When a family makes the decision to move for work-related reasons it brings with it many exciting opportunities. A major focus of families with school-aged children in an expat move is the options for schooling in the new location. In addition to the academic credentials of the school it’s important to find out about volunteering opportunities, parent involvement and community building opportunities available within the school as these can also play an important role in a happy and grounded expat experience.
A diversity of cultures at the school should also be an important consideration – as a side benefit to expat life is meeting families from all over the world.
Often expat families find themselves in a brand new city with few to no connections. Jumping into school involvement as soon as the dust settles (or even before) will make the transition easier for everyone. Often at international schools there is a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) which serves the school community and is comprised entirely of volunteers.
Many PTA members report that volunteering for committees that support community building events, cultural days, International Festivals or United Nations days help connect the family and parent to the school community. Volunteering is an easy way to feel part of the extended expat community and the benefits are not only direct to the volunteer in terms of fulfilment and friendship but also help the rest of the family build social connections across the school. Children seeing their parent or parents on campus will also have the reassurance of knowing that, even though they are in a new city and new school, that they are supported.
Personally I have found, as I have a non-working visa, that school involvement in each of our expat postings, has been an invaluable way to get involved, meet people and quickly hit the ground running. There have been endless opportunities I can credit, both personally and to our expat experience as a family, that are directly tied to school volunteering and participation from the start.
I have never looked back and regretted the volunteering roles I took on, was talked into, or happened upon accidentally – and each role gave me chances to learn from the people and cultures around me in my new location. My family also benefited as we learned more about the new location and new school via word of mouth and access to the greater school community. I will always be grateful for the volunteer experiences I have had as they not only kept my head in the game but also elevated my expat experience.
The challenges of a move, whether it is your first or fifth, can be daunting – especially for those with school aged children. I truly believe that finding a welcoming, diverse and active parent school partnership eases the transition from day one. I’m confident that when looking back someday on their adventure many PTA volunteers will know that the choices they made to get involved in their school’s community improved and extended their expat experience not just for them but for their entire family.
Text by Annie Gillis, the President of the Parent Teacher Association at The International School in Kuala Lumpur. This post is sponsored by ISKL.
Established in 1965, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has become known as a center of excellence in the world of international education. ISKL is a co-educational private, not-for-profit school responsible for the learning journey of over 1,600 students aged 3-18 from over 60 countries at its state-of-the-art campus in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
ISKL offers a robust international curriculum which combines leading North American educational frameworks with global best practice. The curriculum recognizes that students are on a lifelong learning journey and is driven by ISKL’s mission to challenge each student to “Be All You Are” and develop the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding to become a highly successful, spirited, socially responsible global citizen.
ISKL is an IB World School and has been authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization to provide the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) since 1989. In addition to the full IBDP, students also have the option of combining individual IB, Advanced Placement and High School Diploma courses to create a customized program tailored to their abilities, interests, and aspirations. The flexibility of ISKL’s academic program creates global opportunities; last academic year over 160 graduating students representing 48 different nationalities received acceptances over 400 universities in 26 countries spanning 5 continents!
ISKL is also accredited internationally through the Council of International Schools (CIS), and in the United States through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). ISKL has a strong focus on service and sustainability across its divisions and is a member of the Eco-Schools organization and the Green Schools Alliance.