Living life to the full

Maths teacher Joy Yallop and her husband are packing in as much adventure and activity as they can while residing in New Zealand’s largest city.
Living life to the full - Joy's story of teaching in New Zealand

Every picture tells a story – and sometimes Joy Yallop’s family jokingly tell her to stop uploading photos to social media of her life in New Zealand.

“The lifestyle is amazing. Some of my friends and family say, ‘Joy, it's lovely to see your journey, but don't put too many pictures up because the weather back home in England is awful,’” she laughs.

“I always say to the students, ‘Guess what I'm doing this weekend,’ and they're constantly guessing because maybe I'm going to Waiheke Island, or Coromandel, or visiting some friends who have become like a grandma and granddad to us.”

She is also enjoying trying new outdoor activities, in her free time and during her work as a mathematics teacher at Avondale College. The school has an outdoor education camp at Taurewa, on the edge of Tongariro National Park, where Joy went kayaking and white-water rafting with students.

“I also help lead the badminton junior and senior teams, and took them to play at the National Badminton Championships in Napier. The senior girls team won gold, which was an amazing experience to be part of. I am enjoying every part of my work.”

Joy and husband James Yallop were living in Suffolk, England when they decided to try living in another country. (New Zealand won over Australia because of its outdoor lifestyle, and lack of poisonous snakes and spiders.) She met Martin Strang of educational recruiter Oasis Education in London at a job fair; he explained about getting her teaching qualification assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), and kept in touch with her through the assessment, interview and visa process.

The assessment took approximately eight months, because NZQA initially did not recognise her Professional Graduate Certificate of Education. Joy had to apply through a ‘discretionary’ pathway, which required more paperwork. Next, she secured a job and a resident visa. Joy and James arrived in January 2017, in the middle of a New Zealand summer.

They live in the lively suburb of Kingsland, full of restaurants, bars and boutique shops. Renting a house with other people has helped them create a network of friends. Rent and public transport are expensive, “but for now it's fine”, says Joy. “With the housing being so expensive, Auckland is a bit like London, but not quite as bad.”

The pay is comparative to England, and they enjoy a more outdoors lifestyle. “There's a beach only a 10-minute drive away, and the outdoors life is amazing. Especially later on, when we eventually have kids, we want to bring them up in a great environment,” she says.

“In England there was always a lot of stress, and I would work really long hours. Here, you still work as hard, but the curriculum and attitude are different. Everyone works hard but you don’t get as stressed.”

Avondale College is one of New Zealand’s largest secondary schools, yet Joy still feels able to build good relationships with students.

“I feel like they really appreciate you: at the end of the lessons, the students say, ‘Thank you Miss, thank you,’ and they're really grateful here. I think they take more ownership and control, they're really, really independent,” says Joy.

“There are loads of different nationalities and cultures. I've got a student in my home room [a class of students she sees every day] who is from a small Pacific island called Niue, and I didn't even know where that was. Learning the language and the culture has been amazing, I've really, really enjoyed it.”

James, who works in public health, loves the diversity of New Zealand’s scenery. “There aren't many places in the world you could ski and go to the beach in the same day!” he says. Despite missing family and friends, he says he wouldn't swap those homesick moments for New Zealand’s lifestyle.

Joy plays indoor netball each week with workmates, and she and James often go walking on the beach, to a bar or to a festival. “I feel like we're keeping more fit now, because we are walking, we are doing loads of hikes, and we are learning how to ski and surf.”

Auckland’s congested traffic took James by surprise, especially since New Zealand is bigger than the United Kingdom but has far fewer people. Driving on the motorways is not a pleasant experience for Joy, either. “There is no proper lane that is a fast lane for overtaking, like in England, so everyone is always passing on both sides of you. It gives me a fright sometimes.”

Still, that does not stop them exploring New Zealand. They have seen hundreds of dolphins during a boat trip at Mount Maunganui, and went travelling around the South Island over the Christmas holidays. For Joy’s 30th birthday, they travelled to the tropical Cook Islands.

The prospect of moving to a new country might seem scary, says Joy, but “you just need to do it, and be open minded. We thought, ‘You know, you only live life once, so we're just going to do it.’ ”

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