Friday, 24 January 2014

How to move abroad as an EFL teacher: Part 2

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. Read Part 1 here.

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


Part 2: Preparation for Vietnam

Vaccinations. As soon as you know when you are going, get yourself to the nurse to talk about vaccinations. Some courses take a few months, but there are usually options available if everything is happening a bit last minute. The NHS Fit For Travel website is the best 'by country' resource to help you out.

Anti-malarials. I take the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to anti-malarials. Depending on what your plans are, you may need one or another type of anti-malarial. For Vietnam and travelling around Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, we were recommended:
  • Doxyxycline (antibiotic, ladies) 
  • Mefloquine/Lariam (which has a number of issues
  • Malarone (which is expensive)
  • Chloroquine/Proguanil (bargain at c.£15 for 7 weeks of treatment - which equates to 2 weeks in a high risk area)

Document certification. Be prepared; to get a work permit in Vietnam (to teach English) you may be required to have your certificates and criminal disclosure 'notarized'*. Here's how:

1. Call a local solicitor's office and ask if they can do ‘Document Certification’ and how much they charge per document. Usually this will cost anywhere between £4 and £10 per document. We were able to walk into the office and have the documents signed there and then in about 15 minutes.

2. Once you have a solicitor’s signature on either your original document or a photocopy, you can send your documents to be legalised at the Legalisation Office. The GOV.uk website tells you everything you need to do to pay and send your documents. It costs £30 per document and you also need to pay for outward and return post. The process is quick, but if the solicitor who signed your document doesn't have a signature on file, it may take a few extra days.

*It is worth noting that things are not black and white regarding which indeed, if any documents need legalising before you arrive in Vietnam. We've had a lot of conflicting information, but decided it's harder to get the documents certified once we've left the country, so better safe than sorry.

Police checks. You might have heard of CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) forms, and an employer might ask you for a Police check of CRC (Criminal Record Check), but in the UK, obtaining a criminal disclosure as an individual is now done through Disclosure Scotland, and is called ‘basic disclosure’. It costs £25 and takes about 10 days.

Gadgets. Travelling today is not as simple as throwing a few necessities in a bag and grabbing a guidebook; it takes gadgets. Our tablet will be invaluable whilst we are living in Vietnam as a way to Skype home, find places to stay and source valuable teaching resources. But tablets, iPods and cameras are expensive, so plan what you might need now and get saving/begging/borrowing. Remember, there’s no iTunes app for Android, so load up your iPod with music before you go!

Dress codes at work. Do not be fooled into thinking an English teacher/world traveller can go to work in a sarong right off the beach. Vietnam is at the end of the day a communist country and there are rules that need to be adhered to. You'll likely need smart closed-toe shoes, trousers, shirts and modest dresses.

Flights. It's fun booking a one-way ticket, but long haul to Vietnam is not cheap. Expect to pay upwards of £370 with Vietnam Airways, who are cheap and fly direct to Ho Chi Minh. Check Skyscanner for the best fares and be flexible with your departure date to get the best price.

Visas. If you are going to be working in Vietnam, you should be able to get a letter from your employer, which will grant you a business visa on arrival. It will cost about $45 for 30 days single entry (I think). If you are arriving in Vietnam as a tourist, the best I can suggest is to apply to the Vietnamese Embassy in London. Make sure you know your arrival date and they will be able to put the Visa in your passport before you arrive. The process can be done by post, or in person over 2 days.

The fun bits. Once you've jumped the hoops it's time to start learning about the culture, planning where you'd like to go and practicing some phrases. Here are some of the best blogs and websites specifically on teaching and the Mekong Delta that I’ve found:

Can Tho - The Mekong Delta by Mr and Mrs Lemon

Enjoy your adventure!