The Long-Term TEFL Plan

What should I be thinking about if I’m planning to go abroad for a long time?

If you are contemplating a life away from your home country, there are a few topics I recommend mulling over before you go.

The first thing I urge you to seriously think about is networking. Not just networking with your new job either, but back home.

Next, I’d recommend taking some time to consider how you can continue your education or improve your credentials.

After that, make a list (mental or on paper) of the other things you would think about if you were NOT going overseas.

Let’s look at the first two of these a little more in-depth.

Your Safety Net Abroad

With the constant barrage of social media, it might be easy to forget that, yes, networking serves a purpose other than to let your friends from grade-school know what you had for breakfast. In fact, networking is the age-old way of lining up great new jobs and accumulating favors that may later be useful to you and them. Contacts and networking are an important part of your job-hunting toolbox overseas.

Any time a colleague moves on to a new job, make sure you maintain their contact information. You might meet up again and when you do you may be able to help each other.

Your Web of Friends At Home

Just because you’re now focusing on your new overseas career, doesn’t mean that you can throw in the towel with your ex-co-workers and pals in the motherland. Keep in touch with them, because one day you may want to head back to your hometown. Don’t forget to invite them to visit you in your new life, and, when they do, play the host with panache! Help them have the vacation of a lifetime!

Don’t Be A Stranger When you Go Home

On the times that you do go home for a visit, make sure to reconnect with your old office mates, supervisors and buddies. Take the time out to have a nice visit and keep those contacts fresh.

In my experience, finding work “back home” is more difficult than it is overseas and if you have a ready string of personal contacts to tap when you go back, you’ll be less stressed.

Continue Investing In Your Education

Another tip that I think is crucial to long-term success overseas is continuing education. Take all the opportunities you can to take training courses, attend symposiums or conferences, or even pursue a higher degree—perhaps through on-line learning.

I’ve seen many jobs overseas that require a fraction of the time commitment most Westerners are used to giving to their careers. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a position with three days off per week or extra-long vacations, then use that extra time to boost your job credentials. Later, this may mean better salaries, better benefits, increased respect in the workplace, and (best of all?) maybe even more free time!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Out of sight should not be out of mind! Even though you aren’t in your home country anymore, you should continue to tend to your back-home relationships with friends and colleagues. Pay even more attention to this now than you did before you went abroad.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t let important contacts abroad slip through your fingers! If you wish to be overseas for the long run, then networking will be critical to your success in finding well-paying jobs. That doesn’t mean you can just take-take-take, though. Networking is a two way street, and helping a friend in need is always good karma.

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Family Ties When You’re Not There

 What If my Loved Ones are Elderly?

If your family members are ill or aging, it can be a very difficult decision between going abroad or staying home to be near them.

There is no “right” answer. The best answer as to what you should do lies within you.

I deeply regret that I was not with my family when my mother, and then my father, passed away. I feel like they would have been comforted knowing that I was there.

The possibility of a loved one passing away while we are out of the country is something that I think all of us are aware of, especially as our family members get older. As death is often unexpected, we are unable to take measures to be back in times of catastrophe. And, even if we knew that someone was quite ill, is it likely that they would want to you to come back and idly sit a “death watch?” I would say, in most cases, no.

Because I knew that I wanted to stay abroad for most of the rest of my life, after I left the United States I made a concentrated effort to keep my ties to my family strong and healthy despite the distance. I went home on visits as often as I could, wrote and called my mother and father more frequently than I had before. In other words, I made sure they knew I loved them.

I didn’t just show it either, I also told them, many times, and with purpose, that I loved them. I knew that later I wouldn’t want to regret that I had not said something or not done something. And now, I’m happy that I took those precautions.

Unfortunately, both my mother and father were sick for quite a while before they passed away. To make sure that I was with them at the end, I would have had to let go of my own dream of living abroad, come home and stay there for years. I decided that I needed to pursue my own life, and I think that they understood and supported that decision – and what it meant.

However, I will tell you that, even though I am happy with the choices I have made, it hurts that I wasn’t there with them, at the end.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Before you go abroad to work, smooth things out at home. Make sure your relationship with your parents or other important family members is solid and meaningful. This way, you will minimize later regrets should they pass away while you are overseas.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t just tell them you love them, show them you love them. Make an extra effort and be sure work out any grudges or bad feelings from the past. This will bring you peace later. Take my word for it.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Sorry, no one said all this was going to be easy.  Life decisions can be difficult.

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TEFL Training – Staying Legal

If you’ve done your homework and selected a great overseas in-classroom TEFL school with top-notch instructors, the next item on your to-do list ought to be figuring out what kind of visa your destination country will require you to have during your course.

In some places, depending on your own nationality, you won’t need to do anything special beforehand. Many countries have reciprocal agreements that allow their passport holders to receive a “visa on arrival” directly at border control. However, sometimes the process is more complicated and requires advance planning.

Before you get on a plane or hop on a train to your in-classroom TEFL course destination, here are some questions you should ask:

1. Is it necessary to get a visa before I arrive in the country?

2. If I don’t have to get a visa before I come in, how many days/weeks/months will I be legally allowed to stay in the country?

3. If a visa is required, how much does it cost?

4. Is the visa process difficult, expensive or lengthy?

5. If I want to stay in the country longer than the original allocated time, can I extend the visa?

6. Will the school help me get/extend a visa?

7. Is the length of time of the visa long enough to encompass the whole TEFL Training course time or will I need to extend/get a new visa before it is finished?

8. After the course, if I want to work in the same country, is it easy to convert the first visa into a visa suitable for employment?

9. If I’m not allowed to convert the visa, what will I have to do to make sure I can work legally when I find a job?

10. If later I have to do a “visa run” (usually—cross the border into a neighboring country to apply for a new visa) to get a working visa, how much will this usually cost? Is the cost of the trip and the new visa the responsibility of the employer or the teacher?  Is that cost negotiable?

11. If I can convert to legal work documents, how long will that procedure take, and what will be required of me?

TED’s Tips™ #1: Any and every in-classroom TEFL course will have a good, clear and definite answer for every one of these questions.   If they don’t have the answers, then there is obviously some sort of problem.  Red flag.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get legal and stay legal. Although your school or employer may pay for your visa, your visa status (valid or expired, for example) is your own personal responsibility. Find out the rules before you enter the country.

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