How I Know Working Abroad Is Worth It

May 4, 2020 9:44:12 AM Sarah Rymer

While living and working overseas, it’s normal to wonder at times, “Is it worth it? Does what I’m doing matter?” Recently I have been assured that the answer is, "Yes!"

shutterstock_100112006Almost two years ago, I held a tea party for a precious group of 3rd grade girls whom I had been teaching for 2 years. After that school year, I moved to a different city, but I didn’t move on from being in their lives. Since that time our relationship has continued. We’ve had a few get-togethers, and we share a WhatsApp group. We were recently reunited when one of the mothers invited us all for lunch at her house.

The moment I walked into the house, my heart was flooded with love. Ten girls that I had taught as 2nd and 3rd graders were there, and nearly each one had brought me a gift. One of the girls even hand-stitched a Christmas tree onto cloth and put it on a frame. This was an especially touching gift because Christmas is not celebrated in her religion. 

I was overwhelmed with emotion. The girls and the mothers who were there told me how much they miss me. Almost two years had passed, yet our special bond continued.

As a teacher, I also have a direct impact on my colleagues. When I began this school year at a new school, I decided to do something special for each colleague on her birthday to remind her of her uniqueness and worth. During the first week of school, I asked each teacher the date of her birthday and wrote it on my calendar. Throughout the year, I baked a sweet treat and brought a gift for each teacher’s birthday. I also wrote notes of encouragement at different times throughout the year. 

As my birthday approached, I wasn’t sure if anyone knew it was coming. No one mentioned anything in the days leading up to it, and I didn’t say anything. On the morning of my birthday, I walked into the teacher’s room, and everything was as usual. It appeared that no one knew it was my birthday. After about ten minutes, I left the teacher’s room. When I came back, the room was lit only by a candle on a beautiful cake. Then I heard, “Happy Birthday to you,” ringing out.

All my colleagues greeted me with Arab kisses and presented a very lovely snowflake necklace as a gift from all of them. It was an incredible surprise. They had been so excited to celebrate my birthday that for ten days they had secretly plotted and planned to make everything perfect. One of them told me how thankful she is that I have done so much for them this year. Another told me that I have impacted her deeply and have touched everyone around me at school. My heart was so full of joy and gratitude in that moment.

Now when I am frustrated or discouraged, I think about these relationships and I know without a doubt that my work, my life, and simply my presence is making a difference. I can stand in awe because I know it’s not of me but from the One who works through me. 


About the Author: Angelina is an IDEAS Associate and an English language teacher at a private Jordanian school. She is in her fourth year of teaching in Jordan. Enjoy other blogs by Angela, such as How Forbidden Cake Empowered Me.