Picture yourself teaching abroad in Abu Dhabi, UAE! Lindsey, a Teach Away Placement Coordinator and licensed teacher who taught with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), shares her insights into what it’s like to teach and live in the United Arab Emirates.
Why did you choose to teach in Abu Dhabi?
Prior to living and working in Al Ain, a suburban area of Abu Dhabi, I taught abroad for one year in South Korea with Teach Away and fell in love with teaching overseas. Teach Away knew my personality and experience and suggested a program that was a good fit for me.
What were some of your biggest challenges as a teacher in Abu Dhabi?
The language barrier, 100%. Also, I was only one of two female teachers placed in an all boys school with all male faculty, in the Islamic culture. Both presented quite a few challenges. My first day of school I ran out of my classroom because the children were climbing on the walls and tearing down displays! I realized then I needed to build relationships with my students in order to understand their needs, and started to research behaviour management strategies. I got to know my students’ families, the administration and social workers at my school who were able to help me too.
What is your number one must see spot in Abu Dhabi?
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is an architectural wonder – I don’t know how else to describe it! It is all white marble from top to bottom and is laid with patterned marble. The carpet is hand-woven and the chandelier is stunning. I took all my family members to see it!
What was the most challenging part of the culture?
The most challenging part was sifting through the stereotypes of what is true and not. For example, showing the bottom of your feet is not insulting and is an old traditional belief. From my experience in Abu Dhabi, I was able to see how Western-centric my understanding of Middle Eastern culture was and that we have a different – but not always better – way of doing things.
How did you prepare for life and teaching in Abu Dhabi?
Brought a lot of sunscreen! (laughs) I did a lot of research about the dos and don’ts, picked up a good travel guide to learn about tipping etiquette, how much cash to have on me, how to get around, etc. I was going by myself so I tried to connect with teachers who were going over at the same time. This was good, but it’s important to take other teachers’ experiences with a grain of salt, and know that everyone’s experience is different. Don’t be deterred from going!
What were the benefits, accommodation and salary like as a teacher in Abu Dhabi?
They were all fantastic! The salary was tax-free and very fair, and in terms of how other international jobs stack up it was one of the highest pay wise. My flight to and from Canada was paid for and I was given an annual flight allowance deposited directly into my bank account. I had a HUGE two bedroom apartment to myself included in my contract and was given an allowance to furnish it – tip: there is IKEA in the UAE! In terms of vacation I had Islamic holidays excluding Ramadan off, 2 weeks at winter break, 1 week at spring break and 5-6 weeks in summer, all paid.
Want to teach in the UAE like Lindsey? To learn more and compare our courses, click here.