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Teaching English Abroad: What to Pack before You Go

The decision to pack up and move to a foreign country can be daunting for some. As you get closer to your departure date, you may find yourself struggling to decide what to pack and what should stay behind. I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I believe are essential when moving abroad, as well as what you can leave at home.

Although this list is based on my personal experience, you can certainly find more information on what to pack by visiting the Oxford Seminars website.

Packing Essentials

Depending on the type of traveler you are, you may find that your list of essential items is larger or smaller than what you have heard or read. As a light packer myself, I tend to keep my list of essential items quite small and avoid bringing things I know I can buy abroad.

Here is a short list of recommended items that you should take with you when you depart.

  • Documentation (passport, visas, passport photos, transcripts, certificate, photocopies of all documents, etc.).
  • One month’s salary (if possible).
  • Prescription medication: if you plan to bring prescription medication along with you, it is very important that you prepare carefully before you leave. My advice would be to thoroughly research what medication would be available to you abroad as well as consult with your doctor.
  • Hygiene products: although you might be able to buy the bulk of your products in country, there maybe a few items that are unavailable. Do a little research into what you need, so you can distinguish between what to bring and what you can buy there.
  • A book.
  • Laptop or tablet: an excellent way to communicate with friends and family back home, and also a great means of entertainment.
  • Appropriate work attire: check with your school to confirm their dress code.
  • Clothing suitable for the climate: it is also a good idea to bring extra items if you require a specific size that could be difficult to find abroad.
  • A good pair of walking shoes: much of my time overseas was spent exploring where I lived. A good pair a shoes makes those journeys much more enjoyable.
  • Plug adapter: make sure to check the voltage in the country as well.
  • Equipment for a hobby (if possible): my main source of packing weight comes from my climbing equipment. It is bulky, heavy, and requires a large second backpack. However, I have met some of the most wonderful friends climbing abroad. Sharing this hobby with locals and other expats has made a huge improvement in my quality of life. If you can take a hobby with you to your new home, it’s worth the extra weight.

Things to Leave Behind

Packing too much is a very common occurrence among ESL teachers on their first excursion abroad. I have been guilty of this myself of several occasions. A few things I suggest to leave home are:

  • Bedding and towels.
  • Unneeded articles of clothing: it is possible to bring too much!
  • A large, bulky SLR camera with lots of lenses: unless photography is a hobby of yours, there are a lot of smaller options available that take up less space.
  • Comfort food: sure it’s nice to have a few culinary reminders of home but it’s really not needed unless you live in a very isolated area.
  • Anxiety about not having everything you need: one of the best parts about teaching abroad is immersing yourself in your new home and experiencing the adventure living abroad. If you focus on what you don’t have or miss, you may not see the wonderful things in front of you.

Changing your Baggage

Over the years, I worked out a system of what I needed to bring with me and what I could afford to leave at home. One of the great things about living in another country is you inherently live a much simpler life, not ruled by the possessions you own but rather by the experiences you have. A positive attitude and open mind go a long way in assisting you decide what to bring with you on your journey.

Ready to start that journey? Find out how you can right here.

Written by Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Michael Adams taught for a total of ten years in nine countries – Canada, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Oman, Scotland, Turkey, and Ireland.  Although currently settled in Canada, he still loves to spend his free time traveling, trekking and climbing abroad. He has a Bachelor’s Degree, a teaching degree and is currently in his final year of his Master’s degree in Education.

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