Moving Your Life in Two Checked Bags: What to Pack for Teaching Abroad

By Bridge
August 22, 2011

This post was written by Rachel Spillane.

What to Pack for Teaching Abroad

Whether you are going to teach English abroad for a few months, a few years, or time unknown, the thought of packing can be incredibly daunting. Before leaving for Costa Rica, I spent many a sleepless night fretting over what to take and often found myself up at 4:00 am adding last minute items to my packing list. While what to pack can vary greatly depending on where you are headed, the dress code at your school, and how long you will be abroad—there are some items I was glad to have, or cursed myself for not bringing. Rest assured, packing gets easier with practice, but here are some ideas to help ease the pain.

1. Less is more! You will be much much much happier the lighter you pack. Not only will this potentially save you money on checked or overweight baggage fees, but it will make travel abroad and returning home a lot easier. The less you pack, the less you have to lug on the bus, taxi or your back to your final destination. Hostels aren’t exactly brimming with storage options for your three trunks, so keep it to what you can carry. Also keep in mind that the longer you are living abroad, the more local goods and souvenirs you will acquire and want to bring home with you. The less stuff you bring, the more you can bring back. You will get used to living a simpler life abroad and love it.

2. English paperbacks. I love to read and found myself with loads of time to do so on buses in CR. Unfortunately, my surplus of reading time was unmatched by available reading material. Books from the US, Canada, or the UK are hit with heavy import taxes and minimal demand abroad, so they can be very expensive and hard to find. Nowadays, before any long trip, I stock up on paperbacks from Goodwill or a second-hand book store. They are cheap, lightweight and can be used as currency at book exchanges or hostels abroad.

3. Electrical converters for electronics. Most people think to pack these, but if you hadn’t, they come in handy so get one! Be sure to have chargers and memory cards for all of your devices, as electronics can be very pricey abroad.

4. Versatile clothing. Another obvious suggestion, but try to think about exactly when and where you plan to wear each piece of clothing. I try to find double-duty tops and bottoms that are nice enough to wear for work, but can also be worn during off time. And pack layers! A sweater can help lighter tops transition to cold weather or more formal occasions and work to maximize your wardrobe.

5. Something from home. You will get homesick! And as trite as it sounds, you’ll want to have a special photo or keepsake that reminds you of home. You should also bring gifts from your home country. These do not need to be large or expensive, but it is always nice to have something to give to a host family or anyone who may treat you kindly in your travels.