Friday, August 24, 2012

Tips for Travelling Abroad from the US Consulate

For detailed information about steps you can take to ensure a safe trip, seeHow to Have a Safe Trip. Meanwhile, here are some quick tips to make your travel easier and safer:
  • Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency: Let us know your travel plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free online service at This will help us contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.
  • Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
  • Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web site at has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit.
  • Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime: To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Source: Bureau of Consular Affairs

Saturday, August 11, 2012


What is an Apostille and why do I need one?

An Apostille is a certification provided under the Hague convention of 1961 for authenticating documents for use in foreign countries.

An Exemplified certification covers those countries who did not sign the Hague Treaty.

The sole function of the Apostille or Exemplified certificate is to certify the authenticity of the signature of the document.

For our purposes, this will likely only include your documents for birth. Other Apostilles include death, marriage, and divorce.

Source: Department of Health

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel the World

What are some great reasons to live abroad, working as a teacher, and learning from your environment?

Author Arthur Frommer, from the Dallas Morning News:

Travel makes us care about strangers. A famine or disaster isn't distant, abstract suffering if you've visited the region.

Travel teaches that not everyone shares your beliefs. In issues small and large – from child-rearing to politics – a traveler learns there are many ways of thinking.

Travelers learn that all people in the world are basically alike.

We all care about family and protecting our loved ones, Mr. Frommer says. During his trip to China, he and his wife met an elderly woman. She didn't speak English, but when she saw the Frommers' gray hair, she insisted they wait while she ran to get something. She returned a moment later with pictures of her grandchildren.

He recalls sitting in a mud hut years earlier and hearing a young African mother confide her wish to learn to read. She wanted to understand government pamphlets about health care so she could protect her children.
"Aside from all the exterior differences, we all share the basic urges and concerns," Mr. Frommer says.

Rob Sangster reports in Great Outdoor Recreation Pages:

Travel is an opportunity to think of beginnings and endings, to challenge inhibitions, to experience pure joy.

As a traveler, you develop a deeper understanding of the strivings of billions of humans, of lives filled with achievement, as well as lives filled from dawn to dusk with hard work and hopelessness. And you realize how much of what you'd accepted as universal truth is based on only the values of the country, even the neighborhood, in which you grew up.

In the fable of the "Blind Men and the Elephant," one blind man puts his arms around the elephant's sturdy front leg and says, "This animal resembles a tree." Another grabs the trunk and insists the elephant is like a giant snake. A third runs his hand along the great flank and declares that, "An elephant is very like a wall." In the same way, it's hard to have an accurate perspective on life when experience is limited to a single culture.

Upgrade Reality takes a more direct approach:

Whoever you think you are right now and whatever you think you want from life right now will change if you travel for a long time. You will see the world, experience different cultures and meet many people. You will learn much about yourself and your expectations and goals in life may just change completely.

Travelling just gives such a general sense of ‘WOW’. All the different experiences (both good and bad) just make you feel alive and part of this wonderful world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Living in South Korea

Chris Backe gives us some tips about living in Korea, from his blog

1. Take off your shoes when you arrive - or not.
An increasing number of time-crunched locals are going the Western way and keeping their shoes on their feet. Since you probably won't know which camp your host is in, follow their lead to be absolutely sure.
2. Don't be too surprised to see the locals using their middle finger to point, tap a touch screen, or otherwise refer to something.

There's no insult intended with the gesture - it's just the longest finger hitting the button first.

3. For most locals, English is sorely lacking

This means good job prospects for English teachers, but finding a local to communicate in good English is a tall order. Don't be surprised to be mistaken for an English teacher, and try to handle their practiced questions gracefully.
4. The Seoul subway system is huge, the lines sometimes long, and the ajummas pushy.

The trains don't run 24 hours, however, so making a long trip or more than one transfer after 11pm begins to push it. Instead, keep your eyes for some of the buses that run well after the subways shut down. Several late-night buses leave from Yangjae station (line 3) while others leave from Sadang station (line 4). If you're close to one of those stations, try one of the buses there before resorting to a taxi.
5. Ladies, the typical local has little problem showing off their legs - thus the abundance of short shorts and skirts.

Most of the locals would look (stare) at someone with uncovered shoulders, however. Don't ask me what's going through their minds - just avoid sleeveless shirts or spaghetti strap shirts.
6. Men, if out on a date, be prepared to pay for most everything.

Equality in paying is becoming more common, but a woman might lose face if she's the one handing over a card. This goes double if you're the oldest one at the table.

7. Hongdae and Itaewon are the two most popular areas with foreigners that like to party.

If you like to be catered to and see English menus, you'll feel right at home. If you came to experience the Korean version of nightlife, get thee to Kondae (Konkuk University, line 2) or Sinchon (also line 2). While some foreigners also visit these areas, you'll notice fewer English menus (a great chance to practice your Korean!)
8. Speaking of Sinchon, there's actually two of them.

One is Sinchon (pronounce it 'Sin-CHOWN') and is in northwest Seoul near Hongdae. The other is Sincheon (pronounce it 'Sin-CHAWN') and is in southeast Seoul near Jamsil. More than a few locals have to pronounce it carefully to make sure they meet their friends at the same one!
9. When you're ready for a day trip out of Seoul, the country is your oyster.

Virtually all of mainland Korea is roundtrippable in one day, thanks to an excellent train and express bus system. While the locals often reserve their tickets ahead of time, the process is bit harder for foreigners to do. Your best bet is to head to a train station, where you can reserve tickets well ahead of time - in ENGLISH! - through an automated ticketing machine.

10. Speaking of trains, sometimes the train has sold out of seats and you'll have to take a standing room ticket.

This does not mean you'll be standing the whole time. It just means there's no seat available for your entire trip. When you first get on, take a look around to see if there are any empty seats. Be prepared to give up your seats to the legitimate ticket holder as you approach a station, of course. On most Sunday night trains coming back to Seoul, it'll be PACKED - something to experience once, but otherwise it's worth avoiding.

11. People tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to K-pop: you love it or you tolerate it.

You'll hear it almost everywhere you go, and there's not much you can do about it. If it's not K-pop, it's either techno (even on a Monday morning!) or a selection of Western pop songs.
12. Riding the bus - get on, pay your money, and get ready for a ride!

Bus drivers follow a couple rules of the road, but that's about it. Don't expect them to wait for you to find a seat or get your things situated - they don't do that for the locals, and they don't certainly don't do that for the foreigners, either.

13. Speaking of buses, a number of in the front half of the bus are reserved for the old, the handicapped, and the pregnant.

Unless you happen to fit into one of those categories, make your way to the back of the bus. The older generation has no qualms about putting you in your place if you happen to be in 'their' seat! The same goes for the seats at either end of any subway car.
14. One of the biggest complaints among foreigners who live in Korea are the taxi drivers.

Most speak little English, although some might want to practice their English on you! Have your destination written in Korean if possible, and get in the car instead of asking through the window. Crossing town shouldn't cost more than 25,000 Korean won (about $23 USD), unless there's some serious traffic.

15. The easy rule to remember when bargaining: if a price is posted, it's generally not open for negotiation; if no price is posted, take that as the first price offered.

Most places tend to offer a pretty fair price to begin with, so negotiation isn't even really needed. If paying in cash, ask about a cash price - using a credit card will add a percentage to the final price, since most vendors will pass the transaction fee onto you. Department store or larger stores won't charge extra to use a credit card, but you won't find anyone willing to negotiate with you.
16. For better or worse, the Confucian mindset prevails and permeates throughout Korean culture.

Imagine a giant totem pole, where people stacked on top of each other. One is 'above' another based on their age, their gender, and their position in the working place. Therefore, don't be offended when you're asked your age. It's a way of figuring out whether you're above or below them.
17. If enjoying Korea on a Monday, you may notice a problem - lots of stores and sights are closed!

A lot of businesses are of the 'mom-and-pop' variety, and Monday is the best day to take a day off. A few places close on Sunday instead, leaving Monday an excellent day to go exploring.
18. The country's attitude towards recycling is wonderful - and sometimes completely ignored by the locals.

Don't be that guy that stuffs food waste into the recycling bin or drops your bottle just because you can't find a trash can. Any bathroom will have a trash can, and most subway stations have some by the turnstiles.
19. Speaking of bathrooms, the locals throw their used paper in a bin next to the commode instead of flushing it on down.

You'll probably say this is unsanitary, and you'd be right. Public restrooms have gotten a lot better in recent years, but it's still a good idea to keep a package of paper in your bag (or pick some up at a convenience store or the vending machine outside most subway station bathrooms)

20. The last tip to pass on: watch out for the soju.

The green glass bottle of 20% ABV alcohol costs a mere 1,500 won at convenience stores (about $1.40 USD) and about twice that at a bar or restaurant. Drink it out of shot glasses, and sip judiciously unless you want to get drunk fast. A number of people prefer mixing it with yogurt (I personally enjoy cutting it with cranberry juice) to avoid the taste of rubbing alcohol.

Source: Teach English in Asia

Thursday, June 7, 2012

25 Reasons to Teach Abroad Today!

1. The job market in most countries isn't very good but English teachers are in high demand in many non-English speaking countries..

2. Many countries include inexpensive and comprehensive health care packagesfor their English teachers.

3. Many countries will give you free housing or accommodate your salary with a housing allowance.

4. It's easy to build up your savings account when your expenses are low. English teachers in South Korea, for example, can realistically save $10,000 or more in a year because of their high salary and low cost of living.

5. Get paid to travel.

6. Enjoy paid vacations.

7. Teaching English abroad will give you access to cheaper travel. Most people who teach English abroad take advantage of being so close to new countries and travel extensively throughout the region.

8. It is much easier to learn a foreign language when everyone around you is speaking it. Speaking more than one language will give your resume a boost and help you in your future job searches.

9. Living abroad increases your awareness of the world.

10. See how people in other countries live.

11. Gain a world perspective and shape your view of other countries first hand.

12. Teach others about your country and culture.

13. Gain valuable work experience.

14. Enjoy working 25 -35 hour weeks for full-time pay.

15. Enjoy having a job that pays you enough to have disposable income.

16. Earn extra money by teaching English to individuals or small groups on the side.

17. Living and working in a new country and culture encourages inner growth.

18. Meet new people.

19. Living abroad is an adventure.

20. Learn to work with people with different cultures and customs.

21. Discover new foods in your host country.

22. Develop new skills.

23. Paid sick leave.

24. Some countries will include free round trip airfare as part of your teaching contract.

25. Gain valuable life experience.. There is only so much you can learn from books, TV and school. Immersing yourself in a new country is the only way to truly know what the world is like.

Friday, May 25, 2012


One writer from Teaching English in Asia discusses her difficulties in teaching abroad so you can work around them for yourself.

1. Discipline
Every culture has a different standard of discipline and consequences for bad behavior. One of the challenges I faced teaching at English camps in Korea was how light the consequences of bad behavior was and how little follow through with the consequences there was. I found that though I could not control what disciplinary actions were or were not taken outside my classroom, in my classroom I could. Making it clear to my students right from the start what the rules of the classroom were and what the consequences for bad behavior were AND consistently following through with punishment as well as rewards, made the students' behavior in my classroom much better than it was outside of it.

2. Communication
The way that Koreans communicate and the way that Americans communicate is very different. As an American, it was very frustrating to be the last to know about something - change in schedule, course work, class time. I learned quickly that the best way to deal with the communication challenge was to accept it. I was not going to change the culture and so just rolling with the last minute changes, the confusion, made my teaching life much easier and allowed me to focus on my students and the rewarding feelings I had from teaching and spending time with them. It's not the end of the world to have to rearrange your class planning or find out two minutes before that there has been a change in plans. Just accept that this is the way things work here and go on with your day.

3. Language
The students were not supposed to speak Korean in English class and there was supposed to be a Korean teacher in the classroom to help with any needed translations and with the kids. This was not the way it worked out in one of the camps I taught at. The Korean teachers were often called out of class for meetings with the director and meetings with each other. This led my students to speak a lot of Korean in class which meant I didn't know what they were talking about, which meant it was, at times, difficult to keep the students in line that needed close watching.

It was challenging with 14 students in my class to teach, keep them engaged and to stay on top of those students who liked to speak Korean to each other during class. I found the best way to cut down on this was to be very clear, right from the start, that any student caught speaking Korean to another student would be moved to the other side of the classroom. If any student didn't understand what I was teaching and needed someone to clarify in Korean, they were to let me know and I would ask a student I trusted and knew to understand to explain it.

4. Teaching Styles
Teaching children of another culture created some challenges for me. As much research as I did beforehand on the way Korean students are taught and the psyche of Korean students, being in front of a class and being mindful of what they are used to was difficult. For example, students in Korea are taught to be very good memorizers. They pick up vocabulary very quickly in classroom games, activities and practice. But when it comes to truly knowing and holding on to what they've memorized, it's a different story. They ended up testing poorly on what they seemed to know so well in class. I learned it was important to create several kinds of classroom activities for the same vocabulary to ensure that the new words were really sinking in. Like most kids, Korean students love playing classroom games and finding fun and practical application games for vocabulary, grammar and verb tenses really made a difference in their retention.
5. Teaching Tools
In my situation teaching at the English camps, besides the textbook, teaching tools were not readily available. This made it challenging to make learning fun for the kids. I had to become very creative in making up games, teaching aids and classroom activities. I found a lot of resources from this site's database of English Games and also had the kids help create and make games like crosswords, memory and word searches.

Community support is a great way to face challenges while teaching English overseas! We would love to hear any about challenges you've faced teaching English in another country. How did you face these challenges and how did you respond to them?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cultural Immersion

Traveling abroad can be wonderful and enriching. Want to make it even better? Immerse yourself in the culture, get out of the house, see the sights, meet the locals, and make memories! Here's 5 easy ways to do just that:

1. Learn the language
You don’t need to be fluent and if you’re only planning on staying for a year you probably won’t be. If one your goals is to experience the culture, knowing the basics will give you the confidence to get out there and explore. You have lots of options for learning, 1 – 3 week intensive courses are a great way to get the basics fast, a good school might cost you some money but you will come out of it with enough knowledge to continue learning on your own. Many private teachers are available and if you get 2 or 3 friends together you can split the cost. Some schools will provide free lessons and of course you can always use on-line language software.
2. Eat the food
Going by alone will probably involve some trial and error but that’s part of the fun. Better yet, go to lunch with the locals from your school, they’ll tell you all the best stuff to order. On top of this being of being a great way to really immerse yourself in the culture, it will probably save you a lot of money versus eating a western restaurants. This leads me to the next topic…
3. Save some money
This isn’t possible everywhere or with every job, but once you’ve figured out what your cost of living is, create a budget and stick to it. I found it easier to stick to a budget overseas than it was at home. Less temptations I suppose. Even if it’s only $200/month over a year, that’s $2,400 that you will have to travel or get set up back home. It will feel really good to have some extra coin in your pocket when you need it. Not to mention it’s a great habit for the rest of your life.
4. Travel
Got to get out of that comfort zone, once you’ve settle in to your job and neighborhood you may start to forget about all the exciting adventures that are waiting for you just hours away. Depending on your work schedule you may need to figure out how to make the most of your 2 and 3 day weekends, and trust me you can do a lot. A lot of you probably have your days off during the week which is all the better, you can go almost anywhere without having to fight the crowds. If you followed step 1, using your local language skills will save you a lot of money in transportation.
5. Spend time with the locals
Naturally we all want to buddy up with people that we can relate to, and this is a good thing. But don’t forget to spend time with the people that can teach you the most about what life is like in their country. Ask a lot of questions, most people love to talk about themselves so give them a chance. Find out what is important to them and why things are the way they are.