Learn from the University of Western Sydney giving the low down on living and teaching in the UK

When did you finish University and how long have you been teaching in the UK?

I finished university in May 2014, and have been teaching now for almost a year but in the UK for about 5 months now

Did you teach in Australia before going to the UK and for how long?

Yes, I began teaching casually at a range of Western Sydney primary schools between May 2014 and September 2014 before I was given a temporary full-time position at one of the primary schools I had been casually teaching at for the last term of the year, in a Year ½ composite class before moving to the United Kingdom.

What was your degree in and what do you teach?

My degree was a Bachelor of Arts (Pathways to Teaching Primary), so I have graduated from both a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Teaching (Primary) and at the moment, I teach a wonderful Year 5 class

 How did you find out about Point to Point and/or the opportunity to teach in the UK?

I found out about Point to Point and also about teaching in the United Kingdom back in 2013 through the University of Western Sydney’s EdFest which is held each year, Point to Point had a stall there and I signed up as it was something I was not really thinking about at the time, but did because my friends signed up and after I graduated, I took the opportunity and Point to Point were the only ones who actually did what they said they would when it came to any information I was looking for, or after.

How exactly did Point to Point assist you in getting the job?

Point to Point helped me in getting my current job as they were very open and honest with the process, they talked me though each step and helped to make it very easy. They kept on informing me when they had a possible job interview for me and gave me all the relevant information and places where I could get information and made me feel much better, especially before and after my face-to-face interview. They also made sure that once I accepted the job that I was kept informed about what things I still needed to sort out for the school and my move.

The staff at Point to Point were always there for me, they answered every question that I had, especially in the last month or so back home when I was getting everything prepared and sorted out, it didn’t matter what sort of question it might have been, the staff always were happy to answer it or find out for me, and it gave me a better feeling when I left knowing that I had had all the help. I don’t think I could thank them enough, especially Carly who was always there for me through the whole process; from start to finish.

Which city and school are you teaching in?

I’m currently living in Lowestoft, which is Britain’s most easterly point where I am teaching Year 5 in a very lovely school with so many amazing children

What is the experience like (travelling, living, working) and would you recommend it?

Very much so, I would recommend that if you can move to the UK for even 6 months to do so. This has been the best experience so far of my life. I live with two other people, but because we all work; it is very much like living on my own. I feel more comfortable as a person now, I cook for myself, look after myself and I feel more independent now. Back in Australia, I lived with my sister and a lot of it was decisions made together for the sake of the family unit, but now, I am having to make my own choices and be confident about those decisions and I feel like I have really begun to become who I want to be.

I have learnt much more about who I am, who I want to be and where I want to go in teaching and in life in the last 5 months then I have in all my time living in Australia. I love that I can visit London on the weekends if I wanted to, or even other amazing places like France, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and more and they are just a couple of hours away by plane. While I personally have not travelled beyond Britain just yet, I can’t wait to see what is out there in Europe, and to know that it is just a few hours

I love the food here, I love the location that I am in, it is peaceful, but still feels like a busy town, it is amazing to try new things, see new things, just walk around and not do anything, and especially try things that I had done at home, but with a British twist to it. I have been able to meet some amazing people and even more amazing educators who have been able to teach me some great ways to do things, and I will take those skills with me. I would very much recommend coming to the UK.

Is there anything important other students should know to make the move/transition easier?

Two words…Be prepared. That is basically the long and the short of it all, it took me 6 months to plan everything, save up the money, get everything sorted and fly out; but I was told by many people around me that it would take longer. If you really want to go to the UK, be prepared to have the money ready, or be ready to save, save, save. There was plenty of times last year when I would want to go out with friends, but either couldn’t or had to not have as much fun as normal because I would be watching how much I spent each fortnight to ensure I had the cash ready to go.

Once you have a job in the UK, and you know when your first day is at work, don’t leave Australia too late; you want to probably have about a week or two to be able to get use to your new surroundings, get use to your new timezone and be ready for work. Most schools will open during the holidays for a day or two, to allow staff to get prepared for the upcoming term, so take advantage of that; but don’t leave your departure from Australia too late otherwise it will affect your work.

Is it different from working and living in Australia and if so, how?

It is different living here and working here. For one thing, the students love having someone from another country teaching them as they ask so many amazing and interesting questions, they think it is the best thing; but be ready to have to repeat something a couple of times as they might not understand you to begin with. Working here is very different as well, previously; I would have monthly staff meetings and weekly staff briefings, but in my current school, we have daily staff briefings in the morning and weekly staff meetings on a set day. The workload is very different, there is different ways to mark and give feedback and depending on the year, there might be SAT exams to prepare for or actually do. Planning is done differently, so be ready to spend a little bit of time on the weekend, or a late night or two at work doing your planning; but the best advice is to try and get a week or so ahead in your planning so that you aren’t swamped and it takes up your whole weekend. Use the half-term holidays for advance planning as you can have it ready and change it if needed. Also, you will be the “new” teacher, so be OK with having the teachers and even the kids ask you things about your life in Australia, they aren’t being nosy, just curious as to who you are as a person because most of all; they want to get to know you.

As for living here, compared to Australia. Be ready to see so many of your old favourite things seem either more expensive or cheaper here. Make sure that where you are going to stay is somewhere where you can feel welcome and have longer than a few weeks or months to be there, as you don’t want to be in the middle of term and have to move house. Try and begin searching for rooms to stay within the first few days if you haven’t already done that as it will be much easier on yourself. Begin your adventure by spending a couple of weeks eating foods that you are comfortable with, get yourself use to the flavour and taste of British food and then slowly introduce new things that you want to try and eat. One last thing, try the chocolate; so much tastier than Aussie chocolate.

How do you think your university set you up for your career after graduating?

Well, I was a student representative at the University of Western Sydney for well over three years through both the Student Leadership Group and the SRC, so I have always felt that those leadership opportunities for me, personally, have and will guide me in where I want to be later on in my career, as I do want to one day be a Principal of a primary school. I feel that the leadership I showed in university as well as outside have given me the stepping stones and the building blocks to go further and reach for my dream with each and every new day. Also, having the two practical experience blocks that I did at two very different Western Sydney primary schools, thanks to the university, have given me the beginning moments of my teaching career and have really helped me with becoming the teacher that I want to be and the educator that I have always dreamed that I want to be.

What did you like most about your university?

I mostly liked the uniqueness of the University of Western Sydney. With five campuses, and being able to experience all six in some way, either through my leadership experiences as a student representative or actually taking a class or two at one of the campuses, I was able to get the best out of myself and my degree that I wanted to do. I also appreciated the staff that I worked with and got to know through my classes and work, they were helpful and really gave me my own feeling that this was important to me. I really liked that many of the staff I had the pleasure of working with or learning from, were very helpful and always tried their best to help me get the best grades.

Anything else you’d like to mention about your University that the above doesn’t cover?

I’d probably say that the University of Western Sydney really is not the university that everyone says it is. Most people back when I was at high school always put UWS last or near the bottom and if people did go to the University of Western Sydney, they always wanted to transfer as quickly as possible; but I actually loved going to the University of Western Sydney each day. It was fun, enjoyable and I found the staff, the grounds, the rooms, and the learning to be as good, if not better than what I had seen at other universities. I appreciated everything that I was given and achieved at the University of Western Sydney, and I am always going to be proud to say that I am a graduate of the University of Western Sydney, and I hope that one day, my niece and future children will also go to the University of Western Sydney

 What are your plans for the future? Do you think this experience will help your career back in Australia (if you plan to come back)?

My plans for the future are to firstly come back to Australia and hopefully be able to work through a school and become principal one day, as I want to take on leadership roles within a school and become a leader, as that has always been my dream and I do feel that this experience has been something that I can take with me into the future. I have been quite lucky with my school to be able to have a consultancy company come in two days a week and work with me and the other Australian teachers who have come over on their Outstanding Teacher Diploma Programme, and I feel that what I have learnt in that program will help me not only to become a better teacher and a much better educator, but will also help me in my future career as I work hard to reach that goal one day. I might not get the chance while I am here to take on leadership roles within the school, but I feel that the experience of teaching in a different education system, a different country will help me in the future.