What to Consider & Prepare Before Moving Abroad
Many people choose to do a TEFL course in order to take the plunge and move abroad for work and begin a new and exciting life. With English being one of the world’s most popular languages to learn, the opportunities for people who have the ability and qualifications to teach English can be endless. If you’ve decided that you want to start a new adventure in a new country, what are some important things you should consider and prepare before you go?
What about the legal stuff?
Firstly, let’s start with the boring stuff! The paperwork! If you’re considering moving abroad for a new job, you need to check whether you have the legal right to live and work in that country. Otherwise, you may find yourself being rejected for jobs or even being put on a plane home if you overstay your tourist visa. Whether you have the right to work in a specific country will depend on your nationality and sometimes, your educational background. For example, there are countries where getting a working visa will require you to have a degree.
If you don’t have one, unfortunately, there are no ways around this and you will have to look elsewhere. If you do need extra paperwork, visas, etc, make sure you are informed about how to do this. You can check government websites, embassies, and job adverts for requirements.
If you do get a job, then you can also ask your employer for any tips on local paperwork as they will have mostly done this many times before with other members of staff. If you are undertaking an internship or placement, then you will receive help and advice for paperwork. Make sure you’re organised with everything. If you need to make a trip to your local embassy beforehand, then you need to plan this out and ensure you get everything done before you jet off.
There are some things that you won’t be able to do from your home country and will do once you get to your destination so you don’t need to worry about this- just be aware of what you need to do once you get there and how to do it. It’s also advisable to make photocopies of all your important documents (passport, driving licence etc) to have on hand. You might also want to check out things like whether health insurance is required as part of your visa application.
What will your new life look like and how do you see yourself fitting in?
Although no blog, article or video can let you experience 100% what life is like in another country, it’s important to do your research. This is especially true if you are going to a country you have never been to before or a place that is quite far away from your home country. It’s important to read about the culture and customs of your destination country so that you can know what to expect. If what you read sounds horrifying to you, it might not be the place for you.
You should make sure you do your research so that you don’t make any cultural faux-pas either! If not you might end up offending people by not removing your shoes in appropriate places in Thailand or getting odd looks when you try to order dinner at 5 pm in Spain. You can avoid this with some light reading before you leave. It can be hard to adapt to a whole new way of living, but not impossible. You have to go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn and discover a whole new culture (and don’t forget the exciting new good you’ll get to try!).
Should I learn the local language before I go?
Absolutely! Although you will spend the majority of your working hours speaking English, you should always try to learn the local language wherever you end up living. Not only will it help make your daily life easier (shopping, admin, doctor’s appointments, etc), the locals will be very appreciative of your efforts to communicate with them. Knowing your student’s first language can also help you understand how they learn and why they might make certain mistakes. You can also share your language learning journey and tips with them, making yourself more relatable as a teacher.
It’s always best to start learning before you move abroad so you can hit the ground running with your new phrases! You can take a course or download an app (Duolingo is always a good start!). Once you arrive, you can also think about how you can continue your learning. You will naturally pick up the language more by being immersed in it, but that doesn’t mean you will automatically become fluent as This takes time and effort. You might want to think about signing yourself up for some classes at a local school – this is a great way to stay motivated and you can meet other ex-pats too! Another option is to check out any language exchanges happening in the area.
These normally take place in a local cafe or bar, again a great way to meet new friends in a more relaxed environment. No matter how you decide to learn, throw yourself into the learning experience. Practice in supermarkets, restaurants and even on the bus!
How far is too far?
Moving abroad is a big step, especially if you have never lived away from home before. Although the benefits of living abroad can be numerous. Starting a new life without your family nearby and friends can be a bit daunting at first. You’ll have to adapt to this. The further away you go, the less often you will have the time (and money) to go back for a visit so think about this when you are looking at jobs abroad.
If you think you’ll want to visit often, it’s no good if you don’t live near an airport and have to get three planes and a boat to make a visit home. Check out routes between your new potential country and your old one to see availability and cost. It also works both ways, if you end up moving across the world to a small town with no transport, then it will be more difficult for people to come and visit you! If this is important to you, think about the logistics more carefully!
What do you really need to take with you?
Once you’ve decided on your destination, checked, and sorted your paperwork requirements. It’s time for the next big step- the packing! This can be a huge job and it’s tempting to throw in everything that you own “just in case”. Try not to go too mad and literally pack up your life. You’ll find that most things will be available to buy when you get there! If you don’t know exactly what your new accommodation will be in terms of space.
It’s best to pack on the lighter side. You don’t want to travel with three suitcases, then decide to share a flat and have no space to put everything. Pack responsibly for the climate you are going to. If you need items, ask family and friends to bring you some extra stuff when they come and visit!
What if it’s too difficult at first?
Depending on where you go, the first few days may be spent in a hotel. Before you find or are moved to your permanent accommodation. This can be lonely if you haven’t managed to meet other people yet. You may end up eating out a lot and just trying to concentrate on finding your bearings. Maybe you meet some ex-pats and spend the week getting to know each other!
Don’t let the rush of the first few days get you down and think you can’t handle the move. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and feel like they need to leave after the first week. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way but it’s important to give yourself time to settle in.
How can I prepare for my first classes?
If you don’t have experience teaching before moving abroad then it’s natural to feel nervous. Especially along with dealing with being in a new country! Take some time to refresh yourself with what you learned in your TEFL course. Familiarise yourself with your new timetable and responsibilities of the job. For the first few lessons, over plan! Spend time looking at the materials/ coursebooks and make a good lesson plan, including extra activities. Being over-prepared for the first few classes will help you feel more in control and calm the nerves.
You can refer back to your plan for ideas to help you get through the class. After you get to know the course and your new students, you’ll find you won’t have to plan as much. You’ll develop more confidence to tackle the class head-on without the overly detailed lesson plans!
Moving abroad can be an incredibly life-changing and rewarding experience. Whether it’s something you do temporarily to have a grand adventure for a few years. Or a permanent move, you will end up with some amazing memories and stories. Living abroad will also gain you new skills and independence. To make the transition as smooth as possible, try to be prepared and organised with things. Consider your decision carefully and think about where you would like to go (and why). One thing’s for sure, you will find an exciting world waiting for you if you want it. Dive into the deep end with the language, culture, and your new job and you won’t regret it!