Teaching English Abroad: How to pack for a year
So you got the job, you have the plane ticket, and you are trying to figure out what the hell you need to bring. Because you will be living in the country you are teaching in for an extended period of time, it is important to pack smartly. Your family can send you supplies of course, but this can be costly and sometimes inconvenient. It is best to anticipate what you might need for your entire stay abroad.
Depending on where you are traveling to, you might not have access to certain items that you take for granted at home. Believe it or not, deodorant is not sold worldwide. I ran out of deodorant while I was backpacking in Korea and had to have a friend from home bring me some when he met me in China. Even if the country you are traveling to does have deodorant, it might not be a brand you like to wear, so bring a good supply.
The same goes for tampons. Many women still use pads around the world, which can make finding a tampon difficult sometimes. When you do find tampons, they will most likely be OB brand. If you like OB and you can find it in the country you will be living in, then you are set. But if you don’t like that brand, then I suggest going to Costco and stocking up on tampons before you leave.
Medication is another important item to consider when you are packing. Certain medications can be found abroad for less and over the counter, but you might not want to chance it if it is something you depend on. If you take a specific birth control, acne medication, or some other pill you can’t live without, buy a bunch of it at home before leaving the country.
It’s a good idea to look at your daily routine and decide what you can live without. Are you completely set on using a specific face wash, shampoo, or mascara? You will be able to find most of the things you use daily in some form abroad, but it might not be the brand you are loyal to. For example, I am addicted to Burt’s Bees lip balm and would be completely distraught if I ran out, so I bring more than enough lip balm to last me a year. Look at every product you use and if you don’t mind using a different brand, then don’t bring it. If you couldn’t imagine life without that brand, then you will need to bring enough to last you the extent of your time abroad.
There are also some more obvious things you should take that I absolutely must mention. Books! Sometimes it can be difficult to find books in English abroad. When you do find them, they might not be the kind of book you want to read. You will be able to trade with other travelers, but you might not always be able to find someone willing to trade with you when you want to. A camera and your laptop are also a must when you are leaving for a long time.
Before you depart, make a trip to your dentist and your doctor. Tell them you are leaving the country and want to make sure everything is fine before you leave. Make sure you have all of the necessary shots to travel and maybe request some sleeping pills for the plane ride. Ask your doctor for a prescription of Ciprofloxacin (Cipro for short). This medication is like gold for all travelers. If you get unstoppable diarrhea, this is going to be your new best friend. Nobody wants to have to teach all day or get on a long bus ride with the runs.
Before I leave, I take a large Ziploc bag and make myself a medical kit. Key medicines in this kit are Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Cipro, Neosporin, Nyquil, Midol, and your choice of pain relief medication. I also include a thermometer, Deet, band-aids and duct tape. At some point during my time abroad I have used all of these items and have always been grateful that I had them on hand.
Lastly, while you are deciding what clothes to take, make sure you have a good understanding of what the other teachers at school will be wearing. It is pointless to bring pencil skirts and collared shirts if everyone else is wearing jeans and t-shirts. You should consider the fact that you will probably be shopping and buying clothes abroad, so you don’t need to pack too much. And finally, as I’m sure your mom is going to remind you, bring plenty of good underwear!
Written by Danielle Koffler. Be sure to check out her blog, Wake Up and Dance.