Essential advice for teaching abroad

Perhaps you’re toying with the idea of teaching overseas, but before you gleefully hand in your notice and start packing your summer shorts, there are a few things to think about. From accommodation costs to cultural differences, you’ll definitely need to do a fair bit of research beforehand.

Here’s some advice from teachers’ union ATL , forum users and teachers working abroad:

  • Ask yourself why you want to teach abroad. If you are trying to get away from personal problems then you could find that they follow you overseas, so it’s probably best to sort them out first and then see how you feel about teaching in another country. If you’re tempted by the exotic, think about how you would feel when the novelty wears off and you yearn for the familiar tradition of home life. But if you feel like you want to broaden your teaching experience, and contribute to the education of children from different countries, then you could have just the perfect reason.
  • Check out the school by asking loads of questions and doing some research. You’ll be in a better position to decide whether to take up a post.
  • Be aware of cultural traditions; buy a good guide and read up on the country.
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences; it might be acceptable in the UK to flash your midriff as you go about your daily business but some countries expect women to dress modestly or have other customs so be courteous.
  • Be aware of the political climate. Is it a liberal or autocratic society? If there are political tensions, what is the impact of this on day-today living?
  • Check out any regional and national security issues and follow any guidance.
  • Contact the foreign office to see if they have any advice.
  • Keep a copy of your passport for emergencies.
  • Remember you are going there to work; store images of cocktails at sunset to the back of your mind.
  • Be prepared for change. One country’s standard of living can be markedly different to the next, so don’t expect to grab a Starbuck’s coffee on your way to work in the morning.
  • If you’re used to the school bell ringing at 3.30pm each day and know the national curriculum inside out you may be in for a surprise when you arrive to find days that finish at 1.00pm and a hugely modified national curriculum. To make it work you’ll need to be flexible.
  • If things go wrong, put it down to experience, don’t panic and contact the British Embassy or High Commission.
  • Have a local contact/friend/colleague - someone in the know will prove invaluable.
  • If things go drastically wrong make sure you have enough money left for a ticket back home, and try to make arrangements so that you have a friend or family member who can put you up for several weeks while you make longer term arrangements.

Further information:

The Council of International Schools
Teachers International Consultancy
ISC research
TES overseas jobs

Need more advice on working abroad? Visit Teaching overseas

Do you have any advice on teaching abroad? Share your experience by posting below.