News: Taking the Leap from Australia to Cambodia to Shanghai - Jun 21, 2023
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Wednesday, June 21, 2023Candidate Stories

Taking the Leap from Australia to Cambodia to Shanghai

Andrew and Traleen met when they were teenagers. Decades later, they have stayed together as their career paths veered apart—and then back together while traveling the world. Prior to becoming a teacher, Andrew worked as a social worker, focused on disadvantaged children and indigenous communities in outback Australia. Traleen enjoyed working in human resources within the education sector for over ten years. Now, they are working in the same international school, where the couple enjoys running into each other in the hallway and, if their schedules allow, enjoying lunch together.

Andrew and Traleen discovered international school life while traveling with their kids—a true passion—and meeting families who were living and working overseas. During a casual discussion, the couple learned that each was far more excited about the potential of living and working abroad than the other had thought. They realized that, in addition to exposing the family to wonderful educational and cultural experiences, overseas teaching benefits include good health insurance, and in many places, the possibility to save for their boy’s future as well as their own retirement. So, about four years ago, they began looking seriously into international options. When a Google search promptly led them to Search Associates (SEARCH) and Senior Associate Nick Kendell, they registered right away. They explain why it was the right decision:

The schools that Search Associates partner with are professional, established, and solid institutions; we felt as if the vetting had been done for us. …SEARCH was reassuring and a safe bet for us, but, if we had any follow-up questions about a school, the city or anything else really, Nick was there to support, guide and inform us. He has never turned down a question, an email, or a request for a video call. He has always remained truly professional and a great guide and advocate for international teaching.

The Cummings registered for the Melbourne Fair and immediately began logging in to the SEARCH platform daily. Close contact with their Associate was a major influence on their confidence and success:

What helped us the most was Nick’s clear information, his openness and honesty about the possibilities, the positives and the negatives...Nick’s support helped us navigate the job search with ease and most importantly confidence.

Another key to Andrew and Traleen’s success has been their trust. Since Andrew is a primary school teacher and Traleen a human resources (HR) professional, the couple decided that they would focus first on “education learning possibilities for both Andrew as a teacher and for their two children, and Traleen would tag along, hoping to find work along the way.” This approach has served them well! Andrew accepted his first overseas teaching contract in January 2020 at the Australian International School Phnom Penh (AISPP), Cambodia; then, around two months later, Traleen was offered the HR/ Admissions Director position; everything was beginning to fall into place.

How did the Cummings know that AISPP was the right match for them? As they had two young children, they had researched the school extensively, using the internet to learn more about living in a developing country. They also asked the school to connect them with enrolled families, so they could ask about life in Phnom Penh. They say that Nick was also extremely knowledgeable about the school, its history and current leadership. “How he remembers all these schools is beyond me, but his sharing of information was spot on and a huge asset to our decision-making process,” adds Traleen.

Traleen and Andrew have wanted, most of all, for their children to develop cultural understanding and compassion. During their time in Cambodia, the couple has amassed “some of the best photos” of their children engaged in local culture. Cultural Days at the school, such as the Khmer New Year celebration, which engaged the non-Khmer students just as much as the Khmer students, “not something either of our boys will forget in a hurry,” says Andrew.

The Cummings are amazed by the facilities in international schools. They have noticed that many international schools have their own pool, gym, and theatres. Kohen (8) and Levi (5) have enjoyed weekly swim lessons, something they would get once a year in an intensive block back home.

As their three years at AISPP were drawing to a close, the family decided that they were definitely up for a new adventure. Andrew and Traleen didn’t really know where they wanted to go or what would come next, but they were certain they were not yet ready to move back to Melbourne, so it was time to re-activate their account with Search Associates.

This time, the Cummings registered for the Bangkok Fair and began combing the SEARCH platform once again for overseas teaching positions. They say,

The platform is addictive when you start to research potential jobs and countries, imagining yourself there. It’s a great way to get exposure to places you didn't first consider. In fact, both our placements were not in countries we were seeking out, but the platform and the job fair truly opened our eyes up to all the possibilities.

Now, the family is headed to Shanghai Community International School where Traleen will be HR Manager and Andrew International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme Teacher. They hope to stay as long as possible. And they hope that you will “go for it” too, taking the leap into teaching abroad:

The biggest challenge is making the decision to do it. Professionally, the experience is invaluable—from learning new curricula, having professional conversations with colleagues from all over the world, and getting exposure to cultural lifestyles you didn’t even know existed. It was also a good financial decision for our family, but we didn’t do it for the finances; they just became a good by-product.

Did You Know…?

Nick Kendell is running FREE seminars in Australia for teachers. Book your spot now to find out more about a career teaching overseas!