Saying Goodbye… Advice for Expat Teachers on the Move

The whole expatriate teacher ‘moving on’ business is not only challenging on a practical level but, on deep psychological and emotional levels also. You may have been in your present position for a long time, or maybe it has been a relatively short term posting. You may have been lucky enough to develop deep roots and friendships that will last a lifetime. Or maybe you have been in post for a while but haven’t managed to as connected. Whatever your situation, it is important to be mindful and intentional about how you leave, and how you bring closure to this phase in your life.

In my 30 years as an educator I have moved 7 times, and each move was different. In each case I was at a different stage in my life, the countries were different and my attachments to the schools and communities were different. I guess what I mean by that is that each time you move, each time you change jobs, it is not only the schools and countries that change. You have also changed – and you will be changed again by the move ahead. You are not the same person who arrived in your present location, however many years ago that was. And in some ways you will not be the same person when you arrive to start your new life in whichever new country that may be. One of the wonderful things about being human is that we live in a state of perpetual change and (hopefully) growth. Whilst we cannot stop that change, we can certainly influence it, direct it and be mindful of it in ways that can be beneficial to us and those around us.
So, if you are an expatriate educator, when it comes to moving on and closure, I offer these few pieces of advice before your final trip to the airport as you say farewell to your current community country:
  1. Re-visit the places that made good memories for you. It could be a restaurant, a view, a market. Remember what was good about it, and smile.
  2. Say good bye to the people with whom you maybe haven’t had the best of relationships. The people who are close to you will make sure they say goodbye to you, but the others may need you to take a step in their direction.
  3. Thank the ‘lead locals’ in your life. As expats we come and go, but how intentional are we in expressing our thanks for the hospitality (and tolerance!) shown to us by those whose country it is in which we live?
  4. Write a letter of welcome and good wishes to your successor, and leave it with someone who will pass it along.
  5. Finally, try to be present on the last day. I don’t mean ‘don’t be absent’. I mean try to be there, in the moment, on that final day. You won’t have that day again and it is the last moment you have to say a mental farewell to the place and community that have been your home.
I know that moving tends to throw up 1,001 practical and logistical matters that tend to occupy most of your energies when it comes to The Big Move, but I would encourage you to take some time to consider how you leave, how you move on, and how you bring positive closure, before you step onto the plane.
If you would like to read more about moving on you might like to check out these great posts about the ‘Expat Goodbye’:
Learning to Say Goodbye (more about supporting kids)

2 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye… Advice for Expat Teachers on the Move

  1. Excellent commentary. The position of the western expatriate teacher today is a curious one – rather like the erudite Greeks (often slaves) who tutored the children of wealthy Roman citizens.

    As the western empire weaves and wobbles, and the “era of superpowers” rapidly enters twilight, those of us embodying the most valuable of traditions will still have much to offer learners in institutions in the rest of the world.


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