Top tips: getting ready to teach overseas

Last time we took a long hard look at planning your finances to get more out of your time living and working overseas. This week we focus on some simple tips to help you get the most out of your overseas stay, from the best ways to stay in touch with the UK to storing your documents safely online and backing up and sending pictures home easily while you’re away.

Every cloud has a silver lining

We mentioned getting your paperwork, including your visa, sorted out in plenty of time in the first article in this series. Another top tip is to keep copies of all your paperwork online, including teaching resources like lesson plans that you might be taking with you. Then, if the worst happens, you’ll be able to retrieve them anywhere there’s a connection to the net. You may also want to store information about your trip ‘in the cloud’ too – perhaps to make it available on your mobile phone as you travel – or to back up your phone’s address book in case it gets lost during your travels.

Send photos to mum more easily

There are various services available that make file sharing relatively painless – and could mean you never have to email yourself another document again. They can also work well for backing up your valuable photos in case your camera or laptop goes astray, or for easily sharing snaps with friends and family back home.

Dropbox offers 2 gigabytes of free space (more if you recommend friends), and a downloadable application that will sync with Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile platforms, as well as a web interface so you can access your files from a school computer or internet cafe. There are similar offerings from many others, including Box (up to 5 GB of free space), and Microsoft’s Skydrive (7 GB). It’s probably worth thinking as much about ease of use across all your devices as it is about space/cost, when choosing. But then, there’s nothing to stop you signing up with several providers…

Use a local SIM card

Mobile phone call bills for people travelling to Europe came down from 1st July, after the European Parliament banned mobile providers from charging extortionate fees. Data roaming costs will also be capped for the first time with 1MB costing 58p. It’s good news for those going on holiday or using a phone occasionally in Europe, but the wisest choice if you’re living overseas can be to use a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper local voice and data rates. Make sure your phone is unlocked from your existing network provider to use a different SIM – generally a fairly inexpensive operation if you shop around, or you could always try doing it yourself.

Phone home

If you’ll have internet access then Skype is a good way to keep in touch with family and friends back home for free – so you may want to pack a compact headset. It’s also well worth looking at Skype’s international call rates to phones. There are various other internet-based voice chat services, including Google Talk.

Meanwhile those you leave back in the UK might want to invest in their own alternative SIM card from one of many companies advertising low overseas call rates for specific countries: Eurocallingcards is one, iCard is another – but you’ll need to do your own research based on your needs, location, and current offers.

Make the net work for you

We’ve talked before about strategies to make the transition into your new life a smooth one, and for dealing with the very real issue of culture shock, so finally this week another techie-ish tip: you could do worse than using online social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+, to ‘meet’ others already living at your destination – whether you’re able to locate them at your specific institution, or more generally in the town or city where you’re headed. You may be able to get some good tips from the people really in the know – from the best places to live, to the top spots for an evening out, and start building a social network before you even leave.

Of course, whether you choose to meet online friends anywhere in the real world is another question.

That’s it for this time, but if you have some advice for anyone heading overseas to live and work, feel free to share with fellow Eteach readers.

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