Lucky timing set Charu and Asit Meswani on a career path they love. In the early 90s, they had just returned to Ethiopia after completing their bachelor’s degrees in India. Though born in Ethiopia, neither held citizenship due to the rules of the government then. In order to live in the country that they called home the couple needed to obtain work permits. Fortunately, the Indian National School (INS) in Addis Ababa was looking for fresh undergrads to fill some vacancies, so they hired Charu and Asit, who, as high school students, had met there! Asit recalls,
That is when we fell into this incredibly rewarding field of education. Both of us knew that we were born to educate. Being able to guide thousands of students into success in many years of teaching has truly been the most gratifying experience of our lives.
The Meswanis had worked at INS for six years when Asit seized the opportunity in 1997 to work at the International Community School (ICS) of Addis Ababa as a teaching assistant. Charu stayed on as an elementary school teacher at INS for a total of 14 years. It was during those years together at INS, Asit says, that he and Charu “built a tremendous sense of love and trust in each other, and here we are, married for 26 years now.”
Fueled by a dream to provide the best education—including experiential learning and “decent facilities,” for low-income students—Charu opened a school of her own in Addis Ababa in 2008. Sadly, she was forced to close the school about five years later when financial constraints and the affordability of the families to pay high fees crushed her ability to deliver her vision. She joined Asit at ICS, first as a substitute teacher, then as a teaching assistant in Early Childhood Education. She also ran a crèche for staff children for a year there.
During their years at ICS, expatriate colleagues recommended this highly qualified couple—Charu in Early Childhood Education and Asit in International Baccalaureate (IB) Physics—that they would be an asset to, and would benefit greatly from, international education elsewhere in the world. At this urging, the Meswanis decided to pursue teaching opportunities at top-tier schools abroad by registering with Search Associates (SEARCH). Asit says,
I believe that SEARCH provides authenticity to both schools and candidates by very carefully scrutinizing who should register. There is trust embedded at both ends, which makes it very convenient for all the stakeholders to find the right match. The Associates are only one email away in case there is any urgent information needed about the position or the school. Their honest and transparent analysis about the positions and schools helps a lot.
Using the SEARCH database, Asit navigated job searches while Charu worked on her master’s degree. He describes their routine: marking favorites right away before approaching individual schools both directly and through the SEARCH website. Asit appreciates receiving the daily emails that notify him of the latest positions matching his search and the fact that he can find all his matches in “one click.” Having moved to three international schools since 2015, Asit realizes how important joining SEARCH has been, not only for the Mesvanis’ professional growth, but also for their well-being:
Every school listed on SEARCH brings out the best of their educators in many ways, and that truly is priceless. We applied to schools only after we researched them to know more about their student body and their mission. We also looked at the living standards and the fact that both of us could work at the same place. My Associates, Susan and John Ritter, have been phenomenal in helping me identify the right fit and the right opportunities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the inability to travel to see family and friends has been the hardest part. Nevertheless, Asit says that he and Charu consider “being healthy, alive, and able to teach on site” as blessings. The resilience of his students, who “consistently show and behave as if nothing has happened, and that life is normal,” has kept him centered when the many inconveniences mount: everyone in masks, restrictions to student grouping as well as learning settings inside the building.
Asit has been an international educator now for 22 years and Charu for 13. The couple has worked at ICS, Addis Ababa, Jakarta Intercultural School, Indonesia; Chadwick International School, Songdo, Korea; and now, as Charu completes the final stage of her master’s degree, they live in Singapore where Asit teaches at Stamford American International School. Asit says that immersing themselves in other cultures has taught the couple to be “humble, patient, respectful, and accepting in many ways.” Living in other cultures aligns with their commitment to lifelong learning and their desire to help broaden others’ perspectives. Nevertheless, the Meswanis’ final decision is based on a link to their own roots:
We knew a place was the “right” choice when we were confident there were Indian restaurants and Indian grocery stores in the city!! Looking for a place that helps us stay culturally connected to India has been important to us. So far so good.
Most international educators will encourage you to join them in the world of international education, and most will say you need to be open-minded and flexible when living in other countries among people of other cultures. Veteran overseas teacher Asit extends this advice to include the institutions in which international teachers work:
Understand that every school, no matter who runs it, has positive intentions . . . Kindly do not undermine the human efforts that have gone into bringing these institutions to a place where they are at. Some international schools will be young and will need to put systems in place; others may have long history of excellent education and may have existed for more than half a century, but keep in mind that they all have one mission: to provide the best of education to the global citizens.