Many of us have from time to time looked at the possibility of taking an academic job overseas, but then backed out of it for one reason or another. There can be many reasons for such an about-face – and the first one is that it was really only a pipe dream. In January with snow on the ground and a pile of undistinguished assignments to mark within the next 48 hours, it is natural for thoughts to turn to some sort of idyllic existence (in California, say, or perhaps on the Australian Gold Coast) in which periods of stimulating but not over-taxing work will alternate with leisure time under a palm tree with a glass of Chardonnay or a cold beer. However, when it actually comes down to filling in the application form, the hapless job seeker suddenly realizes all the pitfalls. Where is my daughter going to go to school? What about my elderly mother – how will she cope without me? Will I rent out my house or sell it? The questions multiply. A simple click closes the online application form, and our lecturer wearily picks up a red pen in one hand and an assignment from the top of the tottering pile in the other.
There are two lessons to be learned from this. The first is that if you are thinking of working outside UK for the first time, it cannot be a spur of the moment decision. Instead, you need to do a bit of research about the country or countries you might consider working in, and if possible contact by email some expatriates who already work there. The second is that you need to talk it through with your nearest and dearest to see if they are enthused or alarmed by the possibility of transferring their lives to an overseas setting. Only after you have completed steps one and two should you begin to think about the practical issues – such as whether to sell or rent out your UK house.
During my career to this point I have worked in universities and colleges in Korea, Fiji, Thailand, Singapore and Oman – as well as in two British universities. Over the next few months I will be blogging on various topics related to working abroad in higher education. I will certainly be glad to receive any comments or questions as we go along, and though I cannot promise to answer every single one, I will do the best that I can.