Anna Coquelin, originally from Guernsey, has just started her second year teaching in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and says: "It's the best thing I've ever done; I really love it here."
Anna is teaching French and Spanish at the British International School, Riyadh. "The children are from all over the world," she says. "There are 180 different nationalities from Texas, Canberra, Dublin, everywhere!"
Anna admits the experience is making her much more internationally-minded. "I'd never met people from Palestine, Jordan and Syria before and it's been a really interesting and positive experience for me. There are some very strict rules about men and women here. For example, single men and women can't travel together which can be very restrictive for people in relationships unless they are married. As a woman I am not allowed to drive. Dress is another restriction. Out in public, as a woman I have to dress in a long black cloak called an Abaya to cover my head, neck and arms. However in school and on the compound where I live I can dress in normal European clothes. There are no cinemas; films are not allowed. There are also no bars and no clubs because there is no alcohol. For me, none of the restrictions are a problem but some people complain about it and find it very, very restrictive. I personally love it. I love the cultural differences."
Anna points out some of the benefits of working and living in Riyadh: "I live on a fantastic compound where there are expats from all over the world which makes it really interesting and fun. I've made friends here who are American, Lebanese, Australian, Canadian, from all over; and not just teachers but lawyers, engineers and other professions too. The school was fantastic at helping me settle in, both at school itself and into my accommodation. The compound has several swimming pools, a wave pool, gym, sauna, sports facilities and free sports clinics, a bowling alley and a lovely cheap restaurant. The shopping here is amazing; the malls are beautiful, absolutely spotless. Most expats travel abroad during the holidays. This year alone I've been to Bahrain, Cairo, Jordan, Dubai and America! It has been a massive lifestyle change for me. Back home everyone tends to stay at home, partly because there isn't the money to travel but also there isn't the expectation. Here I have more money to do these things and everyone does it. Plus I'm meeting so many interesting people from around the globe; it's opened my eyes up to a whole world and that's been an amazing thing."
Anna recommends it to other English-speaking teachers: "Some people don't leave home because of family and friends but they don't realise what they are missing. It's been a massive change for me as a person and it's not just about the money; I've learnt and done so much and yet I still have my family and friends at home. Saudi Arabia has a lot of rules so it depends on your personality but for me it's absolutely the best thing I've ever done."
Anna found her teaching job at the British International School, Riyadh through Teachers International Consultancy, an organisation that specialises in international school recruitment. There are over 5,000 international schools in virtually every country around the world and TIC provides a free service for teachers, helping them to find the right job in the right international school. For advice on what to consider when thinking about teaching internationally visit www.ticrecruitment.com or call +44(0)2920-212-083
Copy prepared for Expat Exchange/November 2009