Between the rumors of war back in January and the pandemic, I made it to my last day as a teacher in Kuwait. Three years ago, I thought I would teach in Kuwait for 2 years and come back home and continue my career. At the present time, I have no intention to continue my career path as a classroom teacher. I will continue to be an educator, I will take on tutoring jobs and possibly choose a supporting classroom role. However, at this time I need a break. This year of teaching was my fifth year and I most definitely had enough. Even though I do not want to be a classroom teacher, I would still encourage those who want to teach overseas to do it. There are several benefits of teaching overseas. I will describe the pros and cons of my experience in Kuwait, but this list can look very similar to other Middle Eastern countries.
One of the best parts about living in Kuwait was that I was provided with a furnished apartment. I didn’t pay rent, water, or utilities. I only paid for groceries and other necessities. In addition, I was provided with a moving and moving out allowance, currency exchange rate, and indemnity ( for retirement fund). Before I moved to Kuwait, I had to get medical checkups, transcripts, and fingerprints which I had to pay for out of pocket. When I arrived in Kuwait, my first day of orientation, I received an envelope full of money. It was reimbursement for the fees I paid and my moving in fee. To add to my furnished apartment, when I first moved in I was provided with some basic groceries, eggs, bread, jelly, yogurt, water, etc. This made moving a smooth process. I still struggled to adjust and I’ll explain more later.
Every summer, my school gave me the option to visit my family back home. They provided me with a travel allowance once every year which covered a round trip ticket to my home and back. If I wanted to make a stop, I had the option to do that as well. The best part was that I could choose to let the travel agency plan my trip or receive money to plan my own trip. The travel agency had a discount with the top two airlines, but that doesn’t mean that they had the best prices. All in all, it was nice that once I year I received extra money and I didn’t have to budget it out of my paycheck.
I would get asked all the time if I got paid more in Kuwait than in the states. Only taking my base salary into account, I did not get paid more. Actually, on a monthly basis, my pay was very similar to the pay I received in the states after the taxes. On the other hand, considering all of the allowances I received including a signing bonus, I received way more money than in the states. I never sat down and calculated the total amount of money I received, but logically I received more money from my school in Kuwait by far. My first job, I received leave pay for the days I didn’t take off and in my previous position, I received a $1000 stipend when I went back a 2nd year. This was the only pay I remember receiving outside of my base salary. At my current position, I received more allowance in my first year than both of those payments combined. I was worried about moving to a new place and not receiving a pay increase, however considering all of the allowances I received, it was an increase.
I used the money that I would usually use to pay rent to pay off my student loans and other debt instead. I was close to $11,000 in debt which consisted of student loans and credit card debt. I got my first credit card the year before I went to Kuwait and it was very easy to swipe especially since I had two years with no interest. I planned on paying before the interest-free time period, but that didn’t happen. Living rent fee gave me the flexibility to pay my debt and still travel. I probably could have paid it faster if I didn’t travel, but nonetheless, I am debt free!
Short Academic Year
I had more days off as a teacher in Kuwait than in the States. I didn’t have all of the same holidays I would’ve had in the states, but I had some. I also had additional days off from Kuwait holidays. I love my students and all but I love my days off too. This year, I had a week off for Kuwait National Day Celebration. Little did I know that that would be my last break in Kuwait because after that break is when school was closed for two weeks which extended to the end of the year. This was one of the main reasons I decided to do another year, even though I wanted to leave sooner.
One good thing about my accommodations is that I was able to live on my own and was able to connect with people in my apartment building. I lived in one of the few buildings that my school owned and everyone that lived there worked at my school. It was nice having kickbacks or people to share a taxi with. At one point we even had a walking club where we walked for two hours once a week, sometimes twice. Those were good times. Aside from that living in Kuwait was nice. There are a handful of things to do in Kuwait the number one being shisha lounges. On top of that shisha (hooka) was cheap. Overall, the quality of life was decent.
Compared to traveling from the US traveling from Kuwait was so much easy. It took me 6 hours to get to Rome from Kuwait. It took about the same amount of time for me to get to Egypt and even Ethiopia. Flights from the US are long and expensive, but from Kuwait, flights were cheaper and shorter. I have been to 11 different countries because I lived In Kuwait. All were amazing experiences. I got to see the pyramids in Egypt, and the Vatican in Rome. When to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and hung out London because I had a layover. I went island hopping in Thailand. I got to see the beautiful landscape in Uganda and Rwanda. That is just a sample of what I did and some of my colleagues have also been on great trips and more places than me. One of the main reasons why I was attracted to going overseas was to live out my dream to travel to new countries.
I went through an adjustment period living in a country that has a different culture. It took me a while to realize that I had to live by their rules and not mine. It was really hard to not have all the conveniences that I was used to. There is nothing that could have prepared me mentally because I was in a new environment and didn’t have access to resources or even transportation like I used to. Once I was adopted, I didn’t suffer much from homesickness as much. I still missed my family and friends, but I adjusted to the ways things were.
Tension Between Countries
In the first two years, there were not any problems. My first year there was a bombing at a mosque when I was in Egypt, but the bombing happened in Cairo when I was in Alexandria. This is similar to the distance from Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So I was not near the danger. However, in January of this year, I thought the US was going to go to war with Iran. I feel like I would have been safe and would have been able to evacuate, but the idea of war still gave me anxiety. This is the issue you face when coming to the middle east. The tension between the countries is what caused my family to be afraid of me going. Thankfully, we didn’t go to war with Iran and I made it back safely.
Since the pandemic, I understand the fear that my family members had when I decided to move to Kuwait. I had a few family members pass away and I was only able to attend one funeral. It’s not even about a crisis, but it’s about celebrations like weddings and different holidays. Times when you really want to be around family you can not because you are so far away. Even though I like to travel, I do not like being on the plane for 24 hours or more, which was the minimum amount of time I spent going from one flight to another to get back home.
I will never forget that the time I was on a group chat with my family deciding between Kuwait and Mexico weighing the pros and cons. I was leaning towards Kuwait and my brother said “ Kuwait could wait” it was such a dad joke. Imagine me choosing Mexico and not only having less pay, but having to pay for my flight, and look for my accommodations that I would have had to pay for. I probably would have just ended up having more dept. I am thankful that things worked out. During that time I was afraid that I was making the wrong decision because my family did not approve of Kuwait, even though I asked for their advice. I had an important conversation with my other brother that day and he encouraged me to not let the fear of others hold me back from an opportunity.
There was another person at the job fair with me who chose not to take any offers because he didn’t find what he was looking for. Waiting was another option I had when I was at that job fair. The main reason why I chose to take the job in Kuwait because I went with the intention of getting a job, not just weighing my options. I took off work and spent a lot of money on that trip. I felt like I had a lot on the line. I felt like if I didn’t take the position right then and there, then I wasn’t going to find anything that year and would have had to wait until the next school year. One of the things that recruiters fail to mention is that most of their positions are filled already. The job fair is the last resort to work out the last few positions. I made my decision in a stressful situation and I was afraid of the future at that time. In hindsight, I made a good decision and had a great experience, and met some awesome people.
The ability to travel and my school providing my accommodations were the main reasons I chose to work in Kuwait. All my other pros were benefits I didn’t foresee (outside of paying off my debt). At the sometime I was not prepared for my cons, however, I realized that anything you do there will be pros and cons, even if the pros list is longer. There is nothing that exists in the world that is perfect. Opportunities can be everything you wanted and very beneficial but still have negative parts. I have learned to live with my decisions and move from there. Let’s say, for example, my experience in Kuwait was horrible and there was a war. I can not change what happens on the outside, and I couldn’t take my decision back. I would have had to live with my decision and make the best decisions from there. The point I am trying to make is that my brother was right, you can not allow fear to cloud your judgment about good opportunities because you never know what’s going to happen. I really enjoyed my time in Kuwait and it will always be apart of who I am.
I hope that you are in good spirits and are staying healthy. If you like this post comment one thing you are grateful for in this current time. Thanks for following me on my journey and thanks for reading. I still have a lot to share so my blog doesn’t end with my life in Kuwait. For next week I am working on a video about the reasons why you should absolutely visit Africa. Stay safe!