The Expat School Experience

The Expat School Experience

Nine schools and four countries


If you are like me and went to school in one place, you will have grown up thinking that what you had is the norm. Obviously, it isn't and even if your kids go to the same school, things will have changed between their time at the school and yours. I have friends, who I watch from afar on Facebook,  their children  are walking the halls I walked, yet I know their kids have a completely different experience than we did.

If you are an expat everything changes, always and it somehow seems magnified. I have loved and hated the schools and no matter how amazing the school is I have had complaints.

Here are a just a few things that have driven me crazy over the last 18 years of having a child in school.

- I was told not to speak my mother tongue with my child
- They insisted on a different handwriting
- I was told I was a rude American
- The times were weird - Like really who starts at 7:28 a.m.?
- I didn't like the pedagogy of the school
- I disliked a teacher to the point that is was painful (this has happened at every school)
- My daughter got in trouble for farting
- Teachers were too strict
- Teachers were not strict enough
- No school lunches
- I didn't like the school lunches
- My kids had to were aprons and slippers in class (they didn't want to and I didn't get the point)
- I was criticized because my school snacks were either too healthy or too unhealthy
- My kids were told by a non-English speaker that they didn't speak proper English
- I had to cover their books                                                                                                                - I didn't like the way they did Math                                                                                                  - My nationality was insulted

The list could go on and on. The tricky part is these schools have been my kids "normal" and part of their every day life. I am the one who is the outsider.  Sometimes my children don't grasp why I am struggling, "Mom, everyone does that, it's no big deal." They will tell me this while rolling their eyes when they can see I am stuck on an issue at any given new school.

One of the things I've learned over the past 18 years ... you better work with the school and your child in a constructive manner rather than against them because they aren't perfect and neither are you, and you can't change an entire system.

–Allison Ochs, Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife

With a special thanks to Carli Ochs, psychologist, daughter, amazing human and co-author today. We had fun remembering.

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash