Top tips: getting ready to teach overseas

If you’ve already secured a teaching post overseas, then you’ve probably already started making preparations for your big departure. So this week we take our first look at a few of the basics it’s worth double checking on – from travel arrangements to having a ‘buddy’ help you settle in when you arrive.

We heard of one teacher who arrived in his chosen country, only to find that he couldn’t enter because his paperwork wasn’t correctly completed. By the time he’d got it sorted out, his luggage had been auctioned off!

Double-check your paperwork

It’s a bit of a scare story and probably an extreme example, but it is certainly worth checking and double-checking that you have your paperwork, such as the correct visa, in order in plenty of time.

Another top priority will be to ensure your travel arrangements go to plan. Michelle Massey, who has taught all over the world and who’s about to take up a teaching post in Panama, says time invested in travel research before you go will be time well spent.

Research flights – and airport transfers

“I’d research the flights really thoroughly because you can get some really good deals depending on which travel agents you go through. Also check out the visa restrictions and get everything in place before you go. Some countries you can just roll up with two passport photographs and get your visa: in Ethiopia for example, you can just arrive and get your visa at the customs desk. But other places you have to apply in advance, and it can take quite a while.”

Michelle also says it’s well worth checking out what arrangements will be in place – if any – for meeting you from the airport.

“It can be quite disorientating if you’ve been on a long flight, to arrive in a country that’s really hot and sweaty where they don’t speak the same language, and there’s no one there to meet you,” she says.

Organise injections in plenty of time

Michelle also advises that it’s critical to find out which injections you’ll need for the country you’re travelling to. “You’ll need to have some at least six to eight weeks in advance of your travel date. Some of the injections, like yellow fever, you need to have at least two weeks before you arrive in the country – otherwise they’re not valid because they don’t actually kick in until then.”

Ask about ‘buddies’ – and check accommodation details

Most international schools will offer help finding accommodation, and even put you up in school accommodation or a hotel while you search for a place of your own. Many will also have an orientation programme in place that includes putting you in touch with someone who’s been working at your school for a year or so already, who knows the ropes and who can point you in the right direction.

But if you’re not sure about any of these points, then it’s well worth asking your school – before you begin your journey…

Watch out for more top tips for those preparing to head off to teach overseas, coming soon…


You can read our previous interview with Michelle Massey about choosing where to teach, and advice on working overseas as a couple or taking your family with you.

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