Shannon’s TEFL Journey in Vietnam

Tell us something about yourself. We had we love to know about your background.  What inspired you to go abroad?  

I previously worked as a teacher in Dubai and knew I wanted to travel more, so I took a TEFL course. Teaching is a fantastic way to travel and learn about different cultures. I also enjoyed watching my class grow throughout the year and wanted to continue doing so.

What made you do an internship in Vietnam with the TEFL  Institute of Ireland? Why South-East Asia?

I’d never been to Southeast Asia but always wanted to go, so this seemed like a fantastic opportunity.

Some of my friends had previously worked in Thailand and Vietnam, so I decided to intern in Vietnam based on their recommendations.

What were the best parts of your TEFL course experience? Did it prepare you for teaching in Vietnam?

The course was extensive and exciting, but you can’t learn how to teach until you try it!

Things can still go wrong even if you have a perfectly planned lesson. Having years of experience before this helped. Some students may have a significant language barrier. After a few weeks, everything becomes much easier, and you learn what works and what doesn’t with various children.

TEFL teacher posing with her class

Will you share a funny/cute/hilarious story from your TEFL classroom? 

In some public schools, a student known as the monitor is in charge of leading the class. There is a girl who shows one of my grade 2 classes (6-7 years old) and tells them exactly what to do. It’s my most precise class of the week because she wants to teach me all! I have to remind her occasionally that she is supposed to be learning from me!

What is one thing about the life of teaching abroad that you never expected? Our readers love to get the inside scoop!

I had not anticipated having so many students. My largest class has 56 students, many of whom need to speak English better. This can be difficult, but if your lessons are exciting, energetic, and fun, you will have a much easier time keeping their attention and maintaining control in the classroom.

In addition, I only see each class once a week. I’ve taught 1000 kids here because our schedules change frequently, and categories are added every week.

The kids are generally excited to see you, but this is only sometimes in your favour because they believe they don’t have to behave as well as they would in other classes! Keeping a balance between having fun and maintaining discipline in the classroom is complex and varies depending on the student. We usually have a teaching assistant who can assist with translation, which is extremely helpful.

Vietnam lake

What were three things about your experience on our TEFL Vietnam Internship that you did not anticipate? 

Being a vegetarian in Vietnam is difficult, especially since our accommodations do not have a kitchen. We eat out daily, which is inexpensive, but vegetarian options are limited.

There are very few tourists in Hai Phong, where I live. We were stopped on the street numerous times for photographs because there weren’t many white people in the city. I was even asked for a picture when I went to the dentist. 

The driving is also insane. It took us a few days to realise that all you must do is cross the road slowly, and the motorcycles will just weave around you. If you’re looking for a break in the traffic, you’ll wait a long time.

In Hanoi, be wary of taxi drivers who will try to overcharge you. Avoid picking up taxi drivers and instead download the Grab app, which is similar to Vietnamese Uber and will save you a lot of time!

What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach abroad?

Anyone interested in teaching abroad should consider it. It’s a rewarding and fantastic way to see more of the world and meet new people. However, you should be in a good mental state. It is a significant lifestyle change, and anyone considering it should be prepared for it.

What is your plan after the internship? Will you pursue a teaching career?

When I return home, I plan to teach TEFL online to save money for a trip to South America. I’m curious if I’ll do TEFL or just backpack there, but I’ll use my TEFL certification somewhere else. I’m considering returning to Asia or staying closer to home and teaching in Italy.

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.

The accredited courses are the quickest way to get TEFL certified, and are accepted by schools and institutes worldwide. Choose from a 120, 180 or 240 hour accredited TEFL course depending on the level of training you require. 

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