Friday, 17 January 2014

How to move abroad as an EFL teacher: Part 1

So you've got your awesome TEFL certificate, what next?

Book your flight, pack your bags and kiss your mama goodbye?

For me, and many other TEFL graduates I'm sure, you will find getting your certificate is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a new life abroad.

Here, I'm going to give you an overview of the preparation I had to do to move from Bournemouth, UK to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in two parts ; preparation for at home, and away (covered in Part 2).

*These are my own experiences to date. I am in no means an expert.

Part 1: Preparation for at home

Living arrangements. Currently Renting? Get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible to see when your current lease expires. We were lucky enough to be on a 6-month lease, which ends exactly when we need it to. It's always worth asking if you can leave your lease early. If you own your own home you'll need to think about the laws around renting it out or *gulp* if you're going to sell it which is a long and costly process.

Mobile phone contracts. With some forward planning you might be able to join a sim only month-to-month plan like these from Orange, leaving you free to cancel at anytime. If you are in the middle of a contract, it’s often hard to get out of them without paying off the rest of the term. This could be very costly if you've only just signed up for a 24 month deal to nab yourself the latest iPhone.

Debts. The last things you want to leave behind are any debts. They are likely to still need repaying whilst you are away and any issues can be tricky to resolve from the other side of the world. My advice is to start working them down as soon as you can. I worked in the background for 2-3 years to become debt free, but knowing there won’t be any surprises whilst I am away is worth it.

Insurance. A bit of a pain, but the last thing you'd want when you’re miles from home and sick is the added stress of how you're going to pay for it. Get insurance that will cover you for all the activities you might do. Try Explorer Insurance for a quote; for the two of us for 18 months cost circa £500 and included any paid work we did.

Savings. Whilst the cost of living is generally cheaper than at home, you will need savings facilitate your travels. $50 per person per day seems to be a reasonable guide, but it is always worth having back up funds for an emergency flight home. Working as a teacher will obviously make your money go further too!

Downsize. Make a little extra money before you go by selling off any bits you don't need. Gumtree and car boot sales are a great place to sell, and the more you shift the less you have to store. Make sure you are set up at a car boot sale early to be ready for the eager buyers and accept a certain amount at bargaining. Car Boot Junction gives you details of local sales.

Storage. My advice is to make friends with someone who has a large and mostly empty loft. Storage units are expensive (£1000 per year) and hard to manage if you don't know when you will be back. Sell, sell, sell and keep only the essentials and sentimental things you need for your return.

Jobs. There are a few options when it comes to your jobs. Depending on your current situation you might want to quit, take a sabbatical, or arrange remote working if you plan on only teaching part-time. Think about your options carefully and unless you are happy to leave your job, speak to your employer soon. They'll appreciate your honestly and you never know what kinds of arrangements you might be able to come to.

Cash. Think hard about how you are going to access your funds whilst you are away. Through my research I've found that accessing cash using my regular debit card will be expensive and I want to eat into as little of my savings as I can. I recommend a cash card of sorts e.g. this one from STA Travel. You can easily top it up online through the modern wonder of internet banking for no fee. Once you know where you will be teaching, you might also want to open an account with a local branch. HSBC are a truly global bank with a website (mostly) in English wherever you are.

Changing your address. You aren't only going travelling, you're probably moving house too. Don't forget everything that goes with it. Cancelling utilities, subscriptions, TV licences and registrations. One advantage you have is the pleasure of the perfect excuse. "Forget the sales pitch, I'm leaving the country!"

Check out Part 2!