Alumni Spotlight: Johanna Strong

Why did you decide to teach abroad through Teach Away in the UAE?

Sunset over Al Ain

I decided to go abroad through Teach Away because they had the best reviews. I was hesitant at first to even look overseas because some places have a poor reputation -- that is, they may not be safe for Western families or they pay poorly or have poor working conditions.

When I researched Teach Away, I felt like they had done their homework in the companies they recruit for. Throughout the whole process, from the initial interview to the in-person interview, they were with me. They were always prompt in answering emails, even it if was to say they weren’t sure about the answer but they would find out.

I felt they were very clear about the move process and how much of it they had control over and how much of it they did not. In the end, it was an easy decision to make the jump.

How has this experience impacted your future?

I’ve enjoyed teaching here. It’s different because the genders are separated, for starters. I teach girls and they’ve been wonderful. Most of them have been studying English for years and they have their sights set on going to university. Many of them want to be engineers, which is a field that girls are a minority in in the west. I work with a great group of supportive teachers. They come from all over – the US, England, Russia, Jordan, Palestine, and Scotland as well as the UAE. My students teach me about what it is to be a young lady from the UAE. We talk language and culture and I think the back and forth between us has been helpful to all of us.

What made this teaching experience unique and special?

As part of my employment, I was issued an iPad. So far, I’ve had about 30 hours of training on its use as well as some specific ways to use it in the classroom. Our campus is an e-learning campus, so we rely heavily on the iPads for everyday use and all of the students were issued iPads of their own to use. I believe this makes me a lot more marketable later.

We also use the high end smart boards. I have my eye set on a PhD. I think this experience will help with that because it shows my adaptability. Education that works should involve trying new things – if the old way doesn’t work, don’t keep doing it. Education around the world needs to keep moving forward as the needs of the students change.

More and more students are going to university with a job in mind so that needs to be a part of the teaching process. Having experience in a technical high school, where the students are aiming for jobs shortly after graduation means I am familiar with teaching to a job-seeker.

Explore UAE with Teach Away!

What is one piece of advice you would give someone considering teaching abroad in the UAE?

Before jumping into teaching abroad, do your homework. Really do it. Find out the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a big move and not easy to back out of if it doesn’t work out. You are immersed in a foreign language and culture and for some that can be daunting. Homesickness can be hard to deal with.

I brought my family with me so there was some extra expense for visas. The immersion can be hard on kids. Be prepared for some rough adjustment time. Check the laws of the land – some of them can be quite harsh and ignorance is no excuse. Never forget you are a guest.