Once you’ve secured your new teaching job abroad, you’ll probably have several months to get yourself organized before taking up the post. Here are the top ten things you need to take with you when you move overseas. Read this now as some can take time to prepare properly!
1. Passport (valid for at least the length of your contract)
You may think this is an obvious one considering we’re talking about relocating your whole life to another country. Tell me, do you know when your passport expires? Mine expires in 2015.
Depending on where you’re living, a new passport may take up to six months to get. It’s not wise to rely on the "estimated turn around" time on the form, as in the past both the UK and the USA have had extremely long delays in issuing new passports to their citizens. Of course, if you’re running short of time, you can usually apply for an express service, at a ridiculously inflated cost. So, go now and check when your passport expires. It’s better to have a passport that’s valid for the length of your contract because it’s a real pain to have to get a new one issued from a consulate or embassy abroad. Trust me; I’ve had to do it!
2. Original documents that prove who you are and what you know
Government departments don’t tend to accept copies of foreign identification or certification documents. Ensure that you take all your original documentation. If you don’t have it, then get it.
It’s always good to keep a copy at home too, either with a family member, a lawyer or in a safety deposit box. If you can, get duplicate originals. An extra set is insurance against theft, fire or natural disaster and it makes good sense.
* Birth certificate
* Marriage certificate
* Police clearance certificate
* Degree certificates
* Teacher certification
* Recommendation letters
3. Medical records and adequate supplies of medications
Anyone in your family who has an ongoing medical condition should request a copy of their medical records. For your children you should have or get a copy of their vaccination record. Take at least a two month supply of your regular medications with you. This will give you adequate time to check the medical services in your new country and register with a physician. Some medications are sold under alternative brand names in different countries. Ask your doctor for alternative names before you leave. It took me ages to figure out that Tylenol was the American brand name for paracetamol.
4. Vaccinations and a vaccination certificate
You are going to be living and working abroad, which means that you’ll be exposed to all sorts of new organisms. Check with your doctor or with a travel clinic to see what vaccinations are recommended for the country to which you’re moving, and be sure to let them know that you’ll be living there long term rather than just going on holiday for a week or two. The recommended vaccinations for a holiday in Thailand are different to the ones recommended if you’re staying there awhile.
Get a vaccination certificate to prove what vaccinations you’ve had and ask your health professional to make a note of when you’ll need to get any booster shots. Many vaccinations are good for a number of years, but some need a series of shots before you are covered for any appreciable length of time.
5. Emergency numbers
This is another one that may seem obvious to you, but guess what, you don’t need only your mum’s phone number for checking in once you arrive. You need to take these contact numbers with you, at least.
* A responsible member of your family
* Your bank
* Your credit card company
* Your insurance company
* Your doctor
* Your travel agent
Now, you can probably find most if not all of this on the internet. But in an emergency, like your wallet being stolen, do you really want the hassle?
6. International Driver’s License
An international driver’s license is not a new license and doesn’t require you to take a driving test. It’s a document that you use abroad to make your national driver’s license acceptable to foreign officials. An international driver’s license is a little booklet that you hand over with your license when it’s requested.
Essentially it’s a translation of your license into a number of prominent world languages so that officials in other countries can figure out what kind of vehicles your driver’s license permits you to drive. Even if you don’t intend driving overseas, it’s a good document to have because you never know what the future holds.
7. Contact details of the school, a copy of your teaching contract and a copy of all the communication you’ve had with the school (this can be in digital format)
It would be a nightmare to get to a foreign country and realize you don’t actually have the phone number or address of the school that’s supposed to be employing you, don’t you think? Most likely, the school will have some kind of orientation programme in place to help you get settled, and this may even mean someone meeting you at the airport. In case they don’t turn up, have the school’s contact details handy.
You should have a copy of your teaching contract to take with you so that you can check your conditions and stand up for yourself if you feel you are not getting what was promised. When I moved out to Thailand, I also made sure I had copies of all the emails that I had received. I gradually deleted them as I settled into Bangkok, and acted on all the advice I’d received prior to making the move.
8. Your children’s school records
Your children will probably be attending the same school where you’ll be working. Take all their reports and transcripts with you so that you can ensure they get placed in the correct levels. Knowing as much as possible about your child will help the school’s administrators and counselors plan a suitable orientation programme for them.
9. A guide book, culture shock book
Don’t leave home without a guide book! Take some time looking at various brands of travel guides. Different brands have different styles. I prefer one brand for traveling and another for staying long term because of the depth of information provided.
The Culture Shock series is superb. Get the one for the country or region you’re moving to and read it from cover to cover. You’ll get an insight into the cultural norms for the society you are moving into. It could prevent you from making any disastrous faux pas that might ruin your first few months abroad. First impressions count, make sure yours is a good one by doing some research.
10. Email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers of the friends and colleagues you’re leaving behind
I also took the leaving cards I received from friends and colleagues. You may be tempted to pack these in storage, or even throw them out. However, if you have enjoyed a great relationship with your colleagues, then you will miss them. I found that having a reminder of them around me when I was dealing with the initial stages of culture shock helped me remember the good things I’d left behind, but also all the stuff I didn’t like! It made me refocus on the reasons I had moved my career overseas!
Having been a global nomad for more than 10 years now, I’ve found that staying in touch with friends and colleagues at home is really up to me. I haven’t communicated with any of the fabulous people I met and got to know in the first six to seven years of teaching abroad. It’s mostly my fault, I didn’t make the effort. I’ve been more conscientious in recent years. I believe it’s worth it. I love catching up with old friends when I go back to places I’ve lived before; I always have a plethora of places to stay and have even hosted some of my friends when they’ve visited my new home.
Bonus Tip for Women!
Check whether you can buy tampons where you’re going! There are a number of countries in Asia and the Middle East that don’t stock tampons on supermarket or chemist shelves. Check, check and check again! Anyone sending me a package knows that they should use tampons as packing material rather than Styrofoam chips!
Kick start your international teaching career and avoid making disastrous mistakes by getting the insider secrets from the experts. Check out TeachOverseas.