So, you’ve got your qualifications, had your interview and now you’ve been offered a job teaching abroad.
And you suddenly realize that in just a very short time you’ll be climbing aboard an airplane and heading off into the unknown and suddenly you’re thinking, What should I pack? How much money do I have to take with me? Do I need any inoculations?
In other words, it’s time to start preparing to go abroad!
This, then, is a simple checklist of things to do before you get on that plane. Depending on which country you’re heading off to not all of them will apply to you, but go through them and sort them out and you won’t go far wrong!
Since it can sometimes take time for various offices to prepare paperwork, it’s often best to start here.
- Passport – make sure it’s in order and that it won’t expire anytime soon. You may need to renew it so give yourself plenty of time here.
- Visa – the school should help with this, but make sure you know what’s happening here. Do you need to do anything in your own country or is it sorted out when you arrive?
- Criminal Records Check (CRC) – this can take several weeks to come through. You may not need it, but if you do start the ball rolling with this now.
Once everything is in order it’s time to book your plane ticket. By all means shop around here to get the best deal and the earlier you book, the cheaper it usually is.
Health & Insurance
At this point you want to think about insurance and health cover. Do you need it or not? Will the school provide it? These are things which only you can decide. The kind of insurances you want to think about are: travel insurance, health insurance, ticket insurance (in case you have to cancel your flight at the last moment, etc).
See the main article, Insurance & Health Cover.
With regards to medicine, make sure you take enough supplies of any prescription medicine to tide you over (including the pill, etc). Also here you need to make sure you have the actual prescription from your doctor to show the authorities in the country in case they question the medicine you are taking with you. Keep medicines in their original bottles/containers.
Remember that some medicines freely available in one country are not allowed in another so check this out. (Oh, and don’t even think about taking any illegal drugs with you!)
If you can, have a checkup at your local dentist and get any potential problems sorted out now. This is for peace of mind; foreign dentists are perfectly fine but the hassle of finding an English speaking dentist to deal with an annoying toothache a couple of weeks after you arrive isn’t exactly fun.
Finally look online and check what inoculations or vaccinations you need (if any) and that any existing ones are up to date.
Look at the weather at your destination for the entire length of your stay (i.e. a year) and make a huge pile of clothes you need to take with you. Then get rid of some of them so they all fit in your suitcases and you won’t have to pay excess baggage on the plane. You will, of course, be able to buy clothes at your destination so don’t worry too much about taking absolutely everything!
As well as clothes you want to think about a few luxuries: a few bars of your favorite candy, a couple of books and so on. This is just in case you feel a bit lost when you first arrive and need a little comforting! Having said this, don’t overpack and it’s probably best to leave anything very valuable or expensive behind.
Electronics & Gadgets
Check out the plugs for your destination. Do you need an adapter so you can use your laptop when you get there? Most American electrical devices work on a different voltage than the rest of the world so this might be something to consider.
Which of these do you need to take with you?
- mobile phone
- electric toothbrush
You may be able to get temporary roaming with your mobile phone for your destination. It is best, once you arrive, to organize a local number and internet connection but for the first week or so international roaming may be useful. (Many people will buy a local pay-as-you-go mobile phone number when they arrive.)
On this subject most of your life can be put onto a laptop or iPad. However if this is stolen this can be not only traumatic but you’ll lose a lot of your material – photos, music, letters and so on. To prevent this think about setting up a Dropbox account where you can store stuff online and access wherever you are and this can be a life saver if you lose your laptop or smartphone!
Before you leave, scan (or take a photograph) of any important documents you have (your passport, visa, credit cards) and upload them to Dropbox so you can access them if you lose the originals.
See the main article, Dropbox.
How much cash do you need? Take enough to tide you over for a few weeks at least until your first pay check – depending on where you go it may be difficult to use an ATM (or Cashpoint) or use your credit cards so make sure you have enough local currency to tide you over for a while.
Some people divide this amongst their luggage and carry some in a money pouch for extra security.
With credit cards its best to tell your bank beforehand that you will be using them in another country. Some banks will automatically block cards if they suddenly see them used in a different country than normal. And since banks are notoriously inept, try to get this in writing and have a contact email for someone so you can contact them if the cards are blocked.
Addresses – if you can have your letters delivered to your home address while you’re away and someone reliable is there to deal with them, all well and good. One option, if this isn’t possible, is to use a professional forwarding service. Something to think about anyway.
Itinerary – leave a copy of your itinerary and foreign addresses/contact information with someone back home in case they need to get hold of you in an emergency.
Glasses – take along any prescription you might have for glasses or contact lenses.
Skype – set up a (free) Skype account before you leave and make sure anyone you want to keep in touch with back home also has an account and knows how to use it. Do a few test calls before you leave to make sure it’s all working well so that when you’re abroad you’ll be able to call up friends and loved ones and keep in touch like this.
Alcohol – by all means take some from duty free if you are heading to a country which allows it.
Condoms – think about sex; take a few condoms with you if you think you might need them as items like this may not be easy to find in your destination country.
Loose Ends – tie up any loose ends at home before setting off. This will give you peace of mind once you’re gone.
- cancel cell phone plans if you need to
- close unused bank accounts
- check standing orders to make sure you’re not paying for someone you don’t use while you’re away
Personal Safety when Teaching Abroad – check this out before you leave.
Culture Shock & Being Homesick – adjusting to a new country.