Confessions of an English teacher: How teaching English in Asia changed my life

I guess I was in a bit of a rut. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t any disasters nor was I particularly unhappy, but thinking about my future there wasn’t anything on the horizon that excited me. I am now 23 years old. Graduated with a business degree. Full of energy and raring to go. But where and into what? Then I heard from a friend about teaching English abroad on a short term basis. It sounded perfect. I needed something to do now, so that I could figure out my future. I never thought however, that it would affect me like it has.

Children in Vietnam smile for the camera - Flickr CC katinalynn

To teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) you have to be certified and with tefl distance learning I could become so on a part-time basis, from the comfort of my own home over an 11 week period. Providing me the opportunity to earn some pocket money at the same time. At first I thought I would stay in Europe, it just seemed like a given. But having assessed my options, I thought it’s now or never and I decided to go to Asia. There is a strong and developing demand for English teachers due to the economic upturn. The pay is generous and the cost of living is low. And so I made my decision to travel to the beautiful country of Vietnam to start my adventure. And I’ve never looked back.

I arrived in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, late September, alone and full of anticipation. My first obstacle was to find a place to live. I went from hostel to hostel for a month trying to find an apartment that could feel like home. Finally I met another English teacher and we decided to rent somewhere together. Lesson number one: never give up!

Another obstacle, coinciding with the prior, was to actually teach a classroom full of children. The first morning I flagged a motorbike taxi and headed to the school. To my relief Vietnamese children are very attentive and well behaved. Culture dictates that teachers are respected and I was soon able to engage with my students and be creative. Lesson number two: confidence is key.

If I had gone to Europe for sure I would have struggled to pay my way. But here food and necessities are so cheap I can afford to work 20 hours per week and easily get by. This has given me plenty of time to travel and experience the culture. Lesson number 3: I thrive when out of my comfort zone.

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