The time has come for you to pack your bags. You have secured the teaching job you have worked hard for, your accommodation has been arranged, and your tickets are booked. You might be riding a rollercoaster of emotions, but this is the time to stay calm and focus on packing everything you need to travel abroad as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
It’s probably the case that you’ve packed for a long holiday before, but packing for a long-term move isn’t quite the same. In this case, “less is more” really is the golden rule. However, it is paramount to remember that the content of your suitcases depends on your destination.
If you are going to Taiwan, for example, a rain jacket is a must: you might need it at any point throughout the year. Another item of clothing that would be extremely useful is a hat, especially during the summer months. If this is your destination, take a look at The TEFL Org teach English in Taiwan Assistance page, where you’ll find great advice on moving to one of the most popular TEFL destinations in Asia.
So, regardless of your destination, what are your must-pack accessories? Let’s start with the obvious:
These are not accessories, but they are necessary for your travels and for securing a job. Remember to take with you the original copy of your passport and qualifications, such as school/University/TEFL certificates. Just to be on the safe side, save them as electronic copies on a cloud-based storage site, like Google Drive or Dropbox,and/or on a USB stick to carry with you at all times. Don’t forget to save emergency phone numbers that you might need in case of lost/stolen bank cards or illness abroad.
When you think about electronic devices, mobile phones are usually what springs to mind.
- As an online TEFL teacher, however, you will also need a laptop with a built-in camera and microphone, and a generous amount of memory space.
- Invest in a good quality headset, to remove most of the background noise around you.
- A USB stick can be useful not only to store e-copies of your documents, but also to keep a copy of your most popular go-to lessons at hand.
- Last but not least, you’ll need at least one plug adaptor when travelling abroad. It might not be easy to find one when you arrive or it might slip your mind. It’s just easier and more convenient to buy one before leaving your home country.
- If you can, take with you an e-book or Kindle. Working as a teacher, you might need a variety of books in English, which might not be available in your country of destination. Furthermore, carrying hard-copy books is very impractical, but an e-book can make your life a lot easier and your luggage lighter. Not to mention that it works out cheaper in the long run.
Home Sick Prevention
In terms of accessories, here are some ideas that can help you deal with culture shock and might keep homesickness at bay, keeping mind and body in good shape:
- Visuals from home: Take some pictures of loved ones and small objects dear to you to decorate your room. This will give your accommodation a cosy atmosphere while giving you the feeling of being closer to home.
- Familiar tastes: One of the joys of travelling is to explore the local cuisine, but there might be moments when only familiar flavours will do. Your new country might not have some of the snacks that you know and love, so remember to take some with you!
- Filtered water bottle: It’s easy to forget how important it is to keep hydrated while travelling. Buying single-use plastic bottles of water is an option, but it might not be a budget-friendly option, and it certainly isn’t environmentally friendly. From self-cleaning to purifiers, there are many options of reusable filtered water bottles on the market for you to choose from.
Some might consider them just work-related accessories, but there are items that are invaluable to teachers:
- Whiteboard markers are usually provided by your employer, but this is not always true, especially when teaching online. Make sure you always have some markers available for your lessons. The most useful colours are black (or blue), green, and red.
- Post-it notes are very useful for classroom activities such as question structure or pronunciation revision and are great for speaking games.
- Blue tac is ideal for both classroom-based and online lessons. Use it to organise a gallery of your students’ work or to decorate the wall behind you as you meet your students online.
- Paper clips can be classed as the most used piece of stationery among TEFL teachers. Not only will they help you keep your lesson materials in order, but they will be also useful to prep your handouts for group work.
- Mini whiteboards are practical and light to carry and are extremely versatile to use in any learning scenario and in many activities. It allows learners to become more involved and engaged in the lesson, while providing the teacher with immediate feedback on their students’ understanding.
- A few sets of dice are a great tool if your lessons are game-based. One way to use them is for grammar revision. For example, you can assign a number on each side of the dice to different grammar points, for example 1-past simple; 2-present perfect; 3-modal verbs. Give a die to each group of students. In turn, each student rolls a die and builds a sentence using the grammar point determined by the number on the die. The team mates can check if the sentence is correct.
Are you ready to pack?
When travelling abroad for a long period of time, it’s never easy to decide what to pack. Don’t fall into the temptation of packing as much as possible ‘just in case’. Prefer practicality over commodities and choose to travel light. Most importantly, make your choice based on your country of destination and the type of teaching role you are going to occupy.