How to Plan Your Trip and Get Started Teaching English Abroad

plan blog post

Teaching English abroad or overseas is a great way to travel and see the world while still making money, adding to your resume, and getting international work experience!  After researching many different extended-travel opportunities, I settled on teaching English because I found it to be the best option for me.  It gave me a salary needed to sustain myself while overseas, and I was able to work one on one with people and feel like I was making a difference in someone’s life.  These were important aspects of an overseas experience to me, and if you’ve been dreaming about teaching English abroad, or getting your TEFL certification, but don’t know where to begin, this post will help you!

Step One: Pick your program, location, and date.
If you aren’t yet TEFL certified, you have a couple of choices.  You can take the course online or take it in the place where you want to teach.  I took my program through TEFL In Prague, and I highly recommend taking the course in the place where you want to teach, if possible.  You get to meet people that may be living in the city after the course, there may be course housing, visa assistance, and social activities.  If you are strapped for cash, taking the course online and continuing to work in your home country is also a viable option.  But make sure you still have a plan for which country you want to teach in once you pass the course.  Once you know where you are going and when you are leaving, then you can get to planning!

Do some research to find out if the course you’re taking offers housing during the course.  If they don’t you’ll want to look on realtor sites for your destination country to see prices, and maybe send a few emails to set up viewings for your first couple of days you are there.  Plan to stay in a hostel or with couch surfers when you first arrive.

Once you buy your plane ticket, check with your school to see if they offer airport pick up.  If they do, let them know the time you will be arriving.  If they don’t, get the information of a taxi service, or local bus route to your accommodation.

Step Two:  Study the Local Language
Although I didn’t learn much Czech before coming here, what I did learn helped set my mind at ease.  At the very least, it helps to make you feel more prepared before you step out into the great unknown.  The Pimsleur Language tapes were a good introduction to speaking and listening in the language.

Step Three: Get Some Experience Teaching
If you know in advance that you’re going to be going to teach English abroad, get some experience teaching if you haven’t tried it before.  If you’re in college, see if your student center has any tutoring programs, or meet up with students that are struggling in one of your classes to help them.  If you’re out of college, Literacy Volunteers has branches all over the country where they match you with a non-native speaker, or an adult who cannot read and you meet with them a minimum of two hours a week.  Putting yourself in the teachers role can help you feel more comfortable once the rubber hits the road in a foreign country.

Step Four: Tie Up Loose Ends
There’s nothing worse than being in Europe (or Asia, or South America…etc…) and realizing you forgot to cancel your Birch Box Subscription.  (Just an example, I forgot to cancel my Proactiv account until about a week ago.)  There is so much to think of before you leave.  Here are a few big ones.
A) Cancel your phone plan, or at the very least, cancel your data plan.  That way you won’t have to pay for two separate phone lines.
B) Get a large supply of your prescription medications and bring a translated paper copy of your prescriptions with you.  You may need to go through your insurance company.
C) Get local currency at a bank.  Your bank may need to send away for the currency, so do this at least a month in advance.
D) Buy plug converters.  Find out the type of plugs your destination country uses and buy them.  Getting them on Amazon will probably be the cheapest.
E) Cancel any appointments you had coming up after your departure date.  (I.e. doctor, dentist, etc.)
F) Find out if there is a pre-course assignment or any required/suggested reading before the course.  I read English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy before leaving, and I was glad I did.  They really expect you to know all the intricacies of the language: all tenses, conditionals, etc.

Step Five: Pack
I brought one suitcase with me to avoid extra fees.  You’ll probably need to go shopping for some small things.  Chances are they will be cheaper in the US than they will anywhere in Europe.  I will write a future post including my packing list.

Step Six: Plan a Going Away Party
You are going to want to see all of your friends and family one last time before you leave.  Plan a going away party with fun travel-related activities.  Make an information board about your destination.  Have a journal that guests can sign and write a little good luck note in.  If possible, serve some local cuisine from your destination country.

Step Seven: You’re Ready To Go!
Enjoy the journey.  Learn a lot.  Travel in your free time.  Don’t be afraid to try out your newly acquired language.  Try all the food.  Make yourself at home in your new country!

Once You Arrive
Once you arrive, you may need to get a local sim card and phone plan, create a bank account, and look into health insurance and social insurance.  Good luck!!

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