So many of you have expressed interest in teaching abroad, and I highly recommend doing it. Cause well…YOLO! Anywho, this post will give you some tips and tricks to help prepare you for such a big move. (at least these are the things I think are helpful)
- Try to learn some of the language of the place you are going. I feel that Americans are very spoiled (yes I said it) and we think other countries should cater to us even while in that country. Ummmm NO! Do you follow other people’s rules in YOUR house? Ok, well it’s the same concept. Before I came to Korea, I watched a few simple YouTube videos that helped me to recognize and read the alphabet. (it’s a lot easier than people think because they have less letters than us) Being able to read Korean by far has been one of the most helpful things I did. From there, I also enrolled in free online course to begin learning to speak and say some basic phrases. (coursera.com and they have an app)
- Do your own research before going! In the months before my move, I watched several YouTuber’s vlogs to get a general sense of what to expect. I also read lots of blogs and even reached out to some of the people. Of course, their experience won’t necessarily be yours, but it’s good to have a general knowledge of what to expect. I don’t recommend going in blind, but going in with an open mind.
- You must be able to adapt easily. Again, moving to a brand new COUNTRY is major. It’s not like moving to a new state. Things won’t necessarily be like what you’re accustomed to. They may do things different. (They WILL) But you have to be a person that’s able AND WILLING to accept this and adapt accordingly. That’s why point 2 is important so you can begin to get an idea of the differences.
- BUDGET! It’s likely that wherever you go will be cheaper than the country you came from (ex. US to Korea) but don’t let that allow you to mismanage money. You still need to be mindful of what you are purchasing so that you are not scraping pennies well before the next pay period.
- This brings me to point 5: have backup money just in case! Always have a credit or debit card as backup. You will need to have money with you if you become a foreign teacher when you first arrive since you won’t be paid until a few weeks after you arrive. So you need to notify your bank about foreign purchases ahead of time. I say have about $500-$1000 dollars at minimum when you first come. You may not need most of this but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- As I stated in number 2, having an open mind is key! Once you get to your respective country, make native as well as foreign friends. (So native to that country and then people from the country you are from) Having both will help you to survive. The way to make native friends is to participate in school activities (if you are a teacher), go to cultural events and actually talk to people, and go to local restaurants. Surprisingly, it will be easy to find other people from your country. Although the people you meet may not be what you would hang with at home, having someone who understands some of the struggles you face from being away from home is very comforting. You never want to feel alone in a foreign place.
- This ties in to point 6: don’t be afraid to try the local food. Again, this is where I say Americans are spoiled. YOU ARE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, THE FOOD WON’T ALWAYS BE THE SAME. Coming to Korea, I knew that my diet would change. But to my surprise, Korean food is really good and healthy. (minus all the rice they eat) Don’t be afraid to go to restaurants and try new stuff or even eat foods with your coworkers. Eating local will also help you to save money. Yes, you can find most of your staple items in a market, but they may be more expensive if it was something that needed to be imported. (This goes for toiletries too). I actually stocked up on certain toiletries before I came because I knew they weren’t available or they were super expensive here. So research this ahead of time too! BUT, if you must have American foods most countries have popular fast food and restaurants. (we have McDonalds, Outback, Chilis, KFC, Popeyes, Starbucks, Subway, Burger King, and I’m sure there’s others in Seoul)
- Ensure that your cell phone is unlocked before time. Unless you are rich and can afford an international phone plan, getting a local number will be something you’ll eventually have to do. Since my phone was unlocked, I was able to just get a SIM card with a local Korean number and plan. If your phone is not unlocked, you will have to purchase a phone AND plan in your new country.
- Research the weather of your new country to prepare your clothing. Most likely, your airline will allow two checked suitcases and then 2 carry-ons. Some people pay for the extra luggage too. Whatever your case may be, make sure you are bringing clothing for the weather in your new home. Korea has all seasons so I had to bring a little of everything. (Of course I couldn’t bring everything!) Obviously you can also purchase clothes in your new home, but again be mindful that the sizing may be different. The one things I wish I would have known was that we don’t wear regular shoes at work, we wear new slippers or slides around school. I could have brought more casual shoes for the weekends when I’m out.
- Pray and GO OUT ON A LIMB! Many times we get so stuck in comfort zones that we hold ourselves back from what could possibly be the best experience for us. People asked (and still ask) are you not scared there? My answer: I feel more safe here than I did in the states. I hear about murders daily back home. Guns are illegal here. Are Koreans perfect people? No! But if you can live a normal life in the states without fear, you can do the same in another country. So don’t let fear stop you from the opportunity of a lifetime. The same things that happen in foreign countries can easily happen at home but it’s not always the other way around.
Bonus: Research the healthcare in your new country! I knew prior to coming to Korea that they had great healthcare and that it was cheap. Therefore, I cancelled my American insurance once I got here.
I hope this post has helped in some way. As always, Happy Traveling!