Count Down to Teaching Abroad
Here are some of the early steps you absolutely must take to prepare for your teaching adventure abroad.
What Influences My Experience?
Whether the phrase, “When I taught in ___” leads to a funny, heartwarming story or the recitation of a foreign bureaucratic nightmare depends on many, many factors: luck, preparation, the country in which you work, the company that sponsors or arranges your assignment, your living arrangements, whether you teach in a rural or an urban area, your ability to adapt to the local diet and the veracity of the promises and dependability of the school through which you arrange your teaching experience.
Teaching Abroad 101
Individuals who have undergone the experience of teaching overseas usually experience cultural immersion, the formal anthropological term that refers to a visitor’s active participation in cultural details such as diet, clothing, mores, manners and other cultural expressions. Unlike the superficial tourist experience, a teacher becomes—at least temporarily—a part of the community and is paid for the privilege. The majority of international teaching openings are for English instructors in the Asian countries of Thailand, Korea, and Japan as well as different Near Eastern countries. Naturally, the experiences of teachers assigned to each of these markedly different cultures will be different. Keep this in mind as you conduct your preparation for teaching overseas.
Countdown to the Classroom: One Year Out
- Obtain your passport. Most individuals don’t have on hand the certified and official copies of documents—birth certificates, wedding licenses for name changes and social security cards for example—that are required to even apply for a U.S. passport. Hence, offering this as your first task often entails obtaining copies of necessary documents with which to apply for your passport. Check your government’s website as rules and regulations are strict and vary according to age and other factors. If you have a passport, ensure that it doesn’t expire during your planned stay.
- Obtain multiple copies of all documents you might potentially need: your passport, your driver’s license for additional photo ID, your diploma, your teaching contract, additional passport photographs, an insurance policy to cover you while teaching abroad, your insurance card, birth certificates, marriage licenses, credit card information, and even copies of your airline tickets. Store one group of these documents in a cloud-based computer system, one group with your family and pack a third with your luggage.
- Investigate your options thoroughly and decide what country in which you plan to teach. Research and read everything you can about the country and the culture including travelogues, blogs, and magazines.
Countdown to the Classroom: Six Months Out
- Begin a formal or informal program to begin learning the alphabet and language. Formal classes or lessons may be necessary. Investigate loan options from your public library.
- Sign up for State Department news and updates at the organization’s website.
- Undergo a thorough medical examination to ensure your safety to travel. Obtain or begin the necessary immunizations for the region, some of which require a series of injections given over time.
Countdown to the Classroom: One Month Out
- Reconfirm and double-check all the details of your travel, arrival, contract and contact person upon arrival with the airline(s), the company arranging your teaching assignment, the school(s) where you’ll be teaching, the items you will need to pack and the safety of your backup documents.
Leave for your journey with a sense of adventure and humor and be open to all the new experiences ahead of you.
About the Author
Lindsey Harper Mac is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis. She specializes in writing about education, social media and technology.