TEFL Teaching in Myanmar: Sadhbh’s Experience

Tell us something about yourself and why did you choose to start TEFL teaching?

Hi, my name is Sadhbh and I took part in the Myanmar Internship with The TEFL Insitute of Ireland back in 2020! I am twenty-five and I am a youth worker in Tallaght. I am from Wicklow and I graduated from Trinity in 2019.  After graduation I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, some friends were doing masters, and others were entering grad programs. I felt a little lost and the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to have an adventure! I had always enjoyed teaching and helping others, especially children/teenagers and I discovered that TEFL could be a way that I could explore the world doing what I enjoyed whilst also supporting myself financially. 

What made you decide to TEFL teach in Myanmar?

I did the 120hr TEFL cert online in the Autumn of 2019. Whilst I was completing the course I looked into the various options for where to go. I chose to do the Myanmar internship for a few reasons. Firstly, I thought the idea of an internship where I would receive in-country support and make connections with other teachers easily, was very appealing. Myanmar caught my attention as a relatively unusual choice for Irish people and one that had a lot to offer. The history of the country as well as its’ great location in terms of a base to explore southeast Asia was a big draw for me. I also read that there is a low cost of living and great food! I have always enjoyed the road less traveled so people suggesting more popular options such as Thailand to me made me want to go to Myanmar even more!

What was the application & interview process like? Any tips for teachers?

The application and interview process looked daunting at first, but TEFL Ireland was always just an email away to assist and support. After submitting my application around November time I received interest from an international school in Yangon relatively soon after. This was followed by an online interview with the principal of the school. I accepted the job offer and it started to feel real! I would advise any teachers looking to go to Myanmar to start the process well in advance as paperwork, interviews, etc all take a lot of time to get through. You may also need vaccinations/medical checks so leave time for this too.

When I arrived in Myanmar I was greeted by a member of TEFL’s partner organization. I was surprised at how quickly I got to know the other participants and how much we all had in common even though they were from all over the world. The culture is very unique and like nothing I had come across before, so the first few days of orientation were helpful to adjust to this.  Every time I left the house I would see something interesting – the colour, smells, sounds and sights of Yangon are ever-changing and never boring! During my orientation week, we got to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. I will never forget wandering around the cool white marble floors looking up at the golden temples. I came back here many times throughout my stay as it is an incredibly beautiful place.

Did you travel solo, was it easy to meet other people & make friendships?

During my time in Myanmar, I lived in a house with the other TEFL teachers who were on my orientation. Some people found alternative accommodation straight away but we had the option to stay put – and many of us did. I made really strong friendships with my housemates and we shared trips, nights out, lesson planning, and daily chores!

Tell us about your school, how many teaching hours did you have? What age were your students?

I taught in a private international school in the wealthiest area of the city. Where most government buildings and embassies are located – a contrast to the rustic market streets and lean-to housing that makes up most of Yangon. I taught Pre-school up to 1st grade so 3 – 8-year-olds, which was a new experience for me. My school was bright and modern. Most of the pupils were children of international diplomats from countries such as Thailand and China who were living in Yangon.  There were also several Burmese children. I taught from about 8 am to 3 pm and my lessons included English, English literacy, drama, and science. I found the teaching rewarding and challenging. Other teachers in my orientation taught in government schools or public schools where they followed the Burmese curriculum and had older children.  Some participants taught English to the Burmese school teachers also.

Did you get to see much of Myanmar whilst you were there?

I got the opportunity to travel and explore on the weekends. I would highly recommend making the long bus journey to Bagan. It is a wonderful area with over 10’000 temples scattered across the sandy landscape. You can rent a moped and explore at your leisure. If you go far enough from the town you could have the place to yourself. You can also get buses to beaches which is a nice trip to make to escape the bustle of Yangon life.

What was your favourite part of your time in Myanmar

My favourite part of my experiences was definitely the sense of adventure that comes from exploring a new place with new people. Such as spending international women’s day exploring Bagan with my three super roomies from America, South Africa, and England!

Did you feel safe whilst over there? What was the country’s situation while you were there?

I felt very safe living in Yangon, the people are so lovely and welcoming. Like in any city, I would recommend staying with others at night and being careful crossing roads – learning to dash across like the locals is a process! It is also worth reading up on Myanmar’s history, political situation and cultural norms. It is a devoted Buddhist country and it is good to be aware of this.

What are your future plans? Would you go back to TEFL teaching?

Sadly, Covid 19 came and cut my Myanmar TEFL career far too short. Leaving Yangon was the last thing I wanted to do. But nothing was more important than being with my family during the pandemic. Two years later, I am in a different place. I feel I am not in a position to return to TEFL teaching. But I hope to go back to Yangon someday and I still keep in touch with the friends I made.

Myanmar is a diverse and exciting location for an adventurous TEFL teacher who Is ready to embrace it all. You will be guaranteed a new and exciting experience and a new perspective. You will be supported by The TEFL Institute the whole way and you will be joining a small but strong community of TEFL teachers in Yangon.

Jay – su – bah (thank – you) for taking the time to read about my adventure.

Give Myanmar my love

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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