Most people who head overseas to teach English will be a little nervous before setting off as it is perfectly normal to be concerned about starting a new job in an unfamiliar environment, especially as you are unlikely to know anyone once you arrive. One other common area of concern is personal safety, particularly for women who are heading overseas alone. However, for most people there will be no major problems to worry about, including the thousands of solo female teachers who move abroad to teach each year. As long as you take a few straightforward precautions (most of which you probably already observe), you should avoid any unpleasant incidents and be able to enjoy the most amazing experience of your life. So how can you avoid any problems while teaching English overseas?
Choose a safe destination
It might sound obvious but choosing the right destination is probably the most important decision you can make. Some parts of the world are clearly safer than others when it comes to living and working overseas, so making the right choice from the start is vital. Some of the most popular destinations for TESOL are found in Asia and many of these are considered to be very safe for foreign visitors. Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all offer a wide range of potential jobs and are considered very safe, even for sole females. The Middle East is another region where crime rates are typically low and foreign visitors are rarely troubled. Popular teaching locations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have strict laws that are heavily enforced, making them generally safe for overseas teachers.
Research, research, research!
Before heading overseas it is a great idea to do plenty of research into your chosen destination, including any health and safety issues that you need to be aware of. You should look for any areas that are best avoided, any political, cultural or religious sensitivities you might encounter, and any scams that are commonplace. Online travel guides such as the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide offer a wealth of information including message boards where travelers can warn others of any potential issues. Many countries and individual cities will also have local expat forums where you can get up-to-date information from people who are actually living and working in your destination.
Be careful with valuables
One of the best ways to protect yourself when away from home is to avoid standing out as a rich foreigner. Flashing wads of cash is obviously a bad idea, but you should also leave behind any expensive jewelry, clothes and designer accessories as they only serve to make you stand out. You should also keep your expensive phone or camera tucked away when you are not using it. The more you can blend in with the locals the less likely you are to attract attention from the wrong kind of people.
Socialize with new friends
While you need to be careful on first arrival in a new country, you also want to get out and explore it! Your teaching job should put you in contact with a number of local and foreign teachers who know the area well and are happy to show you around. Local knowledge is a very useful tool when it comes to staying safe and the quicker you can learn it the better. Just remember to avoid overindulging when out on the town as being obviously drunk in public can often attract the wrong kind of attention.
Get health and travel insurance
In some cases ESL jobs come with health insurance, but in others it is down to you to make the necessary arrangements. The good news is that it is not as expensive as you might think, with good quality policies available from as little as $15 to $20 a month. If you plan to explore farther afield during your stay you should also ensure you have enough coverage to allow cross-border travel to neighboring countries.
On arrival in your new home it is a good idea to register with your country’s embassy as they will be able to keep you informed of any major issues and they also offer a good contact point if you do get into any difficulties during your stay. You should also let someone you trust know where you are going and when you plan to return, whether it's for a night out or a weekend away. It is always good to know that someone has your back, especially in unfamiliar territory.