Andi Ondhia, a parent at ACS Hillingdon and a member of Parent Teacher Organisation’s Welcome Team, explores how an international school community is ideally placed to support new families through the relocation process.
Relocating, whether it’s your first experience or your third, fourth or fifth, can be a daunting prospect with worries on how your family will settle in to their new surroundings, their new town, school or workplace.
When my own family moved to Hillingdon, UK, from Toronto, Canada, I worried that my children would not know anyone their own age, whether they would be able to continue with their passions and perhaps, slightly less importantly, how would I cope with driving on the other side of the road!
But this is where an international school is ideally placed to ensure a smooth transition. Their expert pastoral care teams and counsellors have specialist expertise and many, like ACS Hillingdon, have developed unique programmes, just like the Welcome Team, to help families adjust to their new environments.
I moved to the UK this summer, relocating from Toronto, Canada, to start as a High School University Counsellor at ACS Hillingdon in August. International recruitment and relocation can be stressful, and coming from almost the other side of the world to a new job, a new city and a new school, is always a challenge.
This was my second experience of international recruitment and relocation – I grew up in France where I completed my degree in Counselling Psychology, then moved to Toronto to start my first job at a French international school as a University Counsellor. Here, there was little relocation support or resources and although I settled in well, it took some time to get used to the various different systems and processes.
My recruitment and relocation experience here at ACS Hillingdon has been entirely different. Rather than attending various recruitment fairs, I applied directly to the school via email in December. As I progressed, the recruitment process made me confident that the school was right for me. I had four interviews in a week, including various Skype calls, which gave me a comprehensive overview of the school and the staff.
Travel and relocation provides a huge amount of adventure and excitement, yet, it can also be a turbulent and unsettling experience for both parents and students. International schools are very experienced at helping new families integrate into the local community and provide specialist care and support.
ACS Egham takes a capillary approach to integrating students and families into school life. Over the summer holidays, when the bulk of our new students arrive, we hold informal social events on campus to facilitate a soft start to the school. The school’s PTO (Parent Teacher Organisation) runs a ‘buddy’ scheme, where new arrivals are matched with existing families with a similar background. The buddy family supports newcomers helping them to get settled into the local area and school life. Both activities offer opportunities for new and returning students to make friends before the start of school, so that they can see familiar faces on their first day of school, greatly easing their nerves.
Third Culture Kids (or TCKs for short) are children who have moved from one country to another (or several) during their developmental years. Children that are integrated into new cultures and societies intheir early years have experiences that will have an enduring impact on them for the rest of their lives. Adaptable, flexible, open-minded and resilient are a few of the words that I often use to describe our students at ACS Hillingdon, many of which are TCKs.