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I replied to an advert from an International school in Sharjah, UAE looking for a French and EFL Teacher. Within 2 days of the interview they called me to say they were offering me a
three year renewable contract. They sent an air ticket and an entry visa and asked me to leave for UAE immediately. So I did! I have been teaching both French and EFL in the Emirates since September 2003. I have fully furnished accommodation with two bedrooms and an annual return air ticket to the UK.
My salary is also very good: 8,000 UAE Dirhams, non-taxable too! So little spent and too much gained!
I have recently accepted a position in the UAE. I am in Sharjah, about 20km from Dubai. I've been here for about a month now and am still settling in (at school) and exploring (the souqs and malls). The position is at an International Private School and I teach Business Studies and Business English. I also have other duties as Coordinator: Internal communication and Project leader: Accreditation (the school wants to get accreditation within the next year). So, Jack of all trades it seems!
The school is a bit disorganised and 'tomorrow is another day'-syndrome rules. It is so unlike the UK! It seems the informal structure is very much a characteristic of private schools here. It is a business with the main objective the enrolment of students. The school has 1600+ students! My new colleagues are warm and friendly and very, very laid back. Sharjah is an emirate of contrasts - developed and bare sitting comfortably next to one another. I find the architecture amazing! The mosques specifically. Delicate, fine works of art!
l already miss so many things taken for granted in London - the markets, the quality fresh produce (organic and sell-by dates don't feature here), the theatre, art house cinema and last but not least the convenience of the tube! Speaking of Christmas - I am longing for the dark, cold evenings of shopping, the rushing masses with coats, scarves and shopping bags flapping, the Christmas carols, Christmas lights and tempting window displays!
But, I am looking forward to my new experiences amidst a very different culture in a very hot, humid climate. So far I have ridden a camel, done a 4x4 desert drive and I have spent most of my first salary in the local souq. I believe there are many similar pleasures awaiting me.
I was lucky enough to get this position through an agency based in South Africa. The same agency placed me in the UK 4 years ago. After I obtained my GE qualification, I emailed them an updated copy of my CV. The reply was swift and here I am! To be honest, I never thought of the UAE as a possibility to put my newly acquired skill to teach Business English to the test, but negotiations went well for me and this tipped the scale.
When appointing a new teacher from overseas, the schools here take care of all formalities. The school organised my visa, paid for the flight and made the travel arrangements. On my arrival, I was met at the airport and taken to comfortable temporary accommodation.
Salaries are tax-free but I think the benefits are worth a mention. These include:
- 1 year fixed contract that will automatically be renewed unless one of the
parties give notice of non-renewal
- Furnished accommodation
- Medical insurance
- Transport to school
- Gratuity of one month's salary after every year of service
- Return ticket once a year
The school hours are the same than in the UK, but meetings don't feature. They have very much a crisis-management kind of approach. There is also a huge lack of communication between management and staff, between staff in departments, etc. You can very much do your own thing. International schools here range from Kindergarten to A-level. My school has 1600+ with a staff of around 120! The majority of teachers leave at the end of the school day at 2:05pm and I can only smile at the congestion around the time-out machine during these times! Bear in mind that these observations might relate to this school only - being a private school! There are many British-based schools around where the opposite may be true! The laid-back approach is very much a cultural thing, though. Coming from London, the slow pace, no haste approach really gets to me sometimes!
On the other hand, if you show initiative, you get what you ask for as far as resources, training needs, etc are concerned. During my first week here I was treated to a 2 day conference in Dubai in one of the best hotels! The same goes for accommodation needs. They provide what you need. What impressed me most was the fact that singles get their own flat - so no sharing!
Life is good otherwise. Your tax-free salary goes a long way. With all necessities taken care of by your employer, one only spends on taxi-fares (a must due to a lack of public transport), food and other personal treats. The prices of most commodities compare quite favourably with their UK counterparts.
I hope the above information will be useful.