International Teacher Exchange ProgramsAn Excellent Opportunity to Work
By Sarah McGregor
A teaching exchange is an excellent opportunity to work abroad. Assignments are generally for a schoolyear, with a few shorter terms. The U.S. government, through the Fulbright program, currently offersexchanges to 30 countries. There are also programs that offer exchanges to Australia and New Zealandand some that facilitate independent teacher exchanges.
The Fulbright Exchange
To apply for a Fulbright Teacher Exchange you must be a full-time teacher or administrator in the U.S. or its territories, a U. S. citizen, hold a bachelor's degree, and have at least three years of full-time teachingexperience. Elementary through 4-year college teachers are eligible, although actual available positionsvary. There is a written application and an interview with a 4-person team of Fulbright representatives in November. Deadlines are October of the year before the year you actually go on exchange. Thirtycountries currently participate in the Fulbright teacher exchange; this varies somewhat from year to year. Naturally, the greatest competition is for posts in the English-speaking countries, where there is nosecond-language requirement, there are opportunities for teachers in a variety of subject areas (you wouldteach a level and subject similar to what you teach at home), and the cultural differences are much less.
Exchange Posts and Housing
For most exchanges, partners exchange posts and housing. That is, you teach your partner's classes inyour partner's school and he or she teaches your classes in your school. Usually, you also exchangehousing. You continue to receive your salary from your home school and your partner from his or hers.Sometimes, because of big differences in costs of living and salaries, an exchangee (usually the teacher from abroad) receives an additional stipend. A very pleasant surprise for me was that I was able toexclude nearly half my salary from income tax for two years. The IRS allows you to exclude a significant portion of your earned income provided you are present in a foreign country, or countries, for at least 330consecutive days during any period of 12 months in a row. Since the school year runs September throughJune, this meant I got this exclusion during two different tax years.When you apply for an exchange you will be asked to name your top three country choices. Where youactually end up depends on the availability of exchangees from abroad, but Fulbright does consider your requests when placing you. Consider these questions: Do you want to work in an English-speakingcountry? Do you speak another language? Is it important for you to be in a developed area, such asEurope, or are you looking for the challenge of the third world?There is certainly less competition for posts that require a second language. In my opinion, immersingyourself in a completely new culture and language is more valuable both for you and for the people youmeet abroad. Unfortunately, much of the world now views Americans negatively; if you conduct yourself with integrity and diplomacy, you can actually become a sort of ambassador and do much to improve our image abroad. And don't be intimidated by fluency requirements; an intermediate level is adequate.During my exchange in Spain I found that immersion in a new culture and using my second languagedaily was a fun challenge and literally opened up a new world for me. Many people I met also expressedtheir pleasure that an American could be intelligent and refined and speak their language well. Several