How to Move Abroad for EFL Teaching

Teaching English in a foreign country can be a daunting task and it’s only made more so by the difficulties that come with making a move abroad. For me the most troubling experiences with moving abroad weren’t questions like “will I fit in?” or “will I even like it there?” Instead, I was preoccupied with worries like “what happens if I forget to bring this?” or “what do I do in a foreign country if this happens to me?”

How to move abroad for EFL Teaching

Fortunately you can avoid the thoughts that plagued me through careful preparation. Here’s a checklist that I drew up from things that I learned in my last trip abroad, when I studied in Latvia.

How to move abroad for EFL Teaching: English students in Jēkabpils, Latvia.
English students in Jēkabpils, Latvia.

1. Keep critical documents handy

Critical documents are things like travel papers, documents indicating your eligibility to work, and your health information (especially a record of your vaccinations). The first two a pretty obvious, so I’ll explain the last one. Imagine that you’re hospitalized in a foreign country. Maybe you’ve got a rather nasty bout of the flu. Doctors there would like to give you medication X, but they’re not sure if you’re allergic to it or not and you haven’t memorized your medical records, so you can’t say either.

These hypothetical doctors can either send off a request to your hometown, likely passing through several embassies on the way, and wait patiently for the request to get translated, for the work day to start in your home country, for the request to be fulfilled, translated back, and arrive on the desk of one of your doctors, hopefully during working hours. All while your condition is getting worse.

All of that is just a bad dream if you carry a copy of your medical records on your person. Worst case scenario they have to find a translator, but then you’re set.

And when I say handy I mean that you should be carrying these with you when you first arrive in country and keep them in a safe, but accessible place, in your apartment or room as soon as you settle down. A great idea is to keep them in a folder with your contact information or the information of someone you trust in your host country on it. That way if you ever do lose these precious papers you have a clear route to getting them back.

2. Don’t just pack for one season

Pack lightly for winter months whether you plan on being there through that season or not. It’s not uncommon for EFL teachers to stick around in their host countries after the initial teaching appointment is up. Depending on the country that you’re in, you can apply for a work visa and make good money either teaching English privately or using your connections and experience to help new EFL teachers find jobs and get their bearings in the country.

How to move abroad for EFL Teaching: Winter in Latvia.
Winter in Latvia.

Sticking around for a bit also gives you a chance to really dig into your host country’s culture. You’ll be able to witness the full year of cultural events (many of which occur on an annual basis) and you’ll have more time for travel. Which, depending on where you’re teaching, may take you to some pretty chilly locales, such as the mountains of Korea.

3. Make a plan for food items before you move

One thing that surprised me about moving was just how much food I had that I couldn’t take with me. Depending on what you’re taking with you (likely just some snacks for the trip) and what you can get friends to take, you may be left with tons of canned goods, frozen food, and long-term items like seasonings and sauces.

Easily the best thing that you can do here is get in touch with charities that will take your food when you move. For example Move for Hunger, which will take food that you leave out for them after your move.

Left over food
Left over food: Photo on Flickr by VancouverBC FoodBank / CC BY 2.0

4. Convert your currency

It’s well known that changing over your currency is one of the first things that you should do when arriving in a country. What you might not have thought of was that you should be converting your currency with an up-to-date reliable currency converter when you do all of your financial planning.

This is important because exchange rates change all the time, so financial information on an EFL firm won’t always be accurate and useful.

Currency conversion
Currency conversion: Photo on Flickr by Kevin Harber / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These are my thoughts on prepping for a move abroad. Let me know how you’re getting ready!

About Nick Cesare

Nick is a writer and violist. After finding a penpal from Latvia he was struck with passion for the country and decided to study abroad there in 2010. You can reach Nick with questions or comments @cesare_nick.

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