Where we work / Iraq

Iraq, known in the ancient world as Mesopotamia


Known in the ancient world as Mesopotamia, present day Iraq in the Middle East was considered one of the cradles of human civilization and a world center of its time. Bordered by the countries of Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran, Iraq has 36 miles of coastline on the Persian Gulf.

While the defining characteristics of most of our countries in the MENA region have developed over centuries, what makes Iraq so unique and different from other countries is history. And not just ancient history, but the past two decades of war. It’s hard to maintain your systems and structures when your key cities have been devastated, religious factions still abound, and you live in a constant state of rebuilding. Louis Luzbatek suggested that “culture is the know-how to get through daily living.” For most of us, culture is entrenched and there is little that changes over the years in terms of cultural know-how, belief systems, and worldview.

When war occurs to the degree that it did in Iraq, it causes a shift in culture . . . the know-how that once existed must adapt in order to “get through daily living” in a new way. The Iraqi people (Kurds, Sunnis, Shia, Yazidis, Ka’kai, etc.) are trying to get the new “know-how” to survive in the face of a new, yet feudal, Iraq.

For the most part, the staff and students we work with would be considered middle-class by typical Iraqi standards. These people live in the center of Shia Islam—the women are conservative and the men are ready and willing to defend their beliefs and their country (in that order).

“They are deeply loyal, humorous, fun-loving, friendly, and generous. They are honest, open, dramatic, and love and honor fiercely. Personally, I can’t think of a friendlier, more open people group that we have met.” —ELIC country director in Iraq.

In Iraq, education is viewed as a right for all children and teens. There is great esteem given to teachers. Education is free at all levels and the first six years are compulsory. In fact, Iraq stands out as a country committed to education for boys and girls with an 80-plus percent literacy rate. Respect, diversity, tolerance, excellence, and creativity are deeply valued by the Ministry of Education, post-Saddam.

frequently asked


How many hours per week will I work?

Teachers work six to eight hours weekly with additional opportunities for engagement with students. Extra time will be needed each week for class prep, which will vary from teacher to teacher.

What is the working relationship like with other faculty and teachers?

In our university settings, there are plenty of opportunities to engage with other colleagues. They are often eager for dialogue and to get to know our teachers.

What is the student demographic?

We primarily teach young adults who are either university students or professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Other placements consist of students in their first through fourth years of university, with the potential to go abroad as graduate students. These are typically a mix of male and female students ranging from eighteen to thirty years old.

What will my first week look like? How will you help me get my life overseas started?

When teachers arrive, the country director and/or team leader welcome them at the airport and transfer them to their new city. Teachers stay in a hotel apartment for the first few weeks while they’re touring potential permanent apartments.

What does ongoing professional/personal development look like?

The team spends intentional time with one another for growth and encouragement. In addition, a teaching specialist works with each team member to develop a professional development plan, and we hold monthly team meetings to discuss professional development.

What is it like to raise a family overseas?

Many foreign families live in Iraq, and many have become a great resource for families serving there. Most people homeschool; however, there are international and International Baccalaureate (IB) schools available in some locations. Our team loves children and families!

What are some things I might do to contribute to my team if my spouse is teaching, but I’m not?

There are many important roles for non-teaching spouses. There is no shortage of opportunities for hospitality, engaging with people who want to practice English, or providing a listening ear. Hospitality is also highly valued with meals, game nights and other outings. Our non-teaching spouses put deep roots down in the local communities around campus as much as their varied responsibilities as a homeschool teacher, parent, spouse, and teammate allow.

We encourage everyone to play a significant role on the team, whether they’re teaching or not. This could include helping as a business manager or with special projects.

What kind of housing will I have? How far away are housing options from the school and other teammates?

Teachers live in apartment complexes in the same vicinity, if not in the same apartment complex, as their team. Apartments are inexpensive, spacious, relatively clean, and easy to find. We try to keep teams and similar teaching assignments within five to ten minutes of each other, preferably within walking distance so they can share rides to larger team events, use the same shops and markets, and are well-known by the neighborhood as a group.

What are some surprising things I might learn after the first 60 days?

Although the city is spread out, Iraq still has a small-town feel. People are willing to help you with anything you need. Most new teachers will be surprised that they’ll be able to manage all the basic tasks of life within the first few weeks, with a bit of language training. However, they’ll need to to pace themselves in local relationships, because virtually everyone will want to meet up for coffee and meals.

What is the team structure like? How often are formal meetings, and what do they entail?

On average, our teams meet formally twice per week. We hold some formal team meetings simply to catch up and encourage one another. Others involve planning various team projects, discussing academics, building friendships with students, and expanding understanding of the culture and language. These meetings are an essential part of the team’s experience.