James' experience teaching English abroad in Vietnam
At the end of the academic year, many students find themselves either about to go on a gap-year or floundering in post-graduate life, just like James was two years ago. Instead of opting for grad schemes in the big smoke, he decided to complete a CELTA course and teach abroad – and he hasn’t looked back since. Read on to see why teaching in Vietnam, or abroad anywhere for that matter, could be the next step for you.
After graduating university, I was unsure of what steps to take next. Do I apply for a graduate scheme: should I stay in Cardiff and find work, or should I move to London, I asked? So many questions crossed my mind. I’ve always loved travelling and experiencing new cultures, so I decided to complete a CELTA course. This 6-month course was intensive and comprehensive, covering everything I needed to know to teach English as a foreign language. It was assessed through a series of written coursework and in-class observations, and cost around £1600.
Making the move
After completing the course, me and my friend Tom decided to move to Vietnam. We searched long and hard to find a destination but eventually settled on Hanoi, where we booked a one-way flight in January 2019. It seemed cheap, with jobs paying a high enough salary to suit our lifestyle. The food looked delicious and the beer had rock-bottom prices. Initially, we stayed at the Babylon Hostel in the Old Quarter for two weeks where we sought accommodation and a job. It was far simpler than I imagined, as we quickly managed to secure cheap accommodation costing $250pcm and a job paying $20 dollars per hour. We soon found our feet.
Before moving out here, we already had our documents in order – our degree certificate, DBS check and teaching certificate – unlike the majority of those who come here to teach. Those who come unprepared struggle to get everything sorted before it’s too late. After entering Vietnam, we applied for a one-month tourist visa which allowed us enough time to search for a job and accommodation. Now we are fortunate enough to have obtained legal working visas and work permits, something most teachers don’t have!
Finding more than your feet
We met people fairly quickly: the expat community are very helpful and hospitable which was encouraging at the start when we didn’t have a clue what to do. We have met people of all ages and from all walks of life which has been truly amazing. Thanks to the salary, the flexible work schedule and our geographical location, we have had the privilege of travelling to other countries. I have been to Thailand, Cambodia, Korea, and Japan as well as many beautiful locations around Vietnam itself, including Halong Bay, Ninh Binh and Ho Chi Minh City.
Teaching in a foreign country is unforgettable and extremely rewarding. Whether you are career driven or here for an easy life, you can have the best of both worlds. The educational culture in Vietnam is heavily based on respect for the teacher, so the students are always very well behaved and friendly, which was surprising at first. After working for many different centres, schools, private classes, I have decided to set up my own company – Education in English – which offers courses in specialised skills such as economics, maths, science and public speaking to name a few. After gaining two years of teaching experience, I wanted to put my skills to good use. It’s an exciting time.
It’s impossible not to mention the pandemic. COVID-19 was rife in Vietnam, resulting in a harsh lockdown. All teachers were faced with a choice: go back home or stay in Vietnam, teaching online using platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams and Hangout. Most of my friends stayed and took up online teaching. This has some benefits, allowing students to learn remotely – however, it lacks the interaction and engagement that you get in a classroom.
I would be interested in teaching in different countries in the future and want to ensure those intimidated by the move that it is nowhere near as scary and uncomfortable as you may think. For people wanting to travel or begin a career teaching, you should consider doing it abroad. There are a lot of people that will support you if you want to move, and I haven’t regretted it one bit.