What to Take With You when Teaching Abroad

What to Take With You is a checklist of what you should pack when you are heading off to a new job, possibly a new country.

It isn’t exhaustive, of course, and many of the items below you’ll want to leave out, but it’s a good start.

Medicines, Drugs & Hygiene Products

Take a good supply of your personal medicine and prescription drugs, the pill, etc.

If you’re on some kind of medication then you may not be able to find it in a new country straight away (often medicines change names in different countries). The answer then is to get a decent supply to take with you (see your doctor if you need to order more than usual and explain the situation to them).

Of course there is a massive caveat to this: make sure the medicine you take is legal in the country where you are heading! Many countries are very strict on what medicine can be brought into their country and what cannot. If you are at all concerned, check with the local embassy or consulate and make sure you are free to take the prescription medicine you require into the country; remember as well to take along with you the doctor’s prescription as well to act as proof.

Note that in some countries (like China) tampons are not easily available (pads are pretty universal) so take a good supply if you use them.

Personal Stuff

  • Paperwork: your passport, education certificates, driving license and so on. Take copies of everything as well and keep them separately in case you lose the originals.
  • Phone – if you have a Smartphone then make sure to back up the data and perhaps use something like Dropbox‏‎ to keep it secure in case of loss.
  • PC/tablet, etc… – if you have a mini notebook or iPad then this is ideal.
  • Clothes – obvious really! But make sure you check online to find out the kind of weather you’ll be expecting at your destination. Remember that you’ll be packing not for a few days holiday but for the entire year so make sure you take both Summer and Winter stuff. See the main article, What to Wear‏‎.
  • Special Clothes: you will be able to buy clothes at your destination but if you have massively oversize feet and need special shoes, for example, then take an extra pair with you rather than rely on a local shop when you arrive. This also applies if you can only wear monogrammed silk underwear!
  • Books – these are heavy so you might like to think of investing in an e-book reader.

Useful Stuff

  • A bilingual dictionary‏‎ or phrase book to help you get to grips with the language. (This, of course, can be an app on your Smartphone.)
  • A guide book for the local area and then another one for the country itself.
  • An adapter plug; find on what sort of plugs are in use at your destination and get an adapter. You don’t want to be rewiring electrical equipment the night you arrive! You may also need a converter if the usual current is different from what you use in your home country. This can all be found out online.
  • If you are concerned about personal safety‏‎, then think about a money belt and also a small wedge which you can use in hotels – jam it under the door so no one can open the door in the middle of the night!

In the School

You may want to bring along a few bits and pieces from home to show your classes. It may well be that you are the first foreigner they have ever met in which case they will be very curious about you. You can try candy or some special foods here which they can try with. Perhaps a few cheap “souvenirs” from your home town which you can offer as a prize in a class.

Extra Stuff

But what happens when you pile up all the stuff you want to take away with you and discover that to take it on a plane will cost hundreds extra in excess baggage charges? Planes usually allow 25kg or so (check, this figure varies) of luggage in 1 bag plus a small carry-on bag.

Well, if you have six suitcases of clothes ready to go think of these options:

  • pack items you know you’ll need into sturdy boxes and arrange for them to be sent over to you once you arrive; the cost of slow post is often much less than excess baggage charges!
  • arrange with someone to keep your stuff and then you can get them to send over specific items once you’ve arrived and discover you’ve left behind some essentials.

Of course, valuables should always be carried on your person so don’t arrange for your expensive iPad to be sent by post weeks after you arrive!


Take along a few luxuries. Some people will find that once the initial excitement has worn off and they’re in their flat alone after a hard day’s work they feel a little down and could do with a little comfort. If you have the foresight to pack a few luxuries then this can help. Here we’re talking your favorite chocolate or candy bar, some magazines or comics, a jar of your favorite jelly, etc.

See the main article, Culture Shock.

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Posted in Finding TEFL Jobs, Teaching Around The World.

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