Embarking on a TESOL journey abroad requires thoughtful packing to ensure you have the essentials without overburdening yourself. Important documents like your passport, visa, and TESOL certificate are must-haves. Also, consider the local climate and cultural norms when choosing clothing. Pack teaching materials that you are familiar with and may not find abroad, such as books or specific supplies. Don't forget electronic devices and chargers, adapters for different power outlets, and any necessary medications. Personal items that remind you of home can also be comforting in a new environment. Research your destination beforehand to tailor your packing list to your specific needs and the resources available in the country you will be teaching in.
Table of Contents
Despite the fact that most people now own a mobile phone with a built-in camera, you might still want to consider investing in a separate, high-quality camera. Mobile phones are reliant on their battery life which can often be quite short if you are away from a powerpoint and taking a lot of pictures. It is worth remembering that during your time away you are likely to do plenty of exploring, often in areas that are short on mobile charging stations. One scenario you certainly want to avoid is your phone dying on you during a once in a lifetime trip to the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal. The time you spend living and working overseas could be one of the most memorable of your whole life and it would be a tragedy to head home without plenty of photos to look back on in future years.
The simple rule regarding clothes is only take what you are certain you will get plenty of wear out of. If not, leave it behind. Before heading off you should be well aware of the climate you are going to encounter, which should aid your packing plans extensively. If your destination is in the tropics of Southeast Asia or Latin America, you are likely to have year-round warm weather, so there is little point packing that special jumper that your Grandmother gave you for Christmas. It is also worth considering that most people will be heading to regions where it is easy to find clothing that is suited to the local climate at prices that are far lower than you would pay in your home country.
If you are heading to the Middle East to teach English, wet weather gear is not something you want to fill your suitcase with. However, if you are teaching in Europe or in tropical zones where the monsoon is a fact of life, you might need to think differently. Although for many of us a wet Sunday is a good excuse to stay indoors and binge watch a Netflix series, in your new life of adventure you will not want to let a bit of rain stop the fun. Whether you are living in Rome, Beijing, or Santiago, a light, high-quality raincoat could prove to be a sound investment that allows you to get the most out of every bit of free time you have during your stay overseas.
Shoes can often be one of the bulkiest items you need to pack for your trip, so it is best to limit yourself to no more than two pairs rather than a pair for every conceivable occasion. For most people, a couple of pairs of good quality shoes can essentially cover most situations. Don’t forget that you will most likely spend long periods of time on your feet in the classroom and head off to explore the local region in your free time. Once again, if you are heading to an area with a warm climate, cheap sandals will be readily available to add a bit more flexibility to your wardrobe when relaxing and socialising.
One area where many people unnecessarily overload their luggage is toiletries. These items can take up valuable space and weight allowance that could be given to more important things. The reality is that wherever you plan to teach, a wide range of toiletries will be readily available at prices that are likely to be lower than what you would pay in your home country.
One item that you might consider investing in is a small backpack. During your stay overseas you are sure to spend some time exploring the wider area at weekends or during longer holiday periods. On these occasions a good quality backpack should be all you need to carry with you, rather than the huge suitcase you left home with. A backpack is also a useful thing to have if you intend to indulge in any outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling. Finally, two other cheap but potentially essential items are a set of earplugs and an eye mask. Many people find their new environment contains a whole lot of unfamiliar noises that can take some getting used to, such as roosters, cows, busy traffic, the call to prayer, or even a snoring roommate. Similarly, bright city lights, thin curtains or overnight travel can all be much easier to deal with if you have a simple eye mask tucked away in your backpack.