My new role as the “Dependent”

November 10-11, 2016

Earlier this week Greg (finally) submitted his ISS application! Even though I knew this was the first step toward finding an international teaching position, I admittedly expected the application to be our biggest hurdle. Ha! #naive. Applying as a single teacher is one thing, applying as a teaching couple is preferred, but applying as a married teacher with a non-teaching spouse is a pretty daunting task. Thats me, the non-teaching spouse, and I am now officially known as the “dependent.”

Being a dependent doesn’t necessarily hurt our odds at finding a position abroad, but it definitely is not a strong selling point. International schools prefer hiring teaching couples as it is the most cost effective. The cost of housing and utilities are shared, and therefore cut down on the school’s financial responsibility. International schools are also acutely aware of the lifestyle a non-teaching spouse may lead in their new country. There are many realities of a non-working dependent to consider: loneliness, feasibility of living off of a single wage, the mental and emotional issues of being unemployed, etc…

Thankfully, I have the advantage of being a certified travel and tourism professional. Even though I am currently a Marketing and Communications project manager for a corporate real estate investment company, I have heavily considered becoming a travel agent. Becoming a travel agent would provide the flexibility I need to work from our potential new home AND earn an income. I have options. I am lucky. Hopefully future employers do not see me being the dependent as a burden to them, but instead as either a neutral party or perhaps an asset to their international community.

Responsibilities of the “dependent”

As part of Greg’s application for ISS, I have to complete a “partner statement.” The purpose of this statement is three-fold. First, I introduce myself and woo all those reading with my witty yet charming antidotes. Secondly, I must convince employers that I am not expecting to be hired by them and that Greg and I understand the full realities of living off of a single income. Lastly, I explain what I intend to do with my time if Greg secures a position overseas and how I will contribute to their international school community.

Writing my personal statement is one of the most daunting and important tasks of my life. It needs to be short, but I like to use a lot of words. It’s also so very important to me that my quirky personality shines through, but succeeding at that is proving difficult. Is it better to stick with dry academic vernacular or allow my silly side to take the reigns? I had been struggling with this for days. Not to mention the emotions compounded with our new political climate. What can I say to convince an employer that if they hire Greg, I’ll be able to figure out something to do with my time abroad? How do I urge employers that we are open-minded Americans when America right now is heading down a divisive path of bigotry and hate? I have spent hours been pouring over my answers.

Breaking writer’s block

Three simple questions have somehow managed to send me into a panic over proving my worth. But a few things that have helped me formulate my responses came from surprising sources. Over the past few days, as terror seeps into the minds of those who realize what Trump as president means for America, many travel-based companies I receive newsletters from have publicly come out in opposition to this new regime. Company presidents and CEOs have been writing that their company values are not changing. I was inspired by a Condé Nast Traveler article with this quote by their editor-in-chief, Pilar Guzmán:

The more we engage with the world, rather than run from it, the more clearly we’ll understand that it’s really not us versus them. It’s just us.”

The words started pouring out of me as I fought to prove my worth, not only as a dependent, but as an American. I finally found my voice.


for your future reference here are the 2017 ISS Partner Statement Questions:
  1. As an accompanying partner/spouse, it is understood that you are not actively seeking employment at the school that hires your partner. Please introduce yourself, briefly describe your background and explain how you would intend to spend your time overseas for the duration of your partner’s contract.
  2. It may be a challenge to sustain your expected lifestyle on only one salary, as the cost of living in some countries is higher than in the USA. In addition, it may be impossible for the school hiring your partner to obtain you a work permit for any kind of work within the host country. How would you make this work or otherwise address these important issues?
  3. For the majority of international schools, an accompanying partner’s willingness to become a part of the school community is very important. As you may know, there are many ways to contribute beyond the classroom. Many find that involvement with others supports a positive transition overseas. How would you see yourself contributing to the school community? What specific skills and experience do you have that could benefit the school and its students?

Stay tuned to learn how we became Expat Educators!

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