7 Things to Pack when Teaching Abroad

We’ve all packed for holidays and most of us have moved house at one point or another at least once. But moving internationally to an international school job requires a different type of packing that sits right between the two. Here's a list of 7 things you might want to bring with you. 

  1. The Right Clothes. International schools are usually fee-paying and they expect a level of professionalism mixed with cultural sensitivity. Err on the side of dressing up rather than dressing down but keep it professional never, ever sexy at work. Check on your school’s policy on obvious tattoos and body/facial piercings. In many parts of the world ‘the clothes make the man’ is the norm so check with your school about expectations. Yet don’t panic and over pack. Clothes that are more in line with local sensibilities such as long skirts and tops for women in the Middle East can often be bought and or can be tailor-made for lower costs there than at home.                                                                                                  
  2. Resources. You are going abroad to work and I usually recommend you scan and store electronically as much as you can to avoid bringing heavy hard copies. In this day and age, storing on the cloud (such as Google Drive) makes sense….except if you are in China where many sites (including Google Drive) are blocked. If you are going to China it’s best to scan and download onto a memory stick and also save any web resources – articles etc – because you may not be able to access without a good VPN.  When in doubt, save on a memory stick. They are cheap enough.                                                                                                                                                                                
  3. Documents. Keep a copy of your important documents – passport, degrees, visa, transcripts, and contracts and any subsequent agreements/clarification via email. You can store them on a secure cloud environment -but see above if you are going to China- in hard copy or on a memory stick. And make sure you have a hard copy in your carry-on of the school phone number, email and address in case you get stuck.                                                                                                
  4. Medicines and medical history. You should have already verified that any medicines you need on a regular basis are available in your new country but it is good practice to keep a copy of your medical records and copies of any prescriptions as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                
  5. Money. It will take your school a short while to get your bank account set up and often you are paid a month in arrears. So make sure you have at least 1 month’s salary (or more) in savings with you and make you have some in local currency with you when you travel. If you are going to a country where the currency is hard to get (Kazakhstan for example. I couldn’t get Tenge no matter how hard I tried) then get the next best thing- usually US dollars.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  6. A charged phone and two free apps –Viber and Whatsapp. Now your phone may or may not work abroad – there are different protocols worldwide and I fall asleep every time my husband tries to explain them to me – but most airports and hotels have Wifi and these two apps will work for you in a pinch if you get stuck. If you put credit on Viber you can even ‘viber-out’ and call regular phones. I speak from personal experience- we had a teacher get stuck in immigration last year and the only way we could communicate with her was through Viber because her phone didn’t work.  If you are one of the lucky ones and your phone does work abroad be careful of roaming charges – best to get a local phone number/SIM as soon as you can.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  7. One or two little things that remind you of home. Hopefully they are not big heavy things like your pet rock collection or electronic gadgets that won’t work abroad, but it is good to bring a couple of items that remind you of home – a photo, a stuffed toy, or a poster. I also recommend that you write down a list of the reasons why you are going abroad to begin with and bring it too. The first few months are an adjustment as you feel the pain of cut ties at home while not yet having established new ties abroad – and these little items will be a happy comfort to you as you start off. And soon you will be making new friends and having lots of new experiences and then it’s nice to have a reminder of what you have accomplished and just how far you have come.                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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