Many TEFL teachers face the laptop dilemma: Bring one from home? Buy one abroad? Don’t bring one at all?
I personally brought one from home. This is the first year teaching abroad that I’ve done so…if I need to type something for a class, I can do it at home, save it or email it to myself, and print it out at school. This comes in handy because even when computers are available at schools, there are often multiple people vying for computer time. Equally valuable (or more so if that makes sense) is Internet access from home; once more something I’ve had for the first time teaching abroad this year. You often cannot count on Internet access though — its availability in general or in a contract term that you are comfortable with.
Fairly enough, many people will say that you should not spend your year abroad tucked away behind a computer in your apartment. True enough. Bringing a laptop along does not necessarily mean you will do this; make an effort to not. I personally find that if I want to do any substantial writing or other freelance work such as proofreading, a computer in my own environment is a necessity…without my laptop, the TEFL Logue would not be.
The other downside of bringing a laptop from home is that it may be damaged in transit and your warranty might not be valid out of the country of purchase. Even if it is, arranging repairs may be difficult. I bought a used laptop last year abroad, used it for two months in that location, and brought it back to the US only for it to break on the first day back. The cause remains a mystery: it was not clearly due to physical damage or something electrical, but, upon hearing that something similar happened to a friend here I remain suspicious.
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As far as buying a laptop abroad, you may find good deals on electronics, especially in some parts of Asia, but in many places you are at not only at a disadvantage because of higher prices but because you are shopping in a market you’re unfamiliar with. You just don’t know if you are paying too much or where to look for better deals without a gigantic amount of research which you wouldn’t need to do at home. Asking a local for help may be an option, but with such an investment of money it can be frustrating to be dependent on someone else’s advice.
Plenty of people travel with and bring laptops abroad without issue, but from personal experience I’d say it pays to be especially cautious with electricity. You need not only an adapter to fit the plug of your laptop into the outlet, but also a converter to take into account the different voltage. If your laptop has a built in converter (on mine, it’s a rectangular box on the cord which says 110-240), you may be able to just purchase a cord with a local plug once you get to your location abroad. Check, check, and check again with someone who knows about electricity and voltage before just plugging your computer in abroad.
Finally, for more than you ever needed to know about electricity, check out this page.