A grand new journey will begin soon. This new journey will take me a long way from small-town southern Georgia, out of the gnats and the clannish cultural environs–thousands of miles away, over sea and sand. For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been pursuing a teaching position abroad, and things have finally worked out. I’ve committed to a job teaching English in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. This journey, the literal voyaging, hasn’t really begun yet. The beginnings are in the makings, truly, with paperwork in the mail. Still, let me tell you how I got this far.
In the early 2000s, a friend of a friend took a job teaching in Dubai. The news that she loved teaching there reached my ears, and that sparked my interest in one of the Arab world’s most progressive countries–the UAE. At that time, Dubai was just beginning its explosive growth (or was, at the very least, just beginning to make headlines in the US). Over the years, I paid attention as Dubai made itself into a tourist destination, becoming known for “The World’s Biggest This” and “The World’s Tallest That,” and so on and so forth. I followed my acquaintance’s blog with interest.
After I graduated college, I started perusing the various online websites that advertised jobs in the Gulf area. I didn’t have the sort of experience teaching that schools were looking for, but I posted a resume on GulfTalent.com anyway. That didn’t get me anywhere, because I wasn’t really very hirable–retail experience is more or less useless in the classroom, after all, and that’s where I’d ended up–retail sales. But I kept my resume on the site.
Eventually I went back to school, obtained my Master’s in Teaching, and went to work here in Georgia. When I graduated with my MAT in 2008, the recession was in full swing, and the job market was crashing faster than an F1 race car. I had to substitute to work in the field at all. Although that may have helped me land a job later, it was was a real challenge. In 2009, I accepted a position teaching language arts in Randolph County–which meant a move to a little town in southwestern Georgia, a place neither Jenia, my wife, nor I have ever liked very much. Granted, we’ve grown accustomed to the area, and we’ve been blessed to make some good friends and meet some very kind people here, but we’ve been ready to go somewhere else ever since we arrived.
Last spring, I happened to remember my GulfTalent resume , and so I updated it. I now had a little real experience in the field. Still, I didn’t give the subject of teaching in the Persian Gulf area much thought, and I more or less forgot about the whole thing. Then I got an e-mail and a phone call from a private school in Al Ain, an oasis city in the UAE. They’d seen my resume online and were interested. They interviewed me over the phone, and made me an offer–the basics of which seemed quite attractive: apartment paid for, transportation to work provided, airfare there, etc. But the pay would have been substantially less than public schools run by the Abu Dhabi Education Council, and the school itself seemed to have mediocre reviews. Besides that, they weren’t willing to pay Jenia’s airfare. As I found out, ADEC paid better and offered much better benefits. I declined their offer and began researching ADEC. It turned out that Teach Away, a Canadian teacher placement agency, seemed to be the easiest way to get hooked up with ADEC, and so I began an application process through that company.
The Teach Away process was straight-forward enough. Fill out an application, do a phone interview (which wasn’t stressful at all, but which did confirm to them, I guess, that I wasn’t an idiot and I had some classroom management skills), submit passport style photos, etc. I had a placement coordinator working with me named Tammy who was friendly and wonderfully helpful. This process culminated in an interview last May in Atlanta. The interview went well, but when I told my interviewer about a potential hangup–my wife’s status as an immigrant awaiting citizenship–he advised me to withdraw my name from the running. The wife and I decided that was good advice, and I called Tammy and told her that we’d decided to wait for a year. She was, again, wonderful–she told me she’d keep me in the system and put my name in the running as soon as 2012 hiring started.
That is exactly what happened. I interviewed in Atlanta again, and then waited for more than a month to hear anything. In the meantime, my wife’s status has changed, allowing her to travel much more easily. And, as you already know, ADEC made me an offer and I accepted it.
Since signing on the dotted line, I’ve been busily assembling required paperwork for the UAE’s work visa. I’ve had to get copies of my marriage certificate, teaching certificate, and highest degree notarized. Then I had to take these copies to the local Clerk of the Superior Court and have her print a statement that my notary was legitimate (one for each of the documents), and sign and stamp the statement. Then the notarized documents and the statements had to be sent to the Secretary of State in Atlanta for a work use seal. The process is a bit convoluted. Now I’m waiting for everything to come back to me in the mail, whereupon I will send them all off to Washington, DC, for similar stamps from the State Department, before everything is finally delivered to the UAE Embassy in DC. Only after all this is done, will I actually know for sure that I’m going to be departing this country at summer’s end. But, if all goes smoothly (and it should), I’ll be off to Abu Dhabi in August.
Finally, here is a map from the CIA World Factbook showing the UAE in orange. You can research a little bit about the UAE on the World Factbook site, if you like, as well as find some other maps and images. Click below to check it out. CIA Worldfactbook.