5's a crowd in a 747-but it's time to move abroad.
March 24, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

My wife is a third culture kid, grew up all over the world, and has barely survived 10 years in the states. We need to leave the country, and soon. Problem is, we have 3 kids, and she is a social worker/therapist. I'm a elementary-school teacher turned photographer who doesn't want to go back to teaching.

We've done a ton of looking, from teaching abroad, to being a school counselor (not gonna happen, they really want someone with a masters in school counseling, not social work). I really think she needs a niche job with some big company...providing assistance to families moving abroad, or something like that. She also thinks she'd like to work with refugees, really interested in the Congo...but that's not really a place you'd take a family, is it?

Other possibilities include me continuing to work in the states for 2 months of the year (I have a photography gig that pays very well for 2 months of the year, and then goes dormant for the rest of the year). Her doing therapy to expat communities, or something like that.

What we're running into is that our family is resource heavy---no one in their right mind would hire us with 3 kids to educate in international schools---and all the jobs and suggestions on me-fi seem to be aimed at singles or couples who travel light.

We aren't really particular where we end up, though our spanish is decent, and we live in colorado with lots of sun now, so a place with no sun like parts of Europe would probably put us in a state of eternal depression (we've experienced winters in Germany...only got through those with lots of gluwine and brats)

So that's our story. Where to now? How to network for jobs like this? Types of positions that she might search for that we may not have thought of? Your experience moving a family abroad with kids? Have a job for her?
posted by johngalt to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend she look for positions with the title Human Resource Manager or Director of Training and Educational Development. This would dovetail with your wife's interest in helping people and probably be a good place for her. It would also be much easier to explain the 3-kids issue and would be a good way for the family to transition to a new lifestyle in a new place without needing to segregate in an academic setting immediately.
posted by parmanparman at 11:33 AM on March 24, 2009

I hope other people will have more useful and concrete suggestions for you, but I do contract work for a major international relocation company. I don't work with the actual relocation aspect of it, but I wonder if she might be able to find some kind of position with that kind of company (I'm sure they're not the only one). Anyway, just a thought. Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 11:37 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It might be helpful to know what it is about the US that your wife wants to get away from.
posted by amro at 11:41 AM on March 24, 2009

She may be able to land a job offer in Ireland with a masters in social work. I know someone who moved from the US to take up a job as a counsellor for teenagers and young people with the health service. Although you are tied to that job for (I think) two years, after that your residency is established and you are free to seek any job you like. If you focused the job search on southern Ireland, like county Cork, we have actually quite mild weather and loads of coastline and beaches for sunny days.

Educating the children would be less of an issue financially; schools obviously vary by location, and there are inherent problems in the Irish education system, but I think the overall education standard is good. If you opt for fee-paying schools, they are radically cheaper than in the US or UK - around €3,000 per year per child when I last looked.

And, obviously, getting back to the US is not an issue from here.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:46 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As for why she (and we) want to get away, I think a big part of her formative years were in Argentina, Venezuela, and Europe, she's got a different way of looking at the world because of that. This concept of the "third culture" is that when you growup in an international environment, you never really become completely a part of your citizenship country, your resident country, you have this 3rd culture of an international citizen, a blend of everything. Living and working abroad is something we want to do for both of us as well as our children...While we have a great country (and I'm not just saying that because George is listening...yes, still) there's more to life than America. That is the attitude we'd like to instill in our kids and how we'd like to live.

I also think it would be helpful to hear things we aren't thinking about...I mentioned EAP kind of work, but that certainly isn't the only thing we'd consider, the problem is we don't really know what we can consider.
posted by johngalt at 12:04 PM on March 24, 2009

You know this is a major international company looking for both qualified teachers and people that can do social work, especially ones that have the bonus of understanding third culture kids' issues: http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/ See also: http://www.fsyf.org/

Also, have you thought about moving to another part of the US where they need good teachers and social workers, but also things are very different from where you live now? How about rural southern Texas? Puerto Rico? Hawaii? Guam? Alaska?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:59 PM on March 24, 2009

It makes me a little wary that you're asserting that your wife's upbringing abroad in those countries gave her "a different way of looking at things," as if there Americans only have one way of looking at things. Like Pollomacho, I was thinking of suggesting a relocation within the US, but along different lines. I think you should consider places like Austin, TX, the SF Bay Area (though it is expensive! Maybe Berkeley?) and Portland, OR, where there are lots of progressive people who are "third culture" or otherwise represent a diversity of opinion and thought. I think your respective skills as a photographer and social worker could be valuable in almost any community around the US, there is no need to run out to Big Bend (where you will probably find no cultural support or empathy for your globe-trotting experiences).

While I certainly agree with you that there is a lot to life other than living in America, and I hope you will instill your kids with this, it is also pretty stressful to schlep a 5 person family around the world without the support of, for example, the foreign service. Maybe instead you can make a point of traveling internationally when possible, and encouraging your kids to study abroad as much as possible. There is also value to showing them the diversity of the country where they were born and raised, rather than demanding that they follow in your third-culture footsteps in order to become "whole."
posted by rkent at 1:54 PM on March 24, 2009

I also think it would be helpful to hear things we aren't thinking about...

You aren't thinking about the fact that there is a recession on and that it will be very difficult and a potential risk for your kids to do this now. Give it a few years. There's a lot of stuff you can do to help your wife survive here - pick up more home or outside work so she has more time to attend therapy, exercise and develop her hobbies and social contacts.

When you have kids, the kids come first.

If she has to leave so badly her health or life are at risk, perhaps she should do so without you and the kids.

Sorry to be a downer but I am seeing a LOT of questions these days that don't take the recession and the new mentality this necessitates into account lately.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2009

As a teacher and social worker couple, maybe you could open a small private school in a city with an ex-pat community -- I fantasized about doing this in La Paz, Mexico where I used to live. Your kids could take a role in the school that would be better than any education they're getting stateside.
posted by glider at 4:12 PM on March 24, 2009

Start with places you know you can go, visa-wise. Many countries are making it very hard to get a visa to work unless you have some kind of ancestral claim or special shortage skill (and this is getting worse by the minute with the economy).

What about the UN? A large NGO?

It's a shame you can't go the international school route and have both of you work in one, I know someone who has worked for several in different countries as a senior teacher, and it's been no problem enroling his 3 kids with him on each posting.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:14 PM on March 24, 2009

Wow, that is a really great thing to want to do for your kids!

Hawaii and San Francisco are nice insofar as they are cosmopolitan. Yes, the kids will get to know people from different cultures - but they will all be middle-class people. They take clean air, clean water, utilities, roads, and Starbucks for granted. Their idea of a tragedy is not having an iPod.

Is that what you want to expose your kids to - the richness of life in places where many struggle for the basics, and where life is a bit more precarious?

How about Puerto Rico or Guam?

How about the diplomatic service?

How about an exploratory trip where you can check the place out and maybe make connections?

How about sailing around the world?
posted by metaseeker at 6:23 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: San Franciso isn't particularly cosmopolitan and it costs eleventy million dollars a year to raise kids there so I personally think that's not a terribly helpful suggestion.

I'd recommend looking into the social work route in the UK for starters: 4 or 5 years ago they were importing social workers by the gross from Australia on contracts and paying them quite well so there was a shortage then. If you are earning in sterling and thinking of moving basically anywhere else in the world that's a good situation to be in. You can commute back and forth to work if you have to.

I'd also look into international schools: you might have to go back to teaching for a few years but it's a great networking opportunity and you can always keep looking for something more permanent.

Really it depends on where you can get a visa to work.
posted by fshgrl at 10:36 PM on March 24, 2009

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