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A South African teacher story - teaching in the Middle East

Exploring stories and firsthand experiences of teaching in the Middle East as a South African educator can be really valuable. It provides new teachers with a genuine understanding of what they might encounter if they're considering teaching in this part of the world.

In this Q&A series, we ask some basic questions to teachers we've placed and let them share their insights. Our aim is to help you mentally prepare for the realities of teaching in the Middle East.

SA-Recruitment worked with Sunelle and helped her get an Early Years teaching position in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over 2 years ago. Saudi Arabia was initially not Sunelle's first choice when it came to location, but she did her research, had an open mind and has absolutely loved her time in Riyadh. SA-Recruitment has been working with this school in Riyadh for many many years and with lots of South African teachers on staff and in Management, it is a great school to start your international teaching career.

Read on to hear her story....

Why did you contact SA-Recruitment to assist you in securing your position abroad?

They were the only agency I contacted, and I am so blessed that I secured a position abroad through them.

What do you enjoy most about teaching abroad?

The different cultures and different curriculum and pace they work here. You explore a new country, and you learn so much the first year

2 woman dressed in arabic clothing
Sunelle and her colleague celebrating Saudi Founders Day

What has been the most challenging thing about living in a new country and teaching in a new school environment?

For me it was challenging to leave my life behind and start a new chapter. The organisation in the new school is different of what you are used to. You must open-minded and ready to start new. You work with different nationalities. It was also challenging to find your way in the new country and school. To know what to eat and where to buy food, if you are a lady you want to know where you can do your hair and nails like me.

How does the cost of living compare to South Africa?

The cost of living is expensive comparing to SA, but you must remember you earn their currency. The most expensive thing is buying food and cleaning supplies. 

What are some of the best things you enjoy about the lifestyle abroad?

I can travel and I work with different nationalities and my kids I teach are all over the world. When we have culture day, it is so interesting being exposed to different cultures.

neon lights, woman, Saudi Arabia
Sunelle out and about in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

How have you grown as a teacher and as a person?

Oh wow, YES! It was the best thing I could do for myself is to work abroad. I learned so much about myself personally and professionally.

How do you feel about safety?

I am totally safe in Saudi Arabia. It is the best thing ever to go shopping and leave my car unlocked or to leave my apartment door unlocked. 

What is the best advice you can give to teachers considering the move?

Be prepared for a life changing experience. Be open-minded and enjoy the ride.

Any apps etc. you could recommend to new teachers coming over?

In Saudi Arabia – Uber, Hunger station, Shein, Temu, Noon, Absher, Tamara, Tabby, Namshi, Twinkl, and Amazon.

Saudi Arabia is basically an App. Everything works with an App. Most of these apps are online shopping. I love online shopping.

Any further comments or information you feel might be useful for a new teacher to know.

Do your research of the country and the school you are going to. If you are coming to Saudi Arabia. Remember you are in a Muslim country and there a few things not available in this country like tampons for ladies and the medicine is not up to date, what I mean by that is that there isn’t strong medicine for a common flu like med lemon. You will learn in the first month what to bring to Saudi when you go home.

I am extremely happy here and would strongly advice so many people to come to Saudi. It is an amazing place to work and have a safe lifestyle.

Sunelle's story reflects the personal growth, professional development and amazing lifestyle that many of our South African teachers experience in their international teaching experiences across the Middle East.

If you are interested in learning more, contact SA-Recruitment now to see if your experience and qualifications can secure you an international teaching position.

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