Meet Kirstie Ford, an anzuk Educator who decided to move to Australia from the US to teach. 5 years later… Kirstie is still in Australia with her Husband Steven, their Son and another baby on the way! Keep reading to hear about Kirstie’s experiences in Australia and with anzuk Education.
What made you decide to make the move to Australia?
I had been in my teaching career for 7 years as a high school English teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. My husband and I got married in 2016, and we didn’t quite feel ready to settle down. While Steven had overseas teaching experience as he taught in Australia in 2011-2012, I had always wanted to go abroad. We applied everywhere in the world – through the Department of Defence to teach on a military base, through job seeking websites, and through mission organisations. We interviewed at schools in Brazil and Ghana, but they weren’t the right fit for both of us. Then, we found ANZUK based in Melbourne, and everything then fell into place.
Our story is a bit different than a typical holiday maker. It was our intent from the start of our journey to stay in Australia for at least 5 years. Steven is a dual citizen, both American and Australian. And because we were married, and I was 29 at the time, I was able to apply for a Work and Holiday Visa to start work right away but then save money to apply for a Permanent Partner Visa. Fast forward: as of July 2022, we’ll have been in Australia for 5 years, have a 21-month old son, and are expecting our second child. While we plan to move back to America some day to be close to family, we are still enjoying our time living in Australia.
Why did you choose anzuk? How did you find the transition and registration process with anzuk?
As experienced teachers who were ready for a break, ANZUK was a great fit for us for a number of reasons. First, we were feeling burnt out from the grind of teaching as we had both been employed as full-time teachers in America. Working for ANZUK doing casual teaching was great for us as we could learn about how schools work in Australia, adjust to a new culture, find accommodation, and get settled into life in a new country all without the pressures of a full-time role. Second, doing casual teaching allowed us to explore different schools in Melbourne without having to commit to a permanent teaching role. Third, as ANZUK facilitates casual work, working for them allowed us the flexibility to accept work as it suited us as we were working other casual jobs. And finally, the daily rate as a casual teacher is really good money compared to America!
What were the benefits and the challenges of teaching with ANZUK?
When we moved from America, we settled in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Even though we were predominantly teaching within a 10km radius, the diversity of schools and students was a challenge in a good way. It affirmed that no matter where you are–America or Australia–that kids are kids. Regardless of how they behave, how old they are, or where they live, all children and young people want to be valued, seen, and acknowledged for exactly who they are. This was an important and cool realisation for me personally having only taught in one school during my career, and it made me reflect about why I loved education and working with young people.
The main challenge was that CRT work is not teaching in a traditional sense. While I didn’t have the burden of planning, marking, meetings, and all of the responsibilities of a teacher, I also didn’t have the opportunity to invest in students and build relationships over time which is a key part of my identity as an educator. I found that time in the classroom as a casual teacher is predominantly classroom management which can be a challenge because I was managing behaviour and expectations without having a relationship with the students. Once I realised this, I changed my perspective and focused my energy on connecting with students in the best way I could in the short time I had and used my time as a casual teacher to hone my discipline and management strategies.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of making the move overseas from the United States?
- Start early. We applied and found ANZUK in February 2017 and moved to Australia in July 2017. Getting an Australian teaching license can take a lot of processing time and there’s a lot of paperwork to organise. The team at ANZUK was with us through the whole process and made sure we had everything organised including a bank account.
- Live on a train or bus line. The public transit system in Melbourne is incredible. We only had one car between us, so we narrowed our rental search to apartments that were walking distance to a train line. This was the best thing we could have done as it provided easy, affordable access to the city and suburbs around us.
- Culture Shock. Even though both America and Australia are Westernized, English-speaking countries, I wasn’t prepared for how different the cultures are. When you make a friend, have them go to the grocery store with you to talk through what brands are best and which ones aren’t. There will be many things that are similar but just different enough. And when it comes to dialect, don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat something or ask them to explain what they mean–I did that often in my early days. For example, Aussies eat tea instead of dinner; afternoon is arvo; and to barrack for a team is to cheer them on.
- Drink all the coffee. Melbourne is known for having some of the best coffee in the world (self-proclaimed and actually true). Starbucks isn’t a thing because instead, your corner coffee shop is the backbone of a community, and there are so many particulars about sourcing, roasting, and grind of coffee.
- Eat all the food. Melbourne is also an incredible food city. Fast food chain restaurants aren’t as numerous as America due to the lack of a major highway system. Instead, every town or suburb will have a bakery where you can get staples such as meat pies, pasties, and baked goods. And if you go into the city and Google “Best (insert cuisine here) restaurant,” the options are endless. Eat out as much as you can afford to. I would recommend the Queen Victoria Night Markets as a start.
- Choose a footy team. AFL football is like a cross between soccer and American football and is really fun to watch. Melbourne is a footy town and one of the first things I found that students would ask me in the classroom was, “What footy team do you barrack for?” Choose a team early and have a reason for doing so. It will quickly become an important part of your new, Australian identity.
- Take nothing for granted. Even though relocating overseas away from friends, family, and familiarity had its challenges and low moments, I always marvelled at the joy and privilege it was to be living in one of the great cities of the world and getting to experience a new culture. I would recommend it in a heartbeat and would do it again if I had the opportunity.
To read more about Kirstie’s travels and experiences in Australia, read her blog here.
For more information about moving to Australia contact anzuk Consultant Brian Campain: