I have now lived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for almost seven months. The honeymoon stage is over. I figured I would stop thinking, “Wow, this is your life? This is amazing though!” But I haven’t. I am really content with my life here, both professionally and personally.
I have started to see the positives and the less positives, as anyone would when they move to a new place and accept a new job. For this reason, I specifically did not post anything to this blog because I wanted to not simply gush or vent over the small things as I acclimated to life here. I wanted to show a well-rounded opinion of everything.
My Work and Living Situation:
I was assigned to a school in The West! The placement letter shocked me. I remember reading the words “Al Gharbia” on the sheet of paper. The Unknown washed over me faster than a waterfall. My job placement was in the western region of Abu Dhabi, out in the desert, the dunes, lots of camels. I couldn’t even find the school or the city in Google, and Google never lets you down. I was a bit worried at that time.
More than likely I was placed in Al Gharbia because I’m single and without children. If I had a family, then it would be difficult for the children to be in a school. Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC) considers this and places those with spouses and children in Abu Dhabi City or Al Ain.
After a few hours of research I was finally able to find the small town where my school was located. Only being about an hour from Abu Dhabi, I wasn’t too worried about moving to my area of the West. I knew ahead of time there was the likelihood of this happening and I had signed up for an adventure anyways. I would make it work whatever happens.
Others were not so accepting. I witnessed one young woman sitting on the floor like a petulant child balling her eyes out due to her placement. This to me was not only unprofessional but also immature and showed either her lack of research or her true inability to roll with the punches. I was embarrassed for her sitting among hundreds of teachers, in a line full of others who were also placed in the West, and she, just blubbering away. From what I heard, she did not end up staying to take her placement.
After a week of talking to ADEC and other veteran teachers, I ended up choosing to live in a larger city about 50 minutes away from my school called Madinat Zayed (MZ). Here I have an extremely comfortable villa (2 bed/2 bath) and a large expat community to hang with. The city has a small mall, a few different grocery stores, restaurants and even a Starbucks. If you can imagine living in a small town where you’re from, this wouldn’t be much different. I do have to make the commute every day, and it does bother some at my school, but not me. With carpooling, I only drive once or twice a week and I’ve discovered podcasts and listening to audiobooks whenever I don’t sleep. Back home I travelled a lot for my last job and used to commute over an hour to my old schools anyways. I haven’t ever NOT had a commute, so it’s not a negative thing for me; it’s the norm.
I only live about an hour and a half from the city which allows an extremely easy drive if I want to do something fun on the weekends. I go in to Abu Dhabi a few weekends a month and end up crashing at friends’ places.
(If you’re in the city and have friends in The West, then you let them sleep on your couch, it’s a given.)
My School Situation:
My school placement was in a smaller city in Al Gharbia along the coast. My school is a cycle 2 and cycle 3 all-girls school. I ended up teaching at the cycle 2 level (middle school) and overall it’s a great place to work.
There are challenges, but there would be those in any school no matter the country or culture. They are just different challenges because of the country and culture.
My teaching hours are more than some, but not more than back home. The endless paperwork and politics back in the U.S. is not something really seen here. I do have to make and submit lesson plans, I do have to take student attendance. There is professional development and parent meetings, but not to the mind numbing level that is required back home. I am able to use the ADEC curriculum and my experience to do what I think would show the most student progress. There are teacher observations and hallway duty. It’s a school.
This job has really helped me to separate my off hours and my work hours. I have seen countless teachers intertwine the two. There is nothing wrong with this; it creates impassioned educators who would do anything for their students. But in Florida, to become that sucked into the job is draining since so much is out of the control of the teachers themselves. It’s like that in many places. I found my job exhaustive and something always happened that made me become more and more frustrated. This led me to look at teaching jobs out of the country in the first place. I didn’t want this to be repeated when I moved here.
Here, I do have a separation. I work at work. There is enough time in my schedule to get the lesson plans and grading done. I can do research and prepare activities there. Occasionally I may bring things home to grade if it’s a larger project or if I want to plan for something more extravagant. But I set that as a goal for myself before moving. I wanted to, once settled, no longer live to work. Instead I wanted to work to live. I love my job, I love teaching and I love the kids. My job makes me incredibly happy, but I don’t just have that as my only source of happiness. I work this job and focus on other things that also make me happy! The current situation with education in Abu Dhabi is more teacher and student friendly than politician friendly, as it is in many Western societies. This allows for teachers to actually live a life separate from their job.
I am not saying those that work to live are not doing as they should, I commend them for their work ethic and passion for their profession. For me personally, this was something I wanted to change and moving to Abu Dhabi gave me that change.
How I Feel about my Situations:
I feel fine! Like really fine! Living in The West has been a great chance to experience the culture and way of life in the U.A.E. that people living in Abu Dhabi City just wouldn’t experience. People that live further west of me may have other thoughts, but my situation is fantastic. If I had lived in the city I would end up eating out too much, spending a lot shopping and going out every weekend. Plus the extra travel stipend for living in Al Gharbia basically covers my car rental every month. I carpool, so I save gas money. I cook a lot, so I save even more. Ultimately I save to travel, pay off debt and to have fun! So overall this is a good situation financially!
There is a nice teacher community here in MZ, they have rooftop parties, dinners and activities which makes living out of the city completely awesome! Plus I tend to watch Netflix as much as I do back home, so my evenings are pretty chill. The social situation is decent in the West and we have a stronger camaraderie here than people in the city do. We depend on each other and help each other out. When I went to the emergency room, two other teachers where there, one came with me, the other showed up within minutes. People I have only known for a few months, made sure I was okay. We look out for one another. Those are the kind of people you want in your life.
While my new life in Abu Dhabi is only in the beginning stages, I am thrilled with it so far. I’ve travelled more in the last seven months than all my years before. I’ve made connections with people I never would have, had I not moved and experienced so many interesting things that I know will change me in the future, for the better. It’s just the beginning, but it’s a pretty swell beginning.