Reality Hits Home

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Today was the long awaited Exchange Teachers Conference at the DET building in Bridge Street, Sydney. There was guest speakers there from all over the place – the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, representatives from the Canadian Embassy, Teachers Health Service, Diploma Travel, the Department of Education, the Exchange Teachers League, and others. All in all it was a pretty informative day, but the best part was the afternoon session where we got to hear from a couple of people who have just returned from exchanges in the last couple of years.Their stories were very interesting, and quite candid. At some points I began to wonder if we were doing the right thing. They did mention quite a few things that would be considered “downsides”, and at one point had almost talked us out of going. But they did balance it out by saying that the exchange was one of the best things they had ever done, so I’m hanging on to that last piece of advice.

It was good to meet other people and talk to them about what they have been going through, compare notes and just chat. Ontario certainly seems to be a very popular destination with the IEU teachers, and we were encouraged by hearing an accountant talking about just how financially worthwhile the trip can work out to be. There are quite a few things that can be done to legally minimise tax and make the most of the allowable claims, so we plan to use his services to do exactly that. It was a bit scary hearing how much money others had poured into previous exchanges – figures between $50-100,000 were mentioned – but we have no intention of spending anywhere near that. I got a bit worried when I heard those sorts of numbers being mentioned, but then we discovered that all these people had spent a lot of time doing very extensive travel into the USA, to Florida, Disneyland, Grand Canyon, etc. Others had flitted off to Europe, etc. No wonder they blew their budget out! We plan to see as much as we can, but I don’t imagine we will be going quite so far afield. To be honest, I’m hoping to go to Canada mainly to see Canada. Europe will be another trip, for another time. Same with the USA. I’d love to travel in both these places, but trying to cram it all into the Canada trip just seems a bit much to me.

Anyway, we joined the Exchange Teachers League, cause it seemed like the right thing to do. We will probably also hook up with the Canadian equivalent while we are there, just to get to meet a few more people.

Time to start getting really focussed now, working out exact dates and times, working out money arrangements, booking tickets, etc, etc. Lots to do!

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