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Staying safe while teaching overseas

From speaking with Teach Away Placement Coordinators, we know that many teachers have concerns about safety when considering teaching overseas. This is totally understandable: moving overseas to a new country with an entirely unique set of cultural norms can be intimidating, especially when you’re moving alone and you’ve never visited the city before.

One of the benefits of working with a teacher recruitment agency like Teach Away is that we do all the necessary due diligence to make sure teachers are headed to a reputable, safe, and supportive environment.

In fact, most countries worldwide have lower crime rates than the US and violent crime is much less prevalent in the UAE, Kazakhstan, or China than in the US. Generally speaking, if you’re smart and observe local culture and norms, teaching abroad will be a safe and rewarding experience.

But to start off on the right foot on your international teaching adventure, act responsibly and think smart—start with our list of tips below.

Do your research before you go

It’s really important to know a thing or two about your new country. Knowledge is power, after all, so familiarize yourself with the country’s basic laws and customs before you leave. You’ll likely come across a lot of useful information. For example, many commonplace gestures in Western culture mean something totally different and even rude abroad. A thumbs up is one example of a rude gesture in the Middle East, South America, and West Africa. You’ll want to read up about what’s appropriate and what isn’t in each country.

It’s also not a bad idea to read travel advisories from reputable government sources. Much of the material posted there is precautionary, but it’s best to have a full picture of the region you’re interested in.

Dress appropriately

Observing how the locals dress and following suit will serve you well, especially if the local dress is moderate. This will prevent any unwanted attention.

Keep a low profile and minimize the Western attire you go out in as well. This means baseball hats, sweatpants, jeans, etc.

Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood

Get to know your neighborhood well and learn which areas are safe and which aren’t. Your school will likely have this type of orientation information for you. Because the school has its teachers’ best interests at heart, you won’t be asked to live in unsafe neighborhoods, but being aware of surroundings is still important.

Many travel websites (like Wikitravel, for example), will share with you information about each neighborhood in a city and will give you tips on staying safe while abroad.

Pay attention to your belongings

As with anywhere you go, pickpockets target the unaware tourist, so do your best to avoid looking like one. Again, take care to minimize your profile by avoiding wearing flashy jewelry or watches. Remember that marketplaces, festivals, public transportation stations, and popular tourist sites are prime locations for petty theft.

Keep copies of all your travel documents safe

Store your documents and personal information (visas, passports, identification, etc) in a safe, secure place. If you’re heading out around the city for the day, leave your passport and other important id at home. 

If you take smart steps and get into a good routine while teaching overseas, just as you do in your hometown, you should have no problems while you’re abroad!

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