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Today’s Guest Blog is written by Erika Phyall who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s programs. USC Rossier provides current and aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn an online Master’s in Teaching degree and a Master’s of Education online. Outside of work Erika enjoys networking, DIY projects, and spending time with her two dogs.

What to Wear When Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad is an adventure waiting to be discovered. Teachers work and live in a world that is filled with new sights, ideas, people and experiences. Preparing for your time abroad can be hard if you aren’t sure what to expect.

One question many teachers might find themselves asking is what to wear when teaching abroad. Sometimes you will be fortunate enough to adjust your wardrobe at your own leisure once you arrive. However, if your location is more rural or you don’t have the same body type as the majority of the populace, you will want to come prepared for your entire stay. Ultimately, it is important to dress professionally and to tailor that look according to the culture you are working in.

One of the best steps you can take to have a successful teaching abroad experience is to be open to change. Living in a different culture can require making adjustments to how you might normally dress. Every country will be different. Some may have a style you love, whereas others may include attire that seems restrictive or difficult to embrace. Choose to accept these adjustments as part of the adventure, and don’t begrudge them as a loss of independence. Remember: You can slide right back into those neon tights or worn Converses with deserved enthusiasm once you return home.

A helpful tip to dressing for success starts with professionalism. It’s easy when you’re in a new place to want to forget some of the more pesky professional dress codes you may have left behind. In many countries, however, being a teacher is one of the most revered professions in the culture. Both students and parents look to the teacher as a symbol of education that preserves the past and strengthens the future. Dressing professionally shows your respect for the position you are filling and the role you have been entrusted with. General guidelines for dressing professionally include maintaining a neat and clean appearance, wearing minimal jewelry or refraining fully, depending on culture, and always choosing clothes that are modest and workplace appropriate. If you are ever unsure, it’s always best to start off conservatively. Ask your co-workers and look around to see what other teachers or professionals in your school are wearing.

The classroom is not the only place where dress code can come into play. Holidays, visiting friends, the beach and many other situations can present themselves where it is important to understand appropriate dress. For example, wearing bikinis in many Asian countries is not culturally accepted. Most bathers wear shorts and t-shirts when going to the beach. Middle Eastern countries are also known for their more modest dress. Embrace your adventurous locale, but be prepared for some mental shifts as well. Dressing in this region can be very different for teachers, and female teachers especially may feel restricted. In many Middle Eastern countries, women are expected to have their knees, shoulders and chests completely covered. Head scarves are also required for women, and dresses — not pants — are recommended unless stated otherwise by your school. Always ask your school for a recommended dress code so you can be prepared to meet their standards.

Teaching abroad can be a real adventure, but as with all journeys, setting off prepared can make all the difference. As long as you follow the advice above and use common sense, fashion won’t be able to obstruct you from the rewards of teaching abroad.

Interested in earning a Master’s degree through the USC Rossier School of Education? Click here to request more information on your professional development.

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