Francisco Zapata and Natalia Escobar became teachers in order to make a great impact on students' lives. They met at university (Medellin, Colombia) while being part of the competition swim team and have been married happily for 15 years! After teaching for some time in their home country of Colombia, they wanted to get to know other cultures and "reinvent themselves" as educators. In 2009, they took positions abroad in two schools in North Carolina as members of the Visiting International Faculty Program. From "that moment on," they knew they wanted to continue on their journey as international educators. Now, with six years of teaching experience, their greatest joy is seeing students grow in confidence and overcome new challenges.
Francisco and Natalia found Search Associates through a friend who had used it in the past. Natalia communicated that it was a much friendlier recruiting agency for those trying to pursue positions in international schools for the first time. Both Francisco and she attended the San Francisco Job Fair, before landing excellent positions in Doha, Qatar. For Natalia and Francisco, job fairs are a great opportunity to network and share professional experiences with other teachers and administrators. In fact, at the Search Associates San Francisco Fair, they were fortunate to find two people who had worked in Qatar who kindly gave their opinion and best advice. Their Associate Bridget McNamer was instrumental in helping them make up their minds. They recall her influential advice:
"Quality of life at a chosen location is important! What a school has to offer you at a professional level is important! Savings potential is important! If you have to sacrifice two out of these three things, then it may not be worth it!"
Before Francisco and Natalia attended the San Francisco Job Fair, they used the Search Associates website almost daily for updates on job vacancies. They did basic research on the schools that would be attending and were able to make contact with several prior to the fair. At the fair, they continued to be open-minded and eager for a new experience. Once they started to receive offers, they spent considerable time researching the schools and their locations, countries and their lifestyle, professional benefits they may be eligible for, and the savings potential of the salary and benefits package. Francisco and Natalia, thrilled with their decision to accept positions in Doha, Qatar, offer great advice:
"Being an international educator is a great experience that comes with great challenges! . . . Go for it—once you are well informed . . . Be open-minded to places you have never heard of; do not turn [down] an offer . . . simply because you know nothing about a country! If you are a teaching couple, take your time to talk and share your opinions, and make sure you both are happy with whatever decision you may make."