Real Talk on Burn Out in (International) Education

It’s time for some real talk. I’m going there with a taboo topic (particularly in the field of education): BURN OUT.

The reality is that I’ve been there and I’m guessing many of you are, too.

Let’s back up and offer up just one definition of burnout:

“Exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”​

Burn out, in my career (in international education), occurred when too much was asked of me, when I was a one person (or grossly understaffed) office, when my supervisor/boss/division didn’t really understand the needs of students that I was responsible for, when I was underpaid, and when I dealt with “isms” on the daily.

Shall I go on?​

Add a pandemic to the mix and burn out has people dropping out of education like flies. GOOD people. People retiring early. People simply walking away because they can’t take the stress and uncertainty.

And many people walking away because they know they shouldn’t have to work more than one job to live their lives fully because of budget cuts, poor financial planning, or greed.

Burn out is very real. The level of stress one is under can cause serious health issues, including heart attacks, strokes, and digestion challenges.

In my case, I opted to leave international education despite my love for the students, faculty, and colleagues around the world. I still deeply believe in the power of crossing cultures, but I also knew there was more out there for me than being paid less than my worth and at (many) times, feeling my voice and creativity were stifled.

It took a LONG time for me to do this. Like many, I felt a lot of guilt about departing. (What would my students do without me? Who would know what to do with our programs/visa issues/etc?). It took a lot of time for me to work through that feeling of ultra responsibility for everyone’s needs in my world of work.

Everyone’s needs but mine, I began to realize.

I pivoted to a career that allowed me to exercise my brain in a new way, to curiously play in the culture sandbox, to create and explore, to earn more income than I had been with a lot more flexibility. My work translated to more JOY.

And who doesn’t want more joy in their lives?

I’m curious what you’re feeling out there. Are you burned out? Feel you’re at risk for it? (Maybe you’re not – and that is good to hear if that is the case.)

This is a safe space. I promise that if you hit reply and share your experience with burn out, I will not share your name with anyone – I’m simply curious to hear your story/ies of burnout. Feel free to email me here.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections, dreams and desires.