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Tips for relocating teachers

It’s quite normal to go through periods of homesickness when you move countries, or cities, for a work opportunity, even if (on paper) everything seems like it should be rosy and wonderful.

Homesickness can sneak up on you. One minute you’re having a fantastic time and the next you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of being away from home. Lots of teachers choose to make a career-focused decision and move to take up their first or next role. Some come from Australia or Canada and others just move from another part of England but however far you travel, there is likely to be some initial homesickness. 

Here are some ways you can overcome homesickness. 

  • People bond through caffeine. Making cups of tea sound ridiculously simple, but it’s a great way to initiate conversations and start making local friends. So offer to make your colleagues a cuppa & you will eventually get brought into their social circle during lunchtimes. It’s a great way to break the ice.
  • Another thing teachers can do in UK schools is to offer to run extra-curricular activities. Schools are thriving communities and busy places. With endless sports clubs, photography clubs, Drama, Music and Art departments all needing extra pairs of hands, be willing to help out. The busier you are, the less time you have to dwell on “home life”.
  • Find room in your suitcase to pack some creature comforts – keepsakes, familiar clothes, photos of family and friends to help you feel familiar in your new home from home.
  • Shopping for new things can also help keep you focused on the adventure – put some money aside to buy yourself something you can’t buy at home – whether that’s scouring London’s vintage markets, or even a Primark spree – it’s nice to treat yourself. I’d also recommend Antipodean teachers who are not used to long winters might want to consider buying a sun lamp.  if you’ve arrived in the depths of a UK winter & you are from the Southern Hemisphere, this can be hard. A SAD lamp can help you to adjust with the seasons, even waking you up with ‘sunlight’ to help your body overcome all that darkness!
  • Being spontaneous is fun for a while but it doesn’t help everyone feel grounded, normal, or settled. Try creating a new routine. Walk your new “hood”, get familiar and acquainted by your new surroundings.
  • social media like Facebook can be as much of a hindrance as a help to overcoming homesickness. Sure it’s a way to stay connected, but you’re also constantly reminded of what you’re missing out on (in a completely fictional way, where only the very best bits are showcased, not the tedium, or the big argument that broke out moments after that perfect photo was snapped). Try limiting your social media exposure if you’re homesick, as it can make things worse. Instead, focus on building a real social network in your new home.
  • Further travel also helped you overcome your homesickness.

Top 5 Tips to get through your first year away from home

  • Latch onto a Local. Your UK/ local account manager will be able to point you in the right direction of decent bars, cafes, transport systems, travel cards and where to purchase your new teacher wardrobe from, and you might even get along well enough to be invited along on a few nights out!
  • Keep Busy. The more things you have going on in your life, the less time you have to dwell on what you are missing out on. Packing your calendar not only provides a fun distraction, it can help you meet other people, even improve yourself. Join a gym, learn to rock-climb, learn a foreign language at evening class.
  • Say YES! You aren’t going to meet people in your pencil case. Force yourself to pubs, cafes, local shops and department meetings. Even if you feel like that’s the last thing you feel like doing, speaking to local people will make you feel more like you are settling in. Just remember to exercise the same judgement and caution that you would at home, it’s alarming how many people move overseas and forget to pack their common sense.
  • Give yourself time to feel homesick, to identify the feeling and accept it, not to try and deny it.  This is a big move and you are bound to feel alarmed, questioning your sanity and homesick at times (especially when you have one public transport debacle after another, that tends to be what makes people mad!). This is all perfectly normal, stick with it as these feelings will go away. Be gentle with yourself and remember this is all part of the process.
  • Relax and roll with it. This experience will make you a tougher, resilient, more robust and grounded person. It’s probably not how you expected, but nothing ever is. In ten years time, I promise you that you won’t feel this way. Most likely, in ten days time, you won’t feel this way. You feel like this now, but it will pass – it’s a moment in time, witness that thought and let it go. Be proud to be teaching in the UK. Be proud to be an adventurer. Hang on in there, this isn’t your forever, it’s just your “now for now”. But if the problem persists, it might be indicative of a greater issue – so don’t rule out seeing a counsellor or getting some kind of professional help. The UK has the fantastic NHS which does provide some free mental health services so see your local GP and get a referral – there’s no point suffering when there’s a wealth of support out there.