How do you research your potential next school and city?

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Illiane_Blues
Posts: 247
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:56 pm

How do you research your potential next school and city?

Post by Illiane_Blues »

Just curious to hear what websites or other means you all use to research your potential next school and city?

Heliotrope
Posts: 810
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: How do you research your potential next school and city?

Post by Heliotrope »

For the school, I use:

- The school's Search Associates profile
I use the profile mostly for salary information, which is in my experience never off by a lot (savings potential can be way off however), the size of the school, the number of local students (also frequently off due to local kids having foreign second passport which the school counts as international), and some other benefits information, and curriculum. All this info I will double check as well as possible through other sources once I get closer to shortlisting a school.

- Current or former colleagues, or colleagues of former colleagues, or former colleagues of current or former colleagues
The benefit of being an experienced IT is that you know a lot of people from previous schools, and I try to keep in touch. When I want to know more about a school, I ask my network if anyone has worked there, knows someone who has worked there, or someone who still works there.

- ISR reviews & the paid ISR forum
Sometimes very helpful, but I always assume reviews can be fake - either glowing reviews by admin, or a disgruntled teacher who was fired and wants to settle a score by making stuff up (in addition to some perhaps just complaints).
Leadership reviewing their own schools and themselves is usually easiest to spot, but I once saw a review about one of my past schools that was posted when I still worked there which was filled with blatant lies (about missing benefits, salary, admin never having taught, etc. - all demonstrably untrue) but it was written in very reasonable tone which can easily fool jobseekers into avoiding the school.

- Sometimes if I can't find a current staff member through my network, I will befriend one or two on Facebook to ask about the current state of affairs at the school. Schools also provide contact details of staff, but they might have been chosen to support the admin's narrative about the school. For the better schools, this is usually not the case though in my experience - I've only gotten honest answers so far.


For the city:

- Numbeo and Expatistan for cost of living information
Usually pretty accurate but in my experience the averages for some of the larger expenses (cars, rent, some others) can be a bit on the high side. Great resource though.

- I 'drive' through the city using Google Streetview (of available for that city), and look a t a lot of pictures shown in Google Maps when you click on the name of a city or neighborhood.

- https://www.talesmag.com/real-post-reports for reports on how it is to live in a city as an expat. Most of the contributors are (married to) US diplomats though, so you have to keep that in mind. They also answer questions about the international schools in that city, which is sometimes useful. They have a separate section on ISs: https://www.talesmag.com/real-school-reports but that is far from complete and is sometimes also just a single parent that had a bad experience which is not representative for the school.

- Friends of friends.

- If still not sure about a city, I join an Facebook group for expats in that city, and ask some questions there.

I think that's about it.
If it's a direct and cheap flight away, you can fly there during the October or Christmas break for a holiday to do some research on the ground, and ask for a tour of the school.

PsyGuy
Posts: 9665
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:51 am
Location: Northern Europe

Response

Post by PsyGuy »

I generally avoid the premium agency IS profiles they are all self report, and generally inaccurate or reflect what an IS wants to convey as opposed to what they really are. At best they give you a arrange for the region and across tiers of ISs. Its not entirely an issue of ISs and leadership attempting to deceive ITs (though that is certainly out there). Some facets such as savings can be almost impossible to report accurately, an IT who spends all their coin and saves nothing vs an IT who is extremely frugal can result in averages that are atypical.

Heliotrope
Posts: 810
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: Response

Post by Heliotrope »

In my experience (and that of some colleagues) the stated salary is usually pretty close to the actual salary, on the Search profiles at least.
But yes, savings potential is impossible for a school to report accurately due to differences in lifestyle, but that's where Numbeo can help a bit.

PsyGuy
Posts: 9665
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:51 am
Location: Northern Europe

Reply

Post by PsyGuy »

@Heliotrope

My experience and that of others differs, while SA provides anchor points of BA+4 and MA+8, there have been ITs who ere exactly at those points who were not offered the salary quoted on their profile.

Thames Pirate
Posts: 1088
Joined: Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:06 am

Re: How do you research your potential next school and city?

Post by Thames Pirate »

To go back to the original question:

Expat forums are your friend. This might include forums, blogs, and social media groups. You can use these to get the expat community's feel of a school (parents, community), which may or may not differ from what you see on ISR or similar sites.

These can also be used for getting a feel of living in a place. People frequently discuss things like taxes or finding a doctor or local customs or things like appropriate behaviour in a supermarket. It's amazing how much information is out there nowadays.

I am also blown away by how few people take the time to do things like look at a map. People are shocked by the location of a school in relation to the city centre, for example, or by housing prices or quality near the school or at the city centre. It's not hard to find local real estate prices or look at a few apartments/houses to get a feel for housing. I also like to look at things like public transportation maps and prices, cars (if that's something I think I might need) etc. I have also looked into availability of hobbies, for example. If possible I might even do things like look at grocery stores online (assuming that's an option).

Google Images, Street view/maps, and Google Earth, including embedded photos, might also help give me a good idea of where I am going (or considering).

GrumblesMcGee
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:53 pm

Re: How do you research your potential next school and city?

Post by GrumblesMcGee »

Thames Pirate wrote:
> To go back to the original question:
>
> Expat forums are your friend. This might include forums, blogs, and social
> media groups. You can use these to get the expat community's feel of a
> school (parents, community), which may or may not differ from what you see
> on ISR or similar sites.
>
> These can also be used for getting a feel of living in a place. People
> frequently discuss things like taxes or finding a doctor or local customs
> or things like appropriate behaviour in a supermarket. It's amazing how
> much information is out there nowadays.
>
> I am also blown away by how few people take the time to do things like look
> at a map. People are shocked by the location of a school in relation to
> the city centre, for example, or by housing prices or quality near the
> school or at the city centre. It's not hard to find local real estate
> prices or look at a few apartments/houses to get a feel for housing. I
> also like to look at things like public transportation maps and prices,
> cars (if that's something I think I might need) etc. I have also looked
> into availability of hobbies, for example. If possible I might even do
> things like look at grocery stores online (assuming that's an option).
>
> Google Images, Street view/maps, and Google Earth, including embedded
> photos, might also help give me a good idea of where I am going (or
> considering).

All of this.

While it may seem weird/presumptuous (or you might think you're "jinxing" yourself) to do all this, I do it before I even have an offer. Heck, in most cases I do at least some cursory research before applying--then again, I tend to cast a narrow net and understand that not everyone can find that time.

But if you're getting interviews that go well, it's crazy that you're not looking at what daily life actually *looks like* in a potential new locale. Google street view is your friend. Where are you going to live? What does that drive/ride/walk actually look like? Is your preferred method of daily transit even a viable option (e.g., are there sidewalks, does the bus run that early)? Is that really green space or a rice paddy?

It's one (important) think to realize you'll always have unknown unknowns, but you can really learn a lot of you just try.

The second interview (or its equivalent) is great for filling in the gaps, but if you haven't done the ground work you're going to learn a lot less.

PsyGuy
Posts: 9665
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:51 am
Location: Northern Europe

Discussion

Post by PsyGuy »

In the past I didnt have much of an opinion on the issue, but I agree with @Thames Pirate, in such that it really does surprise me how little research ITs and potential ITs do in regards to locations and ISs.

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