If you’ve recently completed a TEFL or CELTA course and are looking for a placement or work abroad then there are loads of things that you need to know prior to departure.
Fundamentally, what you’ve learned from your course barely touches what you’ll experience on your travels however, with a little planning and research you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
I’ve lived and worked in Taiwan as an English teacher and believe you me, nothing prepared me for what I was to find in the classroom, the streets and in the bars of Taipei. I’d advise anyone and everyone to teach abroad and from volunteering in deprived countries to making mega bucks in the big three: Japan, South Korea and Dubai, there’s nothing that compares to such a life-affirming experience.
Below are five of my top tips to give you a head start on your teaching journey and although everyone will encounter something different or enjoy their own experiences for a whole host of different reasons, this is my advice to you.
What to pack
Aside from clothes, books and rations one of the guaranteed space savers in everyone’s suitcase or rucksack has to be a Kindle. I’m not a massive advocate of small screens for reading for pleasure but when it comes to storing all of that important text book information then Kindles are hard to beat. The same can be said for i-pods and i-pads because the more music, films and photos that you can take with you in a compact format then the more info you’ll have for lessons and for your own entertainment.
Note: When taking expensive items, make sure you’re properly insured.
How to arrive
Like any journey, half the fun of getting to your destination is the experience of travelling. Planes are all well and good for delivering you direct but the sudden culture shock can leave you feeling slightly dazed and confused once you wonder out of the airport. When I went to Taiwan, I travelled overland wherever possible using the Mongolian Express train. It took 10 days but the chance to see Europe turn to Asia gave me an incredible insight into both the geography and the people of both continents. Travel should be as much a learning experience as listening in a classroom.
What to expect from a class
My own experiences of what to expect from students and facilities have been, in the main, very positive. Kids and adults were polite and friendly although the 10 year olds – 13 old years were the cheekiest of the bunch. Basically, don’t worry if you haven’t got a massive artillery of games, lessons and time fillers in stock because you’ll acquire these naturally over time. Local stationery stores are extremely handy for stickers, pens and prizes and once you find out what your school offers in the way of equipment you can fill your own store cupboard to suit.
Keeping in touch
It’s really important to keep in touch with friends and family back home often for their benefit just as much as your own. I actually found that I talked to my parents more regularly than when we lived in the same country and you might be surprised as to who you turn to when you feel a bit homesick. Obviously, social media is an excellent and easy means of updating everyone as to your status and whereabouts however, if you want to really hit the mark then nothing beats a good old Skype call for the nearest thing to face to face contact.
Note: Letters to older family members are awesome and reading them, complete with enclosed photographs, is great fun when you return home.
Teachers, assistants, random strangers and people with shared interest are all fair game once you’ve left your friends back home in the UK. I found that by joining an ex-pat football team I instantly had a ready-made group of pals although as I was tied to playing footy on one of my days off I didn’t do as much travelling as I might of liked. Basically, be open to meeting new people and avoid simply opting for easy options i.e. only wishing to meet English speakers. You never know who you’ll befriend and from trying new hobbies to attending as many parties as possible, once you’ve joined the exodus from British shores then the whole world is your oyster.
Bio: Chris now lives in the UK as a freelance writer and part time English language teacher.