Preparing to move overseas? International teachers share their tips

This summer many teachers will, for the very first time, be packing their suitcases and planning their goodbye parties in preparation for a new chapter, teaching overseas in an international school. If you are one of these teachers, aside from the parties, you’re probably wondering what still needs to be done before you go. TIC’s teachers who are already living and working overseas offer their advice on how best to prepare before you move abroad for the very first time:

Research your country

Everyone agrees that it pays to investigate the country you are moving to, to be as fully prepared as possible before arriving. Research the culture, social norms, expected salutations, dress codes, climate, transport system, local activities, currency and food.

Be well informed of the exchange rate and ensure you have some idea of the cost of local items. It may take a while before your first pay check can be deposited into your new bank account, so ensure you have sufficient money to support yourself for the first month.

Also look into the communication channels that will be accessible to you easily. Set up WhatsApp groups before you go so that you can message and speak easily with family and friends back home. If you’re moving to China, invest in an unlocked phone so that you can access WeChat, the Chinese version of Whatsapp. In some countries, you will be unable to download Skype so put this onto your laptop or ipad before you leave.

Important documents

Many teachers suggest having copies of all important documents with you as hard copies, not just available electronically. These should include all your accommodation arrangements, school details, a local map with clear understanding of where you are based, the contact details of all people from the school who are assigned to support you in your first few days, health insurance documents, bank details, any necessary visa details, your contract, and copies of your passport.

Teachers suggest keeping your passport and visa details with you during the first few weeks, and keeping all documents in a safe, accessible place during the entire time in your host country.

Pack a suitable wardrobe

Many teachers talk about researching the seasons of the country and preparing an appropriate wardrobe in advance of relocation. Know what the season will be like when you are arriving and have enough clothing ready to meet the immediate climate needs.

Pack appropriate clothing for all the seasons of your new destination, and also to meet the cultural expectations. You will need outfits that keep arms and legs covered when in public places for many countries in the Middle East, and abayas may be needed for females in Saudi Arabia.

In some countries, especially in Asia, it can be difficult to find clothing in Western sizes, so make sure you take everything you need. Trying to find UK size 12 shoes or certain sized bras in Ho Chi Minh is a challenge, for example.

Remember that not all countries have four seasons, some have a wet and dry season. And remember that the seasons of some countries can be extreme!

Don’t forget the little things

Remember to pack the small but important items! These include international plug socket adapters, a flash drive, portable hard-drive or memory stick with all you have accumulated electronically, some of your favourite teaching resources, and spare chargers. It’s important to have suntan lotion and suitable hats accessible if you’re moving to a hot country. 

Teachers also talk about taking a few things that help you feel ‘at home’. One said their favourite pillowcases were important, another said spare supplies of preferred toiletries, another suggested a few chosen household items such as teabags so that you can make a cup of tea on arrival.

Make friends before you go

Some schools actively encourage new teachers travelling out to the same country to meet or exchange information before they start their new contract. This is a great way to make new friends. If your school doesn’t do this ask them if it’s possible to contact other new teachers and try to find somewhere mutually convenient to meet. Having someone you’ve met before, or talked to, will help you get settled in much more quickly.

Give yourself time to prepare

Enjoy your time preparing to move overseas and don’t leave things to the last minute. Give yourself enough time to see all the people who are important to you, set up your communication channels with them before you leave so that you know you can stay in touch, and give yourself plenty of time for packing and closing up your life at home so that you can leave with the least possible worries.

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