While embarking on a journey to teach English overseas, it is normal to have some apprehension, particularly since you are stepping into a novel environment and likely won't know anyone upon arrival. One key concern often revolves around personal safety, particularly for women traveling solo. However, the majority of people, including the many solo female teachers who move abroad annually, encounter no significant issues. By practicing a few basic safety measures (most of which you may already be doing), you can ward off unwanted incidents and savor this extraordinary chapter of your life. But how can you ensure your safety while teaching English abroad?
Choose a safe destination
Arguably the most crucial decision you will make involves picking a safe destination. Certain global regions are undeniably safer for expatriates, so choosing wisely from the beginning is key. Many sought-after destinations for TEFL are in Asia, with countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan offering a plethora of job opportunities and deemed safe even for solo female travelers. The Middle East, another popular choice, boasts typically low crime rates, and popular countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, known for strict law enforcement, are generally safe for overseas teachers.
Research, research, research!
Thorough research of your chosen destination, including any health and safety considerations, is essential before your journey. Familiarize yourself with areas to avoid, potential political, cultural, or religious sensitivities, and prevalent scams. Online travel guides such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide provide invaluable information, including message boards for travelers to share potential risks. Local expat forums can offer up-to-date insights from those already residing and working in your destination.
Be careful with valuables
A sure way to protect yourself when abroad is to avoid appearing as an affluent outsider. Displaying significant amounts of cash is ill-advised, as is flaunting expensive jewelry, clothing, or designer items, which only serve to draw attention. Keep pricey phones or cameras concealed when not in use. Blending in with locals can decrease your chances of attracting unwelcome attention.
Socialize with new friends
While caution is important upon arrival in a new country, exploration is equally essential! Your teaching position will likely connect you with local and foreign teachers familiar with the area and eager to show you around. Local knowledge is a crucial asset for ensuring safety—the sooner you acquire it, the better. Just remember to exercise moderation when out socially, as public intoxication can often draw unwanted attention.
Get health and travel insurance
Some teaching jobs include health insurance, but others will require you to handle this independently. Fortunately, quality insurance policies can be as affordable as $15 to $20 a month. If you plan on traveling beyond your host country during your stay, ensure your coverage extends to cross-border travel.
Upon reaching your new destination, consider registering with your home country's embassy—they can keep you updated on significant issues and offer assistance should you encounter any problems. Also, inform a trusted contact about your whereabouts and expected return, whether it is for a night out or a weekend trip. Having someone aware of your plans is always reassuring, especially when navigating unfamiliar terrain.