Life Overseas

Teaching abroad opens doors all over the world for two alums

by Justin Walsh '96

Walsh family at the Great Pyramid

Years ago, when my wife Karli Olin Walsh ’96 and I began looking for teaching jobs, we faced limited opportunities. We taught for one year in North Carolina, but both Karli and I felt there was more out there than what we were doing. Then we began to see job postings online to teach overseas, and we were intrigued.

In 1999, we were lucky enough to end up at the University of Northern Iowa job fair for international educators. This is the oldest fair in the states and does a fantastic job helping new teachers find great schools.

The fair was a surreal experience. We interviewed together, and within the first 15 minutes, schools tried to pitch themselves to us. After a whirlwind three days, we needed to make a decision. We had offers from many schools from all over the world, but only two really stood out: one in Bangkok and one in the Dominican Republic. Fate seemed to have brought us this far, so we decided to let her help us make our choice. In the middle of the fair, we sat on the floor in our suits and flipped a coin. It came up Bangkok. Karli and I looked at each other and said together, “The Dominican Republic!”

From there we never looked back. We spent two wonderful years in the Caribbean, then moved halfway around the world to the Philippines. For the longest time our parents continued to ask when we would come home and stop fooling around. They just didn’t get it until we had a daughter and they came to visit. They saw the type of school we were working in and realized it was a real job that let us experience so many different cultures.

Karli and I have been overseas for 16 years now, and we’re hooked on this adventurous lifestyle. We currently live and teach in Doha, Qatar; we’ve traveled to more than 20 different countries. Our children Isabela and Finnian were both born overseas, and their whole education has been in international school settings. We have been fortunate to walk on the Great Wall of China and climb the pyramids as a family. We’ve also supported less fortunate institutions in Manila and China by working side by side with their students to improve their schools. We have friends and colleagues from all over the world, and our children have had classmates of more than 70 different nationalities.

There are days when Karli and I watch our children interact seamlessly with a child from a completely different culture and say, “Can you believe we are here?” There are many possibilities out there; taking chances and being flexible in our surroundings has worked for us.

Living overseas can be challenging. But sometimes you need to peel away many different layers until you find the amazing center that is waiting for you.

Justin Walsh '96 is the high school associate principal in the American School of Doha, Qatar, in 2015. In July 2016, he becomes head of the secondary school at The Bali International School in Indonesia.

Walsh family in Turkey

The Walsh family in Hittite ruin in Güzelyurt, Turkey

Academic paths

Justin Walsh

  • Major: English literature and secondary education
  • Minor: history
  • Master's: reading; and curriculum development and administration, with certification in English and reading

Karli Olin Walsh

  • Major: English literature, elementary and special education
  • Master's: reading, with certification in elementary education, special education, reading, and English as a Second Language