Niamh’s TEFL teaching abroad in Vietnam

Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to teaching abroad, and more. 

After returning home from a seven-week trip around Central America, I had the idea to teach abroad. I had a friend who had spent a year teaching in Costa Rica and thought it would be a cool thing to do after I graduated from college. After finishing my final year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to travel again. So I spent the TEFL course, saw an internship in Vietnam advertised, and applied right away. Coming to Vietnam was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

Tell us about your path to teaching abroad- Did you always know you’d end up in Vietnam?

I had initially planned to teach English in Central America, but teaching English in Southeast Asia is far more common. I had never visited any Southeast Asian countries before, so I figured I could teach English in Vietnam for six months and then travel around the region after the internship ended. Hopefully, by next year, I’ll have visited every country in Southeast Asia!

What were the best parts of your TEFL course experience? Do you feel like it prepared you for teaching in Vietnam?

I liked how the TEFL course taught you how to set up your classroom for various activities. The TEFL course also provided me with numerous game ideas based on the age of the children. Class sizes in Vietnam range from 40-60 children, so you can’t always set up the classroom as you’d like or play as many games as you’d like, but through my teaching experience, I’ve learned to think on my feet and modify the game to suit the class.

TEFL teacher with her Vietnamese class


You were initially on a much different career path. Tell us about your college study experience and how/why you switched to teaching. 

So, I graduated from Trinity in November 2018 with a degree in Earth Sciences, but I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. I had completed my TEFL training over the summer and felt there was no better time than the present to come to Vietnam and teach English. It was also a way to avoid deciding what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!!

Tell us a bit about living in Vietnam. What were your initial thoughts? Was there any culture shock after the initial move? 

When I first arrived, I was struck by how friendly and welcoming the people were. During the first week, I thought Vietnam wasn’t for me and that there was no way I’d stay for another year (oh, how wrong I was), but as time passed, I grew to love the country. The Vietnamese driving style was a culture shock, and their constant beeping took some time. I’ll likely find it too quiet when I return home in July!

Have you done much travelling since teaching abroad in Vietnam? If so, where have you been?

We all spent a week in Danang and Hoi An shortly after moving here because it was the lunar new year. We had the most time off in a long time but tried to make the most of it. We’ve been to Ninh Binh (twice because we loved it so much! ), Sapa, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, and, most recently, Mai Chau. Vietnam is a stunning country with a lot to offer. Now that we’ve finished teaching for the summer, we’re off to South Vietnam to check off some more items on our bucket list.

Since completing the internship, what have you decided to do? Will you continue teaching or move back home?

After finishing the internship, I returned to teach for another year in September. I’m not ready to leave this crazy place and the adorable kids!

In general, you don’t need a degree to teach English abroad or online. Our certification stands alone and you can get employment without pairing it with a degree. However, some TEFL employers do prefer their teachers to have a degree. More importantly, for some countries, it’s a visa requirement. This means you can’t obtain a work permit without a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some of these countries include China, Japan, UAE and Vietnam. 

Our advice is if you have your sights set on a certain country, look into the visa requirements first before putting time and effort into finding a job there. This will save you time and disappointment. If it’s a school preferability, and not a visa requirement, there’s sometimes some leeway. 

You do not need any prior teaching degrees or experience to teach abroad. Once you have your TEFL certificate, you can secure work as a TEFL teacher. A BA in Education would enhance your CV, but it’s not a necessity. Completing a TEFL course that includes teaching practice, like our Hybrid TEFL Courses, will also help your CV.

If you want to experience different cultures and see the world, teaching English abroad is for you. Not only will you get to explore new places, you’ll also meet new people and get the chance to make a difference to the lives of language learners. A TEFL certification lasts a lifetime. So, you can dip in and out of teaching abroad whenever you feel like it. 

It is not necessary to speak any other languages. You’ll be able to find a job and work comfortably without knowing the language spoken in your chosen country. Of course, it is always an advantage, even if it’s just the basics. We recommend learning a few phrases before you move abroad like hi, thank you, goodbye and sorry.

You’re never too old to gain new qualifications! Some TEFL employers do have age restrictions, but there are ample opportunities for more mature teachers. There are also the options to teach English from home as a private tutor or online tutor.

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