What to pack for your TEFL adventure

luggage-933487_1280So you’ve decided on your destination and you’ve landed a sweet job in a school. Now all that’s left to do is pack the bags and hit the road. Believe it or not, deciding precisely what to take in tow on that first TEFL adventure can be trickier than it seems.

Naturally, the content of your case will depend heavily on where it is you’re off to. The sultry climes of Southeast Asia will require flip-flops (that’s thongs for the Aussies!) for sure, while Polish winters will mean a thick coat, and Hawaiian shirts are virtually compulsory amidst the beach towns of Latin America and the Caribbean.

And while we’ll leave the clothes packing to you (we’re not great with style advice), there are just a couple of things that we would remind you to take as you head off to hit the EFL classrooms of the globe for the very first time. Check them out…

A compact phrasebook

Be sure to find how to say “Stop the bus!” before your arriving at your stop / Flickr

In English language classes the general practice is to only speak 100% English to help students immerse themselves in the language – so don’t worry about not speaking Mandarin or Japanese or Tibetan!

However, outside the classroom is a whole world of culture to dive into and explore. Granted, taking a good phrasebook for the local lingo may not leave you chatting in the most mellifluous Guarani (that’s one for the Paraguayans), but it will certainly help you get to grips with the most common words and requests.

What’s more, in many cultures across the globe, from the Slavic east to the depth of the Indian sub-continent, the locals love it when visitors try their hand at language – meaning this one’s a great way to get chatting to new folk, even if it’s just a broken ‘thank you’ or an accidental ‘the eels are in the soup’!


Electronic reader (e-book)

GoabeachE-readers are great for those sunsets in remote places | © JRF/Livekrakow.com

Teachers heading for the more English-friendly climes of the European Union, big cities or Central America may not need pay heed so much here. This one’s for the EFLers who’ll be stuck in the remoter corners of the world, completely cut off from any library or bookshop with English tomes on offer.

We’re talking about those heading to the tropical depths of the Bolivian jungles, the untrodden Kazakh Steppes of Central Asia and the far-flung rustic reaches of rural China. For you guys, e-readers mean virtually unlimited literary companionship, all without the added luggage weight!


A universal plug adapter

Don’t get tied up with a bag of adapters, get one adapter to rule them all. | Flickr

A universal adapter should take plugs from any type of appliance AND fit any wall socket. Flickr.

Rather than a UK to EU adapter, or a US-Thai one, be sure to pack a universal plug adapter which will work wherever you’re TEFL journey takes you. Stop overs in Dubai, life in Vietnam, summer break in the Philippines, you never know where you’ll end up going.

Think about it: no laptop for lesson planning, no plug for shaving, no hairdryer, no phone for checking the latest twists and turns in Game of Thrones! You could end up looking just like a hairy, out-of-the-loop, disorganised lunatic strolling into school each morning. Pack a universal adapter to avoid the pitfalls of the world’s various prongs, whether it’s the UK-style plugs in Hong Kong or the ‘Europlugs’ of Spain, Portugal, Italy and the like.


Your 120 Hour TEFL certificate

TEFL certificates are your ticket to the classroom | © Steven Brewer/Flickr  

This one’s just as important as the plane tickets and visas (well, at least as far as we’re concerned). Yes sir, when it comes to having a TEFL adventure, getting in front of a class is surely one of the first steps, and certainly one that will be difficult without a fully-fledged teaching cert – preferably an acclaimed 120-hour one with skills-based teaching, curriculum development training and intensive grammar modules! – to back you up!

Most schools, no matter where you are in the world, will require some proof of your qualification before sealing the deal on job offers, so be sure to pack that sheet of paper. And stick it in a folder folks – dog ears don’t do well!


An open mind…

Adventure |© Frontierofficial/Flickr

‘But I can’t pack an open mind!’ I hear you, pedants. I hear you. Still, if you’ll humour me for a moment as I stray into the realm of metaphysics, you’ll see what I mean. Heading off on a TEFL adventure is about discovering and exploring new things just as it is about forging a new profession and helping people experience the joys of the English language.

That means being ready to embrace your chosen environment and choosing to plunge head first into all that it offers, whether that’s munching insect-packed street foods in Bangkok’s Banglamphu, chomping stewed goat heads in the deserts of Jordan, joining the Nords in their naked saunas in Scandinavia, or simply striking up conversations wherever you go!

Did we miss any?

Are you ready to take on that TEFL adventure? What would you opt to take with you? Or, if you’re already a teacher abroad and we’ve forgotten something you think’s important, let us know in the comments!

Still need your TEFL certificate?

Getting your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is the first step to starting your life overseas. It only takes 120 hours to complete from the comfort of your own home (that’s about 6-8 weeks)  and shows schools around the world that you’re qualified to teach.



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