Published 5th December 2019
Whilst the dream of working and living in another country is one that so many people have, the process of moving abroad can be a little stressful, especially when it comes to packing. This article is mainly aimed at those who plan to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), with thousands of people of all ages moving to new countries each year to share their language with learners of all ages and abilities. Providing a life-changing opportunity that will allow you to see the world, embrace different cultures, and get experience working in a new educational set-up. Here is a complete checklist for working abroad.
There are not many downsides to teaching TEFL abroad, but trying to fit a years’ worth of possessions into just one suitcase is hardly a highlight. You will need to pack light and keep things to a minimum. Preparation is the key to success and with our comprehensive checklist, you can rest assured in the knowledge that you have everything you need to conquer your TEFL adventure. Your essential items will differ from country to country, but some basic necessities may include:
- Your passport
- The right visa and work permit
- An everyday and work wardrobe
- Teaching prep and resources
- Electronic devices
- Help with the language
- Stationery and supplies
- Something sentimental
Qualifications: Whether you opt for an online course, an intensive classroom-based accreditation, or a TEFL apprenticeship, a TEFL qualification is often considered essential. Make sure that you take your original documentation with you as well as a few photocopies for when needed. Some countries may also require a BA degree in any subject as a legal requirement for your work permit.
Passport: Getting a new passport when you are abroad can be a significant challenge, so ideally you will have a passport that is valid for however long you plan to be in another country. It is also advised that you take a couple of passport pictures just in case you do need to replace it.
Visa and Permits: This will completely depend on where you are going, but with most places, your visa should be stamped in your passport before you leave. Alongside your visa, you must have the right work permit to ensure that you are legally allowed to live and work in your destination. Although this may be organized by the school, it is still necessary to fully research visa requirements and to ensure that you are prepared for the process.
Wardrobe: Before you pack for work, ask your school what the teachers tend to wear as they may have a uniform or specific requests. Most countries simply require teachers to ‘dress smartly’, but it is also important to think about cultural standards and differences. There is also a chance that you will be on your feet a lot, and a pair of smart comfy shoes can easily take you from the classroom to sightseeing and into the bar in the evening.
Medical: For those who take regular medication, it is advised that you take enough to survive for at least a couple of months if possible as it can take some time to get set up with a doctor. You should also check to see whether you will require any vaccines for your destination country. Some countries may also require a medical check and you may need to supply your immunization record.
Teaching English: Although you will probably not need to take many resources with you, having some souvenirs from home such as newspapers, magazines, and brochures can be useful. Plus, If you are teaching young learners, a few children’s books in English can be a great way of sharing your favorite childhood tales with your students. A good grammar book can also be convenient, particularly one that is aimed at TEFL teachers and will break down the best possible methods of teaching specific grammatical points. Although not quite essential, having a few lesson plans that are carefully planned, interactive and entertaining can be a great way to break the ice and help you feel prepared. As well as having a few games in your arsenal, being prepared for your classes in advance can be a lifesaver in the first few weeks.
Electronics: In the digital world, lessons are often conducted on smart boards and computers are now frequently used in the classroom. Having your own laptop or tablet will make planning your lessons much easier. Make sure that you can charge up all your electrical items from home with a travel adaptor and check the recommended voltage as you may also need to pack a surge protector. When it comes to taking a phone, you may wish to wait to buy a handset when you arrive as this can work out cheaper.
L1 Language: Depending on where you are going to live, you should never really assume that people will speak English and so it is always advised that you try to learn the basics before you go. A phrasebook, language app or dictionary on your phone is likely to be used frequently. Being able to say phrases such as can you help or please and thank you can make a big difference to your experience and even just a couple of basic words and sentences is a start. However, you will learn so much faster when you get to your destination, so do not worry if you are not yet fluent.
Stationery: Having some basic stationery is essential as a teacher and cute pens and pencils from home make great gifts for kids and prizes for competitions. Do some research online first, you do not want to make a faux pas with your stationery choices. For example, writing in red pen in China is a taboo, and writing someone’s name in red ink could be seen as a curse.
Something Sentimental: Moving to a whole new country can be a bit of a culture shock and whilst packing light may mean that you are not able to take your entire teddy bear collection, having something sentimental can make you feel closer to home. Also, join groups on social media for expats in your area to see what other people are missing from their home country, including food items that may be impossible to source when you arrive.