Continuing Education Suggestions for Training Spouses, or Your Children Shouldn’t Be the Only Ones in School

 

You have done the seemingly impossible. Your family is all together in your new country, in your new residence. All your belongings have arrived and have been put into their proper places. And (with the help of your School Choice consultant) your children are enrolled in their new schools and have begun their studies. You are relieved, but after a few days or weeks, you find yourself with a little too much time on your hands and little constructive activity to fill it with.

 

For a trailing spouse, this scenario is all too common. Your husband (typically, it is the woman who follows the man) is busy with establishing himself in his new office. Your kids are busy adjusting to a new school and making new friends. Their days are full. But if you held paid employment before your move, you may have left behind a fulfilling job to follow your family. You may find yourself in a situation in which you are not permitted to work or in which work is not possible because you lack the necessary language skills. One solution: consider your time away from paid employment as a well-deserved “sabbatical” and use the time instead to refine your professional skills or develop new ones. You might make some new friends or even discover a path to a new career!

 

Here are some suggestions for continuing your own education abroad:

 

  • The obvious choice if you are in a country with a different language…language lessons. Chances are that you will be able to find numerous language schools near you. A course or series of courses in the language of your host country will provide you with at least the foundation you will need to be able do your shopping, for example, and to interact with the locals. Check with your partner’s employer—sometimes companies will offer language course fee payment or reimbursement as part of their compensation packages for expatriate families. Your new city might also have English-speaking social clubs that provide language lessons as part of their membership dues.

 

  • Check to see if there are any universities around you that offer training programs or individual courses in an area in which you are interested. Many cities around the world have branches of American universities or may even have a local university that offers some of its courses in English (often the case with business programs that offer American-style degrees such as the MBA and seek to attract an international student body). Other cities have local universities that partner with American universities in delivery of a particular type of program such as art history. Check the Web or with local “welcome to” guides to see what might be available.

 

  • You might want to take a training program or course on-line (commonly referred to as distance education). This type of study enables students to study on their own time away from a traditional campus setting. Although distance education has been around for a long time—many training institutes and universities offered “correspondence courses”—the internet makes delivery of these courses and the ability to communicate with instructors and fellow students easier and more sophisticated. The UK’s Open University (www.open.ac.uk) is one of the best-known and highly-regarded providers of distance courses.

 

  • Do something fun for yourself…find a course in painting, cooking, or whatever strikes your fancy. Finding a course in a regional variation—for instance, a step dancing class if you have relocated to Ireland and enjoy different types of artistic movement—can help you feel better connected to the people and customs of your new area as well as provide you with an enjoyable creative outlet. An appropriate course might be difficult to locate if the available options are taught in a language that you do not understand. However, check with any English-speaking social clubs to which you may belong. These clubs may have groups with particular interests in activities you enjoy. Sometimes, too, they will form new groups or offer special activity courses taught in English if there is enough interest within the club’s membership.
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4 Responses to Continuing Education Suggestions for Training Spouses, or Your Children Shouldn’t Be the Only Ones in School

  1. findingschools says:

    I agree whole heartedly! Having moved many times overseas, I see spouses who got involved and were proactive in using opportunities made possible by the move as the ones who thrived and enjoyed their overseas experience. By enrolling in new courses, and volunteering they discoved new aspects to their personalities. Keeping a positive attitude, and retaining a sense of humor helped too.
    Those who did not, ended up hating their experience, colored their children’s perspective negatively and spent the entire time longing for what they had left behind!

    Namita

  2. Sara says:

    These are fabulous suggestions for wives to continue to have purposeful lives while with their families on international assignments.

    When posted to South America with children in infant stage, I simply appreciated regaining a balanced life. With household help, I was able to enjoy many roles – including mom, contractor, substitute teacher, program coordinator, hostess and friend. It was wonderful to suddenly “have it all,” – what American women often crave but practically find impossible to achieve in the US.

    We became very involved in launching a church in the expat community. This is another great way to become active and connect with others.

    Once the children were enrolled in a local school, this became a culturally acceptable way of “breaking into” the social scene. Even though we were “outsiders,” we were “vetted” because of our common status as parents. This provided a great entree to the real pleasure and mystery of an international assignment: forming friendships with the country’s nationals. This is certainly a worthwhile investment of one’s time when living abroad.

    Finally, depending upon how strict the work permit laws are, if you have any type of background in teaching or child development, the international schools are often keen to have native English speakers as substitute teachers. This was a most enjoyable part of my expat experience, both long-term and short-term teaching assignments.

    In addition to all the above, it may be the case that the daily machinations of living take quite a bit more time overseas than in the US. Errands, shopping, doctor appointments – etc., can become epic journeys. All this to say that one may not have as much time on one’s hands as one would expect!

  3. findingschools says:

    These are fabulous suggestions for wives to continue to have purposeful lives while with their families on international assignments.

    When posted to South America with children in infant stage, I simply appreciated regaining a balanced life. With household help, I was able to enjoy many roles – including mom, contractor, substitute teacher, program coordinator, hostess and friend. It was wonderful to suddenly “have it all,” – what American women often crave but practically find impossible to achieve in the US.

    We became very involved in launching a church in the expat community. This is another great way to become active and connect with others.

    Once the children were enrolled in a local school, this became a culturally acceptable way of “breaking into” the social scene. Even though we were “outsiders,” we were “vetted” because of our common status as parents. This provided a great entree to the real pleasure and mystery of an international assignment: forming friendships with the country’s nationals. This is certainly a worthwhile investment of one’s time when living abroad.

    Finally, depending upon how strict the work permit laws are, if you have any type of background in teaching or child development, the international schools are often keen to have native English speakers as substitute teachers. This was a most enjoyable part of my expat experience, both long-term and short-term teaching assignments.

    In addition to all the above, it may be the case that the daily machinations of living take quite a bit more time overseas than in the US. Errands, shopping, doctor appointments – etc., can become epic journeys. All this to say that one may not have as much time on one’s hands as one would expect!

    Sara

  4. Judy C. says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with what Sara has written about embracing (and creating) the opportunties presented to trailing spouses rather than complaining about what they are missing and the difficult aspects. It is also good to remember that re-establishing yourself in a new country and a new culture takes work and even when you don’t feel like going out you need to force yourself. Know that it takes up to 18 months to start to really feel settled and accepted. It is often most difficult when a trailing spouse has left a career of their own and goes through the process of “now what” and redefining themselves. Be patient as this is a difficult process creating your new identity. What a great time to learn something new – it is so re-energizing! You never know what path it will lead to.

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