You’ve taken your TEFL, you’ve chosen your country and you’ve found your job. Now all that’s left is the organization of what you need or don’t need to pack. What are the necessaries? What things will just be a waste of space and weight? And what can’t you, personally, live without? Here are some considerations for your TEFL packing checklist:
Preparations that take time to organize should be taken care of first, obviously.
• Your passport has to be processed and sent through official channels (which could take up to just over a month) if you haven’t got one. You might have to apply for a tourist visa- and the processing times are varied. Russia can be a 2-month wait, for example.
• Look into getting an international license if you drive, since it could come in handy for free time trips or emergencies.
• Vaccinations for several Asian countries and Latin American countries have to be done before you can even dream of getting on a plane. To find out if you need any vaccinations in the country you’ve chosen, check out the World Health Organization’s updates and conditions.
• Make photocopies of all documents, credit cards and medical information- anything official should have a backup copy. Write a list of contact numbers in case of emergencies or theft, to be on the safe side.
Preparations for your new TEFL life abroad should be country-focused.
• Go on teaching and expat forums in that country or ask your school to find out what type of clothes to pack. Don’t make assumptions based on generalities- just because a country is ‘hot’ year round doesn’t mean you won’t need a sweater. Buying clothes and supplies locally might make more sense, as they’re designed for the climate.
• Figure out how you’ll stay in touch with home. Are you bringing a laptop, a phone or a tablet? How are the WiFi connections and international calling packages? Even if you’re having the time of your life abroad, you’ll still have moments when you need to be in contact with friends and family.
• Choose your sentimental items wisely. We all have things we can’t live without, or that make a new house a home. A few photos are easier to pack than an album, for example. Many TEFL teachers complain about certain foods they miss that they can’t find abroad- pack a box of dry goods to send yourself.
• Think about possible teaching aids you won’t be able to get in your new country. Word games, magazines, cheap DVDs with English subtitles and a good grammar book can be invaluable.
• Look for a well-rounded guidebook and phrasebook. The guidebook should cover the area you’ll be living in detail, with tips on culture and emergency contacts in the country. The phrasebook should have the basics like numbers, but also pay attention to detail- it’s useless if it’s only got questions and no possible replies you might hear.
Remember: the more prepared you are before you arrive, the better you’ll feel on arrival. Taking care of necessary details (documents) and personal details (mac n cheese) will ensure your transition abroad goes smoothly.