With the economy showing little sign of change at the moment, teaching abroad is becoming an increasingly attractive option – especially with the cost of many TEFL courses being relatively low. Teaching English is a fantastic way for travellers to see the world and experience different cultures at little expense.

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Thai schoolchildren

However, there are a few things to take into consideration before you board the plane to make sure that everything goes smoothly and you have the best possible time.

Money, money, money

One of the plus points about much of Asia is the low cost of living, and working as a teacher should allow you to live comfortably while you’re there. However, if possible it’s still a very good idea to get some cash together so that you have something to fall back on if you need it. For instance, if for some reason you lose your job, or you desperately need to get an earlier flight home, a lack of money could spell disaster.

Of course, these are worst case scenarios, but being prepared for all eventualities will mean that you can relax a little more and concentrate on enjoying yourself. Get a tip paying job – or two – and consider living with parents to save money before you go. If you don’t need the cash during your trip, consider it a deposit on your next adventure!

Culture vulture

Asia is home to many countries, each with its own quirks and traditions. Wherever you’re planning on going, make sure that you know how you’re expected to behave before you get there. For instance, you probably wouldn’t think anything of showing the sole of your foot to someone, but in Thailand this is the most deeply offensive gesture you could make.

Remember that banking advert where the Englishman had to eat plate after plate of squid because he kept eating all of the food offered to him to be polite, but his Japanese hosts expected him to leave a little food on the plate to show respect? You don’t want to be that guy.

What’s the plan, Stan?

It’s important to have a rough idea of what you’re going to be doing and when, particularly if you’re travelling around Asia. Though planning everything down to the last detail is likely to make you feel stressed – and, potentially, bored – leaving everything up to chance could mean that you don’t end up doing half of the things you want to. Planning will also mean that you can prepare anything you need to in advance.

Practice makes perfect

The best way to develop skills and techniques for working with children, is to work with children – bar none. Ask to volunteer at a primary or secondary school in your area, and you’ll be able to get a feel of what working in a classrroom is like. By watching the teacher you’ll get an idea of how to deal with things like behavioural issues and how to make lessons engaging – or how not to do it, if the teacher isn’t successful.

Don’t forget your toothbrush

Okay, so forgetting your toothbrush might not be the end of the world, but there are a few things that you really will need to arrange and pack before you jet off.

  • Passport. Make sure that yours is valid for your trip, and the return flight.
  • Visa and / or work permit. Check out what the countries that you’re visiting require for foreign teachers and arrange it well in advance. If you don’t have the correct documents, you could find yourself stuck at the airport.
  • Make sure you pack the contact details for the school you’ll be working at, and the accommodation where you’ll be staying, in your hand luggage. These are things you can’t afford to lose if your hold luggage goes missing. Also, pack any other travel documents you have if you’re going to be flying to other countries during your trip.