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How to stay safe and well when teaching overseas

June 7, 2019

Mitesh Patel discusses the steps teachers can take to look after their mental and physical health when working in a new country.

Securing a new teaching position abroad can be tremendously exciting, particularly if you’ve triumphed through a frustrating and long-winded application process. It can be so exciting that it’s easy to forget that travelling abroad and living abroad are two very different things. Whereas when you’re on holiday it’s all about fun and relaxation, moving overseas means you need to be mindful of the more mundane practicalities of everyday life.

In fact, feeling at home in your new country is often the deciding factor in the success of a new assignment. You’ll find that a little planning goes a long way in staying mentally and physically safe and well when you teach abroad. Here are some simple tips to get you off to the best possible start:

  1. Make sure you are well informed pre-departure. There are always surprises (good and bad) when you move to a new country. It could be that shopping for groceries is a totally different experience to the one you are used to or that you are used to a lenient teaching style whereas now students are expected to abide by strict rules. Prepare yourself as much as possible by devouring expat guides, and reaching out to staff in similar situations – it can really help you settle in.
  • Find out about health care. Prioritising your health care needs are fundamental, from finding a local doctor to understanding what would happen to you in case of an environmental or medical emergency. Remember, health care often starts before you leave – for example, in Vietnam, foreign staff are required to have vaccinations before they apply for a visa. It’s always worth checking with your school to see if they can help guide you or organise whatever is necessary.
  • Build a support network. When you live a long way away from friends and family, it’s easy to start feeling lonely. Keeping in contact with existing links is important, if not always straightforward – for example, social media isn’t an appropriate avenue in China and Skype can be contentious in the UAE. Again, it’s worth knowing this before you go so that you aren’t left disappointed. Also check with your new school to see if they offer alternative routes if you’re feeling blue. And while it’s always comforting to be able to communicate in your native tongue, remember too the joy of learning a new language. You’ll find that throwing yourself into new activities and customs will ensure you quickly integrate into your adopted community.

Mitesh Patel is the medical director at Aetna International. For more information, please contact emea_marketing@aetna.com or visit www.aetnainternational.com