How to begin teaching abroad

Feb 11, 2012

First off, you need to make sure you’re ready.  95% of schools are going to require at least a 1 year commitment. Everyone is relying on you to fulfill this obligation. The school’s reputation with the parents is based on the quality of their teachers. The parents don’t want to see their kids changing teachers every 3 months. It’s not effective for learning.  So, you have to go into it with the right expectations.  If you spent extended time traveling abroad in the past, then you have probably already developed the right mindset and will be ready to face the challenges that come with living in a foreign country. If you haven’t traveled long term, then just expect a period of adjustment. Part of the commitment of Teaching Nomad is to set you up with schools that have quality programs designed to make this transition time easier.

Not to mention, you’ll be working with many other expats that are typically very friendly people. When you’re an expat in China, it’s like you’re automatically inducted into the expat friend club. Everyone is welcome.  In addition, you will have bi-lingual staff at your school that can help you with day-to-day tasks that require speaking the language.   Speaking the language is the other big key to making you feel more comfortable in your new home. In some big cities like Shanghai, it’s not completely necessary to learn Chinese. Although, I do recommend you try and learn it ASAP unless you want to spend all your time at Malone’s, the American Café.

Ok, enough mindset, now for some practical info. If you’re working with a Teaching Nomad recruiter then you probably already know what information is required to get hired. You need to provide the following:  resume/CV, recent photo, copy of your college degree (Bachelor’s or equivalent), copy of your passport and a reference letter regarding teaching experience.  These documents are required for two major reasons. First, they verify you as a qualified teacher and second, they will be used to obtain your residence VISA and work permit.

If you don’t already have a passport, you will need to secure one of these. Unless you pay for rush processing, it’s going to take a few weeks so don’t put this off!  If you don’t know where to obtain your passport, just do a web search for passports in your country and I’m sure you’ll find it.

Next up, you’re going to need your temporary Z-VISA.  This will grant you entry to the People’s Republic of China.  Depending on your country, you need to apply for this VISA with the Chinese embassy that presides over the territory/state/province where you live. In many cases this means that the nearest embassy may be far away. Rather than traveling across the country you can use a VISA processing service like the one Teaching Nomad recommends, VISA HQ.  Of course, the processing company needs to give your passport to the embassy, so you have to actually send them your passport (not a copy). It always seems scary to me to send away my passport, so only use companies you can trust. Depending on the service you select, you will receive your passport back within a few days up to a week later with a beautiful Chinese VISA inside. The cost for your VISA is determined by the country you live in and how quickly you need it processed. This 30 day, temporary VISA will get you into China.  After you arrive, your school will start the process to secure your residence permit. Click here to learn more about VISA HQ services.

At this point you may want to consider travel insurance. Teaching Nomad recommends using World Nomad (unaffiliated) coverage.  This will cover things that the health insurance your school is providing will not, especially if you choose to do some traveling while you’re here. This insurance will cover things like:  lost or stolen baggage, emergency evacuation (in the case of natural disaster or illness), trip interruption/cancelation and much more. Click here to learn more about World Nomad’s travel insurance.

At this point, you’ve covered most of the necessities. You may want to think about taking some Chinese lessons before you go or buying Rosetta Stone. When packing, make sure to put those bags on a scale, because most airlines will only allow you two checked bags up to 50lbs for free on an international flight. You can then still bring one personal item (purse, briefcase) and a carry-on (backpack or duffel bag).  Done properly and you’ll probably arrive with more than stuff than needed.

Hope that helps!


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