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The TEFL world is opening up - be ready for the change - tips for packing

The TEFL world is opening up - be ready for the change - tips for packing

I had a message this week from an old friend from about six countries and a million years ago. She's still there, happily ensconced with her husband and family, not really affected by the pandemic, sitting under palm trees, having breakfast on the terrace, with her kids swatting mosquitoes with an electric tennis racket - if you doubt they exist see here

She was in what we used call a 'good, bad, wtf?' mood. The school she works at has just had two new teachers arrive. She was happy they finally had new teachers, but utterly baffled by what they had, and hadn't, brought with them.

With this in mind - things to think about when you're packing for a job in a new country


  • Check if your school has a dress code, you might be in a sunny climate but flip flops and shorts are not classroom attire.

  • Check if there's a cultural code, when you're a guest in a country it's important to be culturally sensitive, that crop top might have looked cute in the mall back home, but is it really appropriate for where you're going?

  • Size really does matter - don't presume you'll be able to get your size in shoes, clothes, or underwear, especially in women's clothes and bras, or anything above a western XL.

Weather - sounds simple, it is not.

  • If you're going somewhere hot, check rainfall as well as heat, you may need a light waterproof jacket and waterproof shoes in the hottest part of the year.

  • If you're going somewhere cold, ask a current member of staff if it's better to buy there, or buy before you go. Cold weather gear eats up a lot of luggage space, unless you know you can't get your size on arrival, or are arriving in the middle of winter, it's one to weigh up on whether to take with you.


  • If you're in tropical heat you'll be going in between heat and air conditioning, usually running so cold you'll have icicles dripping off you in five seconds flat. Take layers you can add or take off easily.

  • If you're in a cold environment find out if it's cold outside but hot inside, or cold outside and in, believe me, it makes a difference.

Toiletries & medicines

  • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and make-up all over the world, but if you have allergies, or like a particular brand, pack a couple of months supply until you can find out where to buy your usual brand.

  • Sanitary products - pads are widely available worldwide but if you use tampons bring a couple of months supply, they are generally on sale, just might not be as easy to find.

  • Condoms - as above, don't presume you'll be able to get your size.

  • Other contraceptives, like the pill, take a supply to last the contract

  • Medicines - if you have to take a prescription medication regularly, find out if you can get it in the country you're going to, if not, take a supply, and most importantly make sure they're legal in the country you're going to

  • Insect repellent - one thing I've learnt the hard way is to go local, mosquitoes are different in different countries. Take a small bottle of what you usually use, then find out what people use locally. What works in one country/continent often doesn't work in another.

  • Sunscreen - take a bottle with you and buy only from a reputable chemist/pharmacy on arrival.


  • Tech - make sure you have adapters and chargers for whatever tech you decide you can't possibly live without.

  • Photos, knick knacks - take something that reminds you of home, some days can be rough and homesickness is real.

  • A notebook and pen - sure use them to take notes, but a notebook's real value is when the only way you can communicate something is by writing it down.

  • A sarong or lightweight travel towel - always useful - see below

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.

If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a new level with our teacher education courses, contact us or visit our CertTESOL FAQ and CertPT FAQ pages for details.



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