Ah, one of the most disliked and stressful things about travelling anywhere is the packing that goes along with it. You might have the most amazing holiday planned that you’ve been looking forward to for months (or possibly years, once the C19 pandemic has receded a decent bit) and be as excited as it’s possible to be, but then you remember the packing and it can make a serious dent on your happiness, and this applies equally to holidays and travelling abroad to work an EFL teacher. There’s all the usual questions – how much do I actually need? If I only take one pair of trainers will I regret it? How am I going to get all of my stuff into my suitcase? Do I depend on my Kindle or do I bring a stack of paperbacks? Also, if you’re going to teach in a wealthy country then you can probably buy everything you need out there, which drastically reduces the amount you need to pack, but if it’s a poorer country then you need to be a lot more organised. So don’t fling random t-shirts into your suitcase and hope for the best, make an exhaustive list and work through it line by careful line. But before you even begin the packing process, make sure that you have your luggage in front of you and that you’re being realistic about what/how much you can take. And don’t fill extra space just because you have it.
The first question is – do you even need a suitcase? They’re heavier, clumpier and more difficult to manoeuvre. You’re better off with a backpacking backpack, something that’s purpose built and has a 65 L capacity. Don’t be tempted to scrimp when it comes to luggage and go for the cut price option, because if there’s one thing that will ruin your travel experience, it’s having your cheap luggage fall apart mid-journey. And if you’re travelling to a far-flung country then you’ll probably have at least one or two changeovers because they’re par for the course in flying as cheaply as possible. A backpack is easier to carry and means that you have your hands free for other things. But if only a suitcase will do then make sure you get one on four wheels and that has a double compartment. Plus you will then need a small rucksack for day trips – big enough to fit in anything you’d need for a day or weekend trip. Room for essentials and then a separate space for your laptop (if you’re taking it) and a holder on the side for your water bottle. Now, onto the specifics.
- We’ll start with the obvious things that you need to pack and they are your passport and your visa (if you need one). Be mindful of where you’ve packed them so there’s no last minute panics, and check that they are there more than once. In fact, don’t leave the house without them in your hand, preferably. As emergency back-ups, leave a physical copy of them at home, take a physical copy with you and also photograph them so you’ve got a digital copy too. You can never be too careful when it comes to proving your entitlement to enter a country – cover all bases!
- A water bottle. It’s a pain to have to keep buying them and even more annoying if there’s no shop around! Plus, you’ll be doing the planet a favour by not continually throwing away plastic and saving yourself a small fortune in the process. When you’re choosing your water bottle make it a decent size one and a decent quality one and it should last the length of your trip.
- Clothes for work. This can be a tricky area to navigate as you don’t usually know what others wear until you’re there. If you’re going in blind then opt for things that are professional, cool, comfortable and loose, if you’re going to a hot country because you are bound to get hot and sweaty after a few hours teaching. You probably won’t need to be as smart as you do at home, but you’ll need to be as smart as required in your new environment, aiming to be ‘well put together’ is the impression that you want to create.
- TEFL course notes and any teaching materials you have. Having gone to the trouble to study for your 120 TEFL certification, it would be a shame for you to leave your painstakingly created notes at home. Don’t go carrying huge folders of stuff though, condense your notes or transfer them to your laptop, then they’re there if you need a last minute lesson plan or extra inspiration one day.
- An entertainment plan and definitely some headphones. We’re assuming that audiobooks, music and podcasts are going to feature on your list of ways to entertain yourself, plus TV on your smartphone, so you’ll need to keep the audio to yourself. There’s always one who subjects everyone else to their choice of music onboard a plane – don’t be that idiot. Noise cancelling headphones are the ideal for travelling and for when you’re there in shared accommodation, but a standard pair are just as good. If you’re going with earbuds make sure you have storage for the tiny things sorted out, or your listening days could be over before they’ve started.
- Financials. The general advice is to take:
- A debit card for everyday spending.
- A credit card for emergencies.
- Enough cash to cover all of your living expenses and last you for a month. It’s also handy when you find a shop that doesn’t take cards.
- Find an ATM for withdrawing cash once you’re there – you might to look around a bit to find one that doesn’t charge for transactions.
- Electricals. Make sure you have a plug adaptor for the particular country that you’re going to (a quick Google will soon put you on the right track) and a spare battery pack. Don’t go for a cheap one that will run out in ten minutes, or break after a week of use, invest in a good one and it’ll be worth it’s weight in gold. It’s best to get a recognisable brand online before you go.
There will of course be many other things that you pack for TEFL abroad, but as long as you’ve got the bulk of this list then you’ll be all right – for a while at least!
Published by Gaurav Gupta