After the anxiety of a job hunt and the excitement of getting your placement, the next step is to pack. This isn't the most fun step at all.
Suddenly you're left wondering how you'll fit everything into a 20kg baggage allowance, and the truth is that you can't. However, the real question is, are the things that you assume to be essential (an extra sweater, a towel), as essential as you might think? And what other things should you place more emphasis on?
This list is going to be 10 essential things to pack for your trip. Later in the month we'll publish a second list, with more general items that are recommended, but not necessarily essential.
Please note also, that depending on the country you go to, and your own nature, your list may vary slightly. Use this as inspiration.
Here are the 10 essentials:
1.) Universal Plug Adapters
These things will work with any combination of plugs, so it's definitely a good idea to bring one, or even two. If you're heading to somewhere like Asia, where every country has a different socket, then it's even more important to have the ability to use plugs in every country you visit.
Remember though, these adapters only change the physical shape of the socket, not the voltage. Most "digital age" technology (laptops, cellphones etc) can cope with multiple voltages, but older stuff might not work.
Prescription medicine is of course a no-brainer, but other medicine like anti-histamines, pain killers, or indigestion pills is also essential. You might be able to readily find these things in your new country, especially if you're in a big city, but if you don't speak the language and can't read the writing, you might not want to risk purchasing any.
It's better to bring your own to keep you prepared until you know what is available to you.
Don't forget plasters!
3.) Photos of Family and Home
A good way to stay connected with your home, fight off homesickness, and even decorate your room; photos of home are definitely not overrated.
Not only that, you can use them as props to introduce yourself to your new students!
4.) Teaching Materials
Most schools will have their own materials and even follow a curriculum, but what do you do when you need to quickly look up a grammar rule, or if you go to a school with no such materials?
Be prepared by taking at least 1 grammar book with you, and any other teaching resources that might come in handy. Don't over do it though, grammar books are heavy.
5.) A Guidebook
This could well fall into the "recommend" list more than the essential list, but it made the cut here because you would be crazy not to bring a guidebook.
Even now, in the days of smartphones and mobile data, it's essential to have a pocket guidebook at the ready. The ease of access to certain pages still makes it a great resource.
Not only that, but sometimes you don't even know what you're looking for, or what to do with your weekend, and a guidebook is fantastic for this.
6.) Spare Shoes
You might think that just one pair of shoes is fine, especially if you've worn them for a few months already. Comfy!
However, just wait until you get caught in a thunderstorm/typhoon/fall-in-a-river and you'll soon wish you had that spare pair with you.
If you're going to a city where you can easily buy new shoes, this might not be as important, but do consider that some Asian countries don't have such a large supply of "large" sized shoes. Anything above UK 10 (US 11) can be difficult to find in some places.
7.) A Cellphone
While this should be pretty obvious, we wanted to point out that as well as taking a cellphone, you should check to make sure it is unlocked. When you arrive, you will be able to pick up a new local SIM card pretty easily (it's recommended to do this at the airport), but if your phone is locked, you're going to have a problem.
Most android phones will be unlocked by default, but iPhones can be a problem.
Yes you'll need your passport, but you'll also likely need your TEFL certificates, university degree, and perhaps one or two other documents as well. Don't forget to bring them, and to be safe, get copies as well.
9.) Quick-Drying Towel
If you're going to a rainy-season country, this is vital, but if you're not, then it's still a good idea! Whether there is any uncertainty about your accommodation when you first arrive or not, you don't really know for sure that you'll have a towel, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
10.) Appropriate Clothing
As well as figuring out what the weather conditions are in your country of choice, you'd do well to bring one or two other items just in case. If it's a hot country and people say you only need shorts, take one pair of long trousers just in case, and take a light sweater as well. Air con in cinemas can be pretty strong, so you never know when you might want something warmer.
The same goes for cold countries. Every year there are always one or two days which defy weather patterns, so don't make yourself wish you'd been more prepared.