The One Where I Ended up in Turkey

Some back story

In July of 2017, I went on my annual trip with my husband’s family to Istanbul & Fethiye, Turkey. During this time I definitely was feeling lost and confused about my next move– at this point I had been graduated from university for a year, working part-time retail, with no clear direction of what would come next (this was during the waiting time for my iqama to be accepted by the Saudi government, but more on that later).

After my trip, I decided to ask around if anyone knew anyone living or working in Turkey. I knew my close friend from college knew a girl who had married a Turk, and to my knowledge she lived in Istanbul. I quickly got her number and contacted her about how I, too, could move there. I had been looking all over the internet for recent/updated blogs and Instagrams of people living in Turkey, especially Americans, and could find none. After returning my frantic WhatsApp message (this was the end of July so I doubted I would be able to get a job with such short amount of time until the school year began), I quickly got hold of a company working with native-English speakers, that would place foreigners in schools around Istanbul, for free. This company is called Calculus.

Calculus

Calculus then informed me that in order to legally teach in Turkey, I needed a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. I had the bachelor’s, but not the certificate, so over the course of around two weeks I completed an online 120 hour TEFL course. I sent away my resume as I completed the course, and scored an interview. Unfortunately, that interview was then cancelled, so the man helping me, Emre, told me he would schedule two interviews with two schools. One was on the European side and one was on the Asian side. I completed both interviews, receiving offers from both schools, but later accepted the offer from the school in Kadikoy.

It is important to note, that I did not have any teaching experience prior to moving to Turkey. The main thing in 2017 that private schools wanted, was native English speakers from the US, Canada, UK, or Australia. Native-like teachers were often turned down or received incredibly low salaries.

So let’s talk salary

I was told by my friend to not accept less than 4,000 Turkish lira per month, including accommodation, transportation, and health insurance. I was offered over that amount, and I thought it was a great thing, since I had minimal experience. Let me tell you something. These schools know if you don’t know the salary you should be receiving. This is especially toward women: ASK FOR MORE MONEY ALWAYS. I was new to Turkey, and the USD was dropping rapidly (another thing I DIDN’T know about or understand before I moved abroad, so learn about these things!) I say that this is towards women, because I later asked my friends about their salaries (a man and a woman) and both my female friend and I agreed we felt too shy to ask for more–whereas my male friend had requested almost 1000TRY more than he was originally offered. Always ask for more- the worst that will happen is they will say no, and you have to decide whether it’s worth it or not.

Another point I want to make, is that converting your salary to USD/CAD/GPB/AUD is great and all, but salaries in Turkey are not going to be near the same as they are in your home country. This is simple economics, and now with the lira as of August 2018 being around 1TRY=5.08USD, it can look scary. Remember that cost of living in even Istanbul is doable on salaries of 5,000TRY (when transportation, housing, and insurance is included).

So do I recommend it

Listen, I had a tough time in Turkey. I was away from home (like really far from home) for the first time in my life. Yes, I went away to university (3 hours away), but it was never like this. I literally knew ONE person in the whole city. It got lonely at times. Most Turkish people do not speak English and I speak no Turkish. Teaching in Turkey is tough for one main thing: schools are not organized. I knew multiple people when I left Istanbul in January from many schools, and only ONE said their school was organized, and her school was also incredibly competitive to get a job in. It will not be like anywhere you have taught before and if you have never taught, you will be challenged for sure.

However

I do recommend going abroad and teaching, if your heart is in. You will be pushed and pulled, you’ll get sick, you’ll hate people you work with– but when a first grader (who literally speaks ZERO English on the first day of school) comes and hugs you telling you, “Teacher!! Teacher!! My name is Masal and I’m 6 years old!!” with the biggest smile, when another student yells, “Teacher! Teacher! My favorite color is blue!” or when the whole class can sing Snowflake, Snowflake, Little Snowflake, your heart will melt and you will feel like all of the hours are worth it, I promise. Turkey is tough to teach in, because these are the first generations learning English (most of the parents at my school did not speak English, and by the way, I taught at a fairly wealthy school).

So go! Have an experience. You will cry. Even if you’re a huge 6 foot 300 pound man, you will have your patience tested. But, I still miss my students, and it’s been 7 months since I was their teacher. So that tells you something.

Who can you contact

If you have questions about how to get teaching positions in Turkey I recommend the following FaceBook pages:

Foreign Women of Istanbul

BLACKLIST English Schools Istanbul

Istanbul English Teaching Greenlist

And if you would like the contact information of Calculus, I would ask you to either leave a comment, send me an email (sarahelizahe@gmail.com), or DM me on Instagram (thebluerazaz). If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me! I would love to help and give my input on life in Istanbul.

How I ended up in KSA

You’re probably wondering how a 24 year old woman ended up in Saudi Arabia.

And you’re right to question why the heck I decided to come here. There’s a lot of misconceptions about this part of the world! And, especially about Saudi Arabia.

In my undergrad, I took Arabic courses, and the first 2 years were taught by a little Saudi woman called Huda. I honestly found her so inspiring and dreamed to know more about her– which she allowed our classes to do during discussion classes rather than learning horrible Arabic grammar. I recall a student asking Huda if she hated her government, and jokingly told her, “we won’t tell if you say yes.”

I think Huda’s response is what made me genuinely want to learn more. She explained that in America, there were a lot of misconceptions, a lot of media telling lies about KSA; there are problems. But it’s not all horror stories we see in movies. Many students studying in America are on full-paid scholarships provided by the Saudi government, plus they are given a living allowance which is over $1500. Huda did not hate her government. At least that’s what she told us. And, honestly, Huda inspired me, and made me determined to live here.

There’s always a but. 

I ended up in Saudi because I fell in love with a Saudi, who loves his family more than anything in the world. When we decided to get married, I told him, of course I will come and live here- permanently. Inshallah.

So what do I do with my time?

I’m a teacher by profession. I think actually, some of my students are even reading these entries. But, right now, I’m between jobs, and spending my time really getting to know my city. I’m getting to know the people here– and trying to “make connections” wherever I go.

I want you to see the Saudi I love and the Saudi I appreciate. I want you to see the amazing changes happening in our Kingdom; I want you to especially meet the women who are initiating and breaking glass ceilings.

No matter what I will always say alhamdulillah, thank God, I ended up getting to live my dream- in KSA.

Who is The Blue Razaz

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first post, as The Blue Razaz. You might have stumbled across this blog whilst searching on instagram, or you might be my friend or family, or maybe a number of other ways people find blogs these days. I’ve had countless blogsites over the years, but I have recently made a major life-changing move, and I want to document it, like most young people my age. So! Here we go…

My name is Sarah, and I am 24 years old. The Blue Razaz has been something constantly in my brain for roughly the last 2 years as I transitioned post-graduation to “the real world.” Something they don’t prepare you for in America after you graduate university (besides the crippling debt you can expect), is how things don’t always go to plan. After a year of not finding “the” job, I took a leap of faith, and moved to Istanbul, Turkey in August of 2017, to teach English. It was to put lightly, awful, but it truly shaped me into who I am today, and looking back on it, I will forever be grateful to Istanbul and the experiences I had there.

Now, for the last 6 months, I have been living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with my Saudi husband, teaching English and really living my best life, alhamdulillah! The main purpose of this blog, is to share my life in Saudi, my life transitioning as the country shifts to a “new” KSA, and to shed light on what is happening here, especially in the field of Saudi women who are making an impact in our society. Before coming to Jeddah, I was always looking for blogs to read about what life was really like here, and I had a hard time finding any.

So! Let’s get started, and I look forward to hearing your questions, writing for your pleasure, and getting the word out about life in KSA.

Assalaam alaikum.