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Even though it may seem intimidating and overwhelming figuring out what to pack for international teaching jobs, the key is in finding clothes that are multi-functional.
Beginning to pack for a job teaching in a foreign country requires one to completely reevaluate how to pack. It’s sufficient to say that crinkly pants and bedraggled flip flops won’t cut it. As a professional, especially coming from another country, it is imperative to make a good impression at your new school. However, as a traveler, it is also of utmost importance to not bring your entire wardrobe, spanning multiple suitcases.
Before taking off for a volunteer teaching position in Chile, I spent weeks pondering what I should bring. I ended up shopping for clothes that would pass for what I considered business casual: slacks, proper shoes, clean tops, sweaters, and knee-length skirts. My main goal was to pack a mini-wardrobe that would be suitable for both work and play.
Here’s a list of tips to keep in mind while planning what to pack for international teaching jobs:
How to Pack for International Teaching Jobs
by Laura Anderson
Pack sturdy and reliable clothing
You should be able to easily mix and match clothes. What you take along with you is meant to last for your entire time abroad. This said, it is also important to select clothes that you enjoy wearing. Go for quality staple pieces.
Choose neutral colors
In my school, many of the female teachers wore dresses and outfits with vibrant, but I always felt safer wearing toned down colors as to not draw attention to me. This later served me when I participated in school competitions and the native teachers would wear black and white. An added bonus is that with low-key items and solid colors, it is easier to mix and match your clothes.
Find a good pair of shoes
This was possibly the most difficult part of packing for me, but also the most important. As a teacher, you are on your feet almost all day. This, plus a potentially long transit time to school, means your feet will be exhausted by the end of the day. Look for a shoe that will match all of your outfits since you will be wearing them everyday. Keep the climate in mind, as well. You may need to bring more than one pair of work shoes. Check out this post on how to choose the best travel shoes.
Pack versatile tops and skirts
Although you may not wear slacks outside of work, blouses and flowy skirts can be paired with more casual clothing outside of the school day. I packed several short sleeve tops that I would wear layers over at work and pair with shorts or jeans while out on the town. Each item you pack should be easily matched with another.
Bring a trusty sweater
Mine was a ¾ length thick cotton knit sweater that I wore almost every day. It was perfect to lay over tank tops at work, and to wear over long sleeves for cooler days. It served me well both in and outside of work.
Bring a scarf
This is one of the most essential fashion items that functions for almost any location. Scarves add warmth, style and classiness to any outfit. They also serve as shawls, headscarves, cover-ups, and blankets.
Do your research
Check out the climate, and culture of where you are going before you take off. A country’s frigid climes could require you to bring a parka, while a formal culture may require you to pack suits for work. If you do find yourself in a country will more limiting dress requirements, place your focus on shirts and blouses. I found button up blouses to be perfect at work and I felt comfortable wearing them with jeans and sandals to go out.
Since teaching positions usually require a long time commitment, you will most likely face packing for more than one season. In this case, try short sleeve blouses, skirts and nice sandals for warmer days. Go for layering long sleeves under blouses, with an added sweater or jacket, slacks, and boots for the chilly winter.
Get a work bag
Choose a bag that you feel comfortable carrying when it is packed with loads of stuff! I initially brought a brown shoulder bag that I ended up switching out for my backpack, which was not the classiest choice, but it held all of my papers for school and it was super comfortable. Make sure you find a durable pack or bag that will hold heavy books, binder, and lots of papers, or you’ll be rubbing your shoulders, wishing you had brought a better bag.
Thank you Laura for your helpful tips on what to pack for international teaching jobs! Learn more about Laura on her blog: Laura Through the Lens. If you’re looking for more tips on how to mix and match your professional wardrobe, check out my Business Trip Packing List.
What are your tips for what to pack for international teaching jobs?
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Author Bio: Right after college, Laura took her love for the Spanish language and thirst for adventure to South America to teach English in Chile. She is a Colorado native, but will be working this year on the beach in Southern California.
Another thing I would add is that if you are significantly size-different from the area you’re going, make sure you bring enough essentials… particularly bras, undies, and shoes. It was impossible for me to find shoes in Korea (except sneakers, which I bought in the men’s department!), and rather difficult to find under garments in my size too (many bras there only go up to a B! The largest I saw was a 36C). In the two largest cities (Busan and Seoul) there were a few Western stores like H&M and Mango that I fit into, but if you are larger than a size 12 US, you may not be able to find much clothing either. Something to keep in mind!
AWESOME tip! Thank you for sharing this 🙂
Great tips! I had no idea what to pack for teaching in Thailand before I came here. I thought that teacher clothes had to be boring. Luckily, clothing in Thailand is pretty cheap so I was able to jazz up the basics I brought with me with individual pieces from Bangkok’s malls and markets. 🙂
That’s great to hear 🙂 Thailand is amazing!