I don’t know what it was that made me apply for a teaching job in China. In none of my previous jobs had I worked with children or ever considered the teaching route. I always knew I wanted to travel though and that was a good enough reason to give it a shot. Bizarrely, the whole application process felt very surreal for me. Even though I went through the motions, I never really considered I would come out the other side with a job. It was only when I was offered the position that I realised I had no idea what to do next.
If you too have been offered a teaching job abroad and you’ve just arrived at the HCWN (Holy cow, what now?!) stage, here is what I learnt from being woefully unprepared:
Do the boring but important stuff first
Try to allow at least six weeks before your departure to sort out any vaccinations you may need and arrange your visa and health insurance. Obviously don’t forget to tell your family you’re moving to the other side of the world but also keep your bank, student finance (if applicable) and your GP in the loop. Make sure you have copies of any important documents. You never know when you could lose all your belongings in a fire or end up being deported as an illegal alien. I know it’s unlikely but it is always best to be prepared.
Don’t freak out about remembering everything on your TEFL course
Now that the moment has finally come and you’ve been given this incredible opportunity, it is inevitable that you will feel like a complete phoney. Thoughts similar to ‘Why the heck am I doing this?!’ and ‘Who am I kidding, I can’t teach!’, will undoubtedly swim around your mind. Keep calm and don’t panic, you’ll be amazed by how much of this teaching lark comes naturally and how quick you will learn.
Get down to a stationary store and stock up on fun things
Literally who doesn’t love stationary and being praised? Before you jump on the plane, head down to your local craft store and grab some of those cheesy ‘Well done!’ gold star stickers. Kids love them and you can use them to reward hard work and good behaviour.
I can’t stress how important this is enough. When I boarded my flight for Wuhan, I was armed with the biggest suitcase I could find in the shops and had crammed pretty much everything I owned inside. Not only was seventy percent of what I bought completely useless, it also made my bag weigh the equivalent of a small human, costing me over £100 in baggage fees. Keep it simple and pack 6 or 7 outfits, including something smart and something for evenings. Don’t do what I did and buy loads of ‘teacher clothes’ to then find out you have a uniform. Whoops.
Make sure you have collected contacts
One of the best things about going to live abroad is that you can finally sack off all those people you find annoying. I kid, though it is important to remember with distance comes effort. Take down the numbers and Skype names of everyone you want to stay in touch with and work hard to bridge the gaps in geography.
Gorge yourself on all of your favourite food
Most people will never know the pain of hunting for a late night kebab in Hangzhou or paying £8 for a tub of fizzy cola bottles but sadly, I do and you will too. Take my advice, eat all of your favourite food as much as you can before you leave. Eat, eat, eat.
Take enough money for the first month
This is probably one of the most useful pieces of information in this article; financially prepare for at least one month. Most teaching jobs pay a monthly salary, so there is a chance you may have to support yourself for up to four and a half weeks after arriving. Bear in mind you will need to buy important things in this introductory period, like food, a sim card and maybe even your school uniform.
Keep an open mind
It is understandable that you have no idea what to expect from teaching or life abroad and it is okay to be scared. Whilst this list should hopefully help you if you are as clueless as I was, the most important thing to remember is that life is what you make it. Go in to everything with an open mind and believe in yourself. If worst comes to worst, just make it up as you go along! You’re probably not as useless as you think you are.