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Teaching in the UK: Be Prepared!

Cathryn recently moved over to the UK from Australia, and in this blog she shares her experiences as well as tips for other Australian Teachers.

The Beginning of my UK Teaching Journey

It’s been a rough start – I’m not going to lie. And it’s that time of year where all of my (new) Australian-in-London friends start migrating to Convent Garden to pick up Barbeque or Pizza shapes, $5 cherry ripes (you think I’m kidding?) and suddenly become so much more Aussie than they were before. Even I’ve noticed my usually soft Australian accent has become quite hard and “Outback Jackie”.

Arriving in the UK!

It’s not an easy thing to do, pick up and start your life all over again in a brand new country. Even though we speak the same language, the vernacular is so different, that just going shopping for bedding is tricky – please note, a Doona is called a “duvet”, and do not, I repeat DO NOT ask for a pair of thongs at a shoe shop. It won’t end well. 

The Right Attitude

I’m known among my friends at home for my “just do it” attitude, but even that was tested here. I came expecting the streets to be lined with proverbial gold, and to be honest, some of them are. But it’s going to take you a lot longer to get settled than you thought, and a lot more money than you thought. I wish I had saved at least $10,000 to come over with, because then it would have been a lot easier. I also wish I had been mentally prepared for the two weeks when there just wasn’t any work going, anywhere. I was lucky – I have a friend who works in publishing who has been here six months, and is about to go home because she still hasn’t found anything.

Having said that, the right attitude is everything here – have the right attitude, the right outlook, and the “can-do” spirit that we’re known for, and the tube is your oyster.

So here are my suggestions for coming over and getting settled in record time (note:  I was settled in 8 weeks, which is considered very quick!).

1.    Be prepared.  Be prepared financially, physically and emotionally.

  • Financially - Have a lot of money saved up, and have at least two weeks’ worth of accommodation lined up in a hostel or similar. If you want a really comfy landing, get a private room for a week to sleep off the jet lag. 
  • Physically - You’re going to do more walking than you’ve probably ever done in your life – get good, flat shoes with a decent sole, and get blister prepared. Even those shoes you’ve worn every day for the last year are going to give you blisters.
  • Emotionally – You will miss home. Especially when you haven’t worked for two weeks and the money situation is looking scary, and you’ve only got friends around you that you’ve known for a millisecond. Skype will be your new best friend.  Make sure EVERYWHERE you stay has internet access – preferably free.

2.     Be willing to travel and be persistent

Yes, every Australian in London is willing to travel – but what I mean is, be prepared to travel outside of zones 2 or 3. And be prepared to travel outside of your realm of specialisation – I’m a secondary trained English teacher with no real training in special needs, but my best Protocol Education placement so far has been at a school that’s literally on the border of London and Surrey, teaching special needs kids six different subjects. It took me an hour and a half to get to school, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Call your Protocol consultant every morning, and every afternoon. They’ll hate me for saying that, but you won’t! And call any other branches you’d be prepared to work in – for example, if you’re secondary based north, but would go south and teach primary, call the southern branch and primary. Be annoying. It’ll get you everywhere with your consultants.

3.    Swallow your pride

Sometimes, pride is a good thing – pride in yourself, and your abilities. But unfortunately, pride won’t pay the bills. If you’re really struggling, get a weekend or evening job. Yes, it’s minimum wage, and you’ll have to work twenty hours to get what one day of teaching pays, but it helps. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your ability to teach – i.e. finish by ten on a School night at the latest, work mostly Friday through Sunday, etc. Even if it’s just until you land a long term placement (if that’s what your goal is) – it’s better than going home, right? I worked in a pub as well until I got my current long term placement. It was fun, dirty work, but Aussies get tipped well because they’re willing to chat, smile a lot and pull a better beer!

4.    Look everywhere for a room and be open to buddy ups

I met my current housemate on Spareroom.co.uk. It’s a wicked website, and has heaps of places. Something that a lot of people are (rightly) wary of are buddy ups.  A Buddy Up is when people who are looking for rooms come together to find a place. The downside is, you’re tied together for at least 12 months (which can suck if you don’t get on). The upside is, you can often find better people if you’re more patient. My housemate is like the English version of my best friend at home – and I never would have met her if not for buddy ups. If you do go for this option, meet up and get to know each other first. Be flexible on your budget – we wanted 100 a week, but we’ve had to go up to 125 a week, but the place is perfect. UK Accommodation Options.

In Summary

Of course, my four tips are hardly “the bible” of moving to London. In fact, some of my friends might disagree! But these four things are what got me through my first two months here. It got me a house, friends, and a long term placement within 8 weeks, which is a pretty decent turn around I think. And if it really is getting too hard – think like Nina Simone… “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life”… and that’s gotta feel good.

~ by Cathryn, an Australian Teacher currently teaching in UK schools through Protocol Education. This is her first blog, so why not comment below?

Related Blogs and Pages

Testimonials from Australian Teachers
Request Information about Teaching in the UK
Protocol Australia on Facebook
Protocol Australia on Twitter


Tags: Australian Teachers, Teach in the UK, UK Teaching Jobs, Teach in London UK, Preparing, UK Accommodation, Cathryn, Secondary

Category: Australian Teachers


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