not know what I really had done. I left behind friends and family who loved me and cared about me and who fully supported my decision and desire to travel. I have not realized the extent of their support and love until now. I am away most of the time and then I drop in at home occasionally and they always make room for in their lives again. It doesn’t seem fair to them but they accept it and still care about me.

My first couple of years overseas were fun and challenging. I loved the freedom to travel. I went to various countries in the Middle East, including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Oman, and Egypt. I also travelled to China, South Korea, and France. It was amazing that I got to see and do so much! It was also challenging in that I did not feel that my friends and family at home truly did understand my life and experiences. But I think that was my own perspective and I did not understand the extent of the love and support that I was given. I also think it is difficult for people who live in one country to understand the move to another part of the world and all that goes with that. So for that reason, I would like to share those experiences here. If my friends and family do get to the read this, then I hope to provide some background of this life that I may not have expressed otherwise.

Check out the blog I had when I went to Kuwait here: It was a fun and exciting time there. The blog continues into my first year in Shanghai. After two years in Kuwait, I felt that I was ready to return home to Canada for one year. After one year, I felt that I was ready to return to teaching overseas! So I went to a job fair (which is a whole experience on its own) and found a job in Shanghai, China. Off I went to China, again probably not fully understanding what I was doing. I will share more about these places and the process of getting the jobs in future posts. There is so much to share.

(shared from