Teaching English Abroad: Preparing to Go Checklist

We recommend using this checklist months in advance of your departure for things to consider before traveling and teaching abroad.

Preparing Your Documents
Airline Tickets
Medical Considerations
Financial Reminders
Legal Issues
Prepare For The Classroom
What to Pack


checkbox Keep a positive mental attitude – it is the most important part of this new experience. If you can stay positive, you will have a great time regardless of temporary setbacks or disappointments you may encounter. If you do not feel mentally prepared to leave your home country, wait until you do. The results will be worth the delay.

Preparing Your Documents

checkbox Obtain a passport; if you already have a passport, ensure it is valid until at least one month after your return date.
checkbox Obtain the appropriate travel visa for the country in which you will be teaching.
checkbox Make copies of your documentation (i.e., passport, visas, marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.).
checkbox Consider getting an international driver’s license (quite easy to do and very worthwhile).
checkbox Write down the contact information for your family, friends, accountant, lawyer, etc.
checkbox If you plan to look for work once you arrive, take several copies of your credentials (diploma, certificate, degree, etc.) resumes, reference letters, and passport photos.
checkbox Photocopy all documents including insurance particulars, record the numbers of your credit cards, traveler’s checks, passport, and airline tickets and give to a responsible family member or friend at home.
checkbox Additional passport photos to ease the process of replacing a lost or stolen passport, or if other official documents are required once you are in your destination country.

Airline Tickets

checkbox Before purchasing your airline ticket, follow the advice of your recruiter or school. They may have suggestions or limitations such as you can only fly out of your home country.
checkbox Research various airlines to find the best price and best options, and purchase your tickets.
checkbox Check your airline’s website for any flight restrictions, such as weight and size limitations, or how much luggage you will be able to take without paying a penalty.
checkbox Make sure your ticket will suit your needs after you finish the teaching contract. A flexible (open) ticket is a good idea.
checkbox Buy luggage tags and make your luggage distinctive so if all black suitcases come through, you will know easily which is yours.

Medical Considerations

checkbox Visit your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and to take any preventative steps before departure.
checkbox Get a check-up from your doctor to be aware of health information.
checkbox Ensure you have enough of your prescription medication to last for your entire time abroad.
checkbox It is important to check the expiration date of all medications prior to departure.
checkbox Make sure you have all relevant vaccinations for your destination country; this may take up to two months.
checkbox Ensure you have health and accident insurance, and have contact information for the insurance company in the event of an emergency or needed care.
checkbox Carry spare glasses and a lens prescription.

Financial Reminders

checkbox Clear any debts (i.e., parking, library, etc.).
checkbox Cancel automatic withdrawals from your bank account, if applicable.
checkbox Plan ahead for filing your income tax and, where possible, legally remove yourself from the taxation system in your home country so you do not pay taxes in both countries.
checkbox Visit an accountant to get country-specific tax information.
checkbox Arrange for a power of attorney or someone you trust to make bank deposits and transfers, pay credit card bills, and carry out other legal matters.
checkbox Have at least $1,500-$2,000 saved or available in credit to start your new career overseas.
checkbox Purchase traveler’s checks
checkbox Make sure you have enough money to pay for a return plane ticket.
checkbox Consolidate your loans, 401k, etc.
checkbox Make copies of your traveler’s checks and credit cards including customer service phone numbers and account numbers; keep copies in a safe place (separated from the originals), and leave a copy in the US with someone you trust.

Legal Issues

checkbox Clear up any legal issues that you may be involved in.
checkbox Consider getting a criminal record check completed. This may take up to two months, however, the criminal record check must not be older than six months before your arrival date.
checkbox Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit.
checkbox Become familiar with Travel Safety tips to ensure you stay safe wherever you go.

Prepare For the Classroom

checkbox You may need to start teaching as soon as you arrive in your new country. Read more about Tips for your first week of teaching in an ESL classroom.
checkbox Collect American “gifts/souvenirs” to give out to your students (often available from your local Senator).
checkbox Ensure you have appropriate ESL Teaching Resources such as lesson activities, lesson plans, classroom and teacher resources, theory and research, and additional resources.
checkbox Purchase an English dictionary, a grammar book, and supplies in case these items are not readily available.
checkbox Purchase a few educational games such as Scrabble® or children’s word association games.
checkbox Collect glossy catalogues and magazines with lots of pictures; these are hard to find in most developing countries and students love them!
checkbox Find out what is considered to be proper attire in your classroom, including shoes, as well as weather appropriate clothing for your destination country.
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