Teaching abroad is an exciting experience: beautiful destinations to explore, interesting people to meet and a brand-new community to become a part of! But getting ready to move abroad and packing everything you need to live in a different country in one suitcase can be a stressful and daunting process.
Whether you’re teaching English abroad in a far-off destination, teaching in China or teaching in the Middle East, there are some essentials that you’ll need to help make your transition overseas as stress-free as possible. The end goal should be to bring as little with you as possible since additional or overweight bags can be quite expensive to fly with. While some of the items that you’ll need will be available in your new country, others may be difficult to find, or much more expensive to purchase overseas.
It’s normal to have a ton of questions on what you should pack to bring with you on your first adventure teaching abroad. Luckily, at Teach Away, many of us have been in your shoes before. Here’s what we advise to make room for in your suitcase before boarding that plane:
Comfort food from home
Everyone has their favorite comfort food that they’ve been eating since childhood. Chances are that when you're teaching abroad it will be difficult to get this stuff at your local grocery store. So stock up on non-perishable comforts before you go and make some extra room for them in your suitcase. For those days when you’re yearning for some home comforts, your favorite foods may be the perfect antidote to that dreaded homesickness we all occasionally feel when teaching abroad!
Universal plug adaptors
Types of plugs vary around the world. It’s a good idea to do some research before you leave on the types of outlets most commonly used in the country you’ll be teaching in. That being said, you’ll (hopefully) be traveling as well while teaching and living abroad, so it’s a good idea to buy a universal plug adaptor so you can charge your electronic devices, no matter where you are in the world!
Although products like shampoo and toothpaste will be relatively easy to find abroad, some other essentials may not be as common. Stockpile toiletries like deodorant, moisturizer or hair gel/spray, especially if you prefer to use a specific brand. The brands you’re used to buying at home may simply not be accessible in your new teaching location.
Before you go, make up an emergency medical kit with the most necessary medicine you might need, such as cold, allergy, headache or stomach pills. If you take any prescribed medications, be sure to pack at least a three-month supply. Check with your doctor on how you to obtain refills in your new country before you go and write down the generic name for medications to make refilling prescriptions easier.
Language barriers may prove tricky if you need to get a prescription from a pharmacy. And don’t forget that over-the-counter medication, like Advil or Tylenol, may be hard to find in a foreign language or may even go by another name.
Sidenote: Anything critical should be always placed in your carry-on luggage. Don’t put your family photos, laptop, or personal documents in your checked suitcase. A good rule to live by when moving abroad - if you want to see it again, carry it on!
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Comfortable shoes (that fit!)
OK, we all know that you can buy shoes pretty much anywhere in the world, but it’s important to consider if it’s likely that you can buy what you need while living overseas!
When teaching in Asia especially, it can be hard to find larger shoe sizes for both men and women. Pack comfortable, durable shoes that work for a variety of activities. Athletic shoes, as well as a more formal pair that will work for in the classroom, will cover your basic needs.
Make sure you have an unlocked phone - that is, a device that isn’t locked into one specific service provider in your home country (your friends and family will probably want to talk to you on the phone at some point during your adventure abroad!) If your phone is unlocked, all you have to is buy a SIM card once you arrive and swap out your old one from back home.
If you don’t have an unlocked phone, you can always purchase a new unlocked one once you arrive - either option works. It’s also worth setting your friends and family up with apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or FaceTime before you go so that you can avoid incurring any long-distance charges! And take a look at our blog for more ideas to help you keep in touch with loved ones back home while teaching abroad.
Deciding to move abroad for a year (or even longer) is no easy task. We hope this list gave you a headstart when deciding what to pack for the big move. To help you through the process of moving abroad, we’ve also put together a helpful pre-departure checklist, covering all the things you need to think about and organize when you’re preparing to teach abroad for the first time!
What additional items would you bring with you when teaching abroad for the first time? If you’ve taught abroad in the past, let us know your packing essentials in the comments below!