Visiting Southeast Asia and teaching English seems to be one of the most popular things for millennials like myself to do nowadays. It’s even possible to earn a teaching qualification, such as a TEFL certificate, online in a matter of hours. Although teaching English is a fantastic way to experience new countries, it isn’t all about travelling. Teaching English can be extremely demanding and leave little time for exploring, but it can also be as rewarding as the clichés make it out to be.
The Decision to Teach Abroad
For me, teaching English abroad has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager. During my time at college in the UK, I felt pressured to make decisions about my future and was very confused about what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to university, if I wanted to travel, or if I wanted a career in England. In a panic-stricken state, I applied for – and was subsequently offered – a full-time retail position in my hometown. My plan was to work for a year, save some money and travel. Despite this initial plan, something didn’t feel right. Eventually I rejected the job offer and applied for university instead. It took me a while to decide on a degree subject, although each of my options had a common theme; English. During open days, I learned more about Dance and English, English Literature and English Language and Linguistics. It was during my visit to The University of the West of England that I found out more about teaching English abroad. It seemed like the perfect way to experience new cultures, as well as sharing my passion for the English language with others. After university, I worked in the UK for a few years before booking a one-way ticket to Vietnam! Of course, that is a very quick run-through of my pre-teaching journey. There were many obstacles, doubts and sacrifices along the way, but I have to say it’s all been worth it so far.
Finding a Teaching Job
Before making the move to Vietnam, I contacted a number of language centres. The first job offer I received was for a 40-hour contract in Da Nang. These weren’t all teaching hours, the centre expected teachers to be there all-day planning and preparing for lessons. Despite this being a great offer with a generous salary, I’d done the whole ‘40-hour work week thing’ in the UK and I was looking for something that would enable a better work/life balance. I was also hoping to live in Hoi An, rather than Da Nang, so I managed to set-up an interview at a language centre in Hoi An before I arrived. The centre then asked me to provide a demo lesson (for which I was extremely nervous) but it was successful, and resulted in a job offer! I now work part-time in that very language centre.
Teaching is a Commitment
Teaching English certainly isn’t as easy as many people perceive it to be and you have to put in a lot of extra hours planning lessons, but I have found it to be one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever had. Although TEFL courses are often advertised as your ticket to travel anywhere, teaching English is still a job that requires a certain time commitment. Sure, it enables you to travel and pick up work in a number of countries more easily than a lot of jobs, but I’d define it as the opportunity to stick around somewhere for a while and to learn about a culture. It’s also a great chance to meet people who are living or travelling abroad too. Since being in Vietnam, I’ve made many new friendships and I’ve managed to explore this intriguing country slightly more (I’ve even squeezed in a ten-day trip to Malaysia and an epic motorbike ride to the Laos border). I still don’t know what I want to do in the future, but I know that I will never regret what I am doing right now.