Reach to Teach – Advice for anyone brave enough to follow in our footsteps!

 Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at dean@reachtoteachrecruiting.com, and he will let you know how you can start participating!

Travel, it’s a whirlwind adventure! What advice would you give to people getting ready for their own adventure (in preparation) that you wish you could have done differently? Don’t forget to include your own funny/inspirational adventure, also include maybe some unplanned adventure you took and how it turned out…

^^ The above blurb is from our gracious monthly host of the blog carnival. I decided it was perfect in its own way and just copied and pasted it. I have decided to use a list-like way of describing all those things we would have done differently or things we did not realize we would be doing when we got here…. here it goes!

1. PACKING – first of all…. we brought WAY too much. Now don’t get me wrong we use almost everything we brought (key word – almost) but there are plenty of things that we should have swapped for more useful things. Fun fact: in Korean culture and most other Asian ones, I believe, you do not wear shoes inside …. should have done my research. I had packed up a lot of my ballet flats for teaching and then recently got to pay (just this past week) to send a big box home including about 6 or 7 pairs of shoes and other stuff. I am trying to send things home in small amounts that I know I won’t need and hopefully make my return luggage a lot lighter (Chris will thank me when he’s carrying and I’m wheeling along!) In reality we wear our slip ons at work and we are barefoot at home. Its just the shoes we wear walking in between and some random weekend adventures. I probably could have survived on a pair of flip flops, a pair of sneakers and a pair of uggs…. no joke…. for an entire year. Of course I miss all my fun shoes!! but they are pretty useless here. Some personal items like bathroom and hygenic or over the counter medicine things we have had sent to use (alka-seltzer cold tablets are GODLY! so small and easy to pack and kick those nasty cold symptoms in the butt) – have already had more sent to us. I have had a lot of health issues (just look at our lovely beginning entries) so I have had meds sent in 3 month or a year supply and that’s been key. Makes it easier than a monthly AHHH will it come in time feeling. I could list the way to many things I brought but I also wish I had some more regular long sleeve shirts versus dress shirts because our situation is casual and I am usually in jeans and a long sleeve shirt maybe with a sweater during the cooler months … I have almost worn holes through everything. Buying clothes is a pain! Chris has big broad shoulders and is very tall so its almost impossible unless we go up to Itaewon and its stupid expensive. We have had clothing shipped in for him (and Deoderant – It’s so hard to find for some reason???). I have trouble finding clothes because not only am I the opposite body type of most Koreans (chesty and curvy) but a lot is done online via gmarket and I am not comfortable with my size enough to order without worrying about will it fit or not. Bring a sweatshirts! I have plenty of sweaters blah blah but I only brought one thin pull over and one thin zip up. I waned my sweatshirt but I couldn’t really fit it and it wasn’t in super condition but I ended up having to go buy one… such a waste. Bring a good pull over hoodie/sweatshirt and a thin zip up for those in between days or for layers and you’ll have done better than I did.

2. Life/living supplies – these are the easiest things to find. We got some converters at like Target and Walmart before we left which were super helpful – my computer is plugged into one right now! We also brought one of those fold and files (like a stationary thing) and its been perfect. I have kept all my medical paper work, phone contracts (do a 6m and then month by month after that), any important work documents, passport or immigration paper work stuff, banking, etc. Its easy enough to shove in a suitcase or backpack but its a safe place to just know its all there. We invested in another extension cord or so because our apartment and plugs are just a bad layout but its not a bad idea and a converter plug machine since 110/120 – 220 IS NOT FUNNY … I blew up a fan when the first night we got here and almost my hairdryer (oh yeah just leave it home can’t plug it in anyways). Key thing will be (if you can) ask the people before you whats here … ours were not especially helpful and just said there are things… I am a planner people I NEED MORE INFO! Well we have the pretty functional kitchen basics but we invested in a new frying pan because the one here had teflon peeling into the food…. Korea was already trying to kill me I didn’t need to help it along with my morning eggs and toast. The last big investment we made was a bed pad thing… the mattresses are horrible and we bought just a cheap-ish foam mat that really makes a difference. Things like that are easy to find and make your life a lot more comfortable.

3. Last but not least – get a big suitcase with wheels and a smaller carry on size duffle bag. Chris and I both have giant L.L. Bean duffel suitcases with the hard bottom and wheels. They are priceless when packing to come here because they are sturdy, expand because they are canvas on top, the wheels mean I can drag it along even when its super heavy and they are bright blue so they are easy to find at the airport. We each also brought a big sized duffel (I told you we brought a lot) but I was smart enough to shove this small Vera Bradley zip up duffel I had gotten from my Grandma (thanks G-ma!) for Christmas and its been our super resource when we went to Japan, Thailand and possibly China. Easy to fly with and just collapses back into the bottom of the dresser when its not in use. If you plan on traveling having a good little duffel or a good sized backpack is really important and makes flying a lot easier.

All in all I have learned a lot more about what you can live with (comforts), what you can do without (fluff) and those things I wish I had! It makes me a much better “packer” for future traveling and moving (plus Pinterest rocks it with ideas on how to pack in just carry on,etc.). Chris is definitely the master packer. He had to unpack and repack my suitcase before we came and he got everything to fit when I failed miserably….and then got to re-do it when I decided to swap things out or that I needed something before hand. Oh we used some space bags for bringing a pillow and a blanket and that was super helpful because we use them everyday. Basically my changes revolve around packing but that is a huge step in moving away from a year. Be realistic and pack and purge about 3 or 4 times before making your final decision because when you walk away and come back your like “why am I bringing this??”. Good luck!

J

Chris listened and suggested along 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Reach to Teach – Advice for anyone brave enough to follow in our footsteps!

  1. Great advice! I’m in South Korea right now too. Luckily when I packed for this year it was my third time packing for a year away, so I knew not to bring much. And even then, somehow there’s still always something that doesn’t get touched during the year!

  2. Some really good advice here!
    I wanted to chime in and fully support the space bags idea. I had a lot of bulky clothing (coats etc) which I wanted to take with me to Taiwan and I couldn’t have done it without the space bags idea. They really free up room in a suitcase.
    Great article Jenni. I look forward to reading your future blog carnival posts.

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