How to decide where to start TEFLing

One of the best things about teaching English abroad is that there are so many destination options! With a high demand for TEFL teachers all over the world, the list of where you could teach is endless. So, how do you decide where to start TEFLing? Start by asking yourself these questions…

What do you want to get out of the experience?

It’s important to ask yourself why you want to teach English abroad. Some people might want TEFL to broaden their horizons, give them a chance to get paid to travel the world and see some amazing sights. Whereas, others might want to save money and boost their CV. Where you end up will depend on what you want to get out of the experience. If it’s a good salary you’re looking for, places like China, Japan and the UAE will be perfect for you! But if you’re dreaming of travelling on your days off, you might be better looking at Europe or South East Asia, where it’s easy to get around and you’ll generally have more time off.

Woman walking through street with backpack

What are the job requirements?

Job requirements can vary massively from country to country. From places like Mexico – where you’ll be able to bag a job with just a TEFL certificate – to Dubai, where you’ll need a degree in a relevant field and at least 2 years’ experience along with your TEFL certificate. It’s really important to look into the requirements of each country to make sure you’ll be able to land a job there.

Can you get the correct visa?

With most TEFL jobs, you’ll need a visa to work in that country. There are a few countries where you might be able to get a temporary visa, or a working holiday visa, if you have the correct passport. If you don’t fall under these categories, you’ll generally need to apply for a work visa. Always make sure you check the visa requirements for your chosen country as some places require you to have a certain passport and a degree.

How much money do you want to make?

Will you be happy just breaking even or do you want to make enough to save or cover additional travel costs? In most countries, as a first-time TEFL teacher, you’ll easily make enough money to pay your bills, live comfortably and still enjoy life. But if you’re hoping to be able to put away savings at the end of the month, you’ll have to think carefully about where you want to TEFL. Check out our job guides to get a rough idea of how much you can make and how much it costs to live in each country.

money pot with map

What till the start-up costs be?

Start-up costs for teaching English abroad can vary depending on where you want to teach. If you land a job in Japan, the UAE or China, your TEFL contract will generally include flights, visa fees and accommodation, so you don’t need to worry about start-up costs as such. Just make sure you have enough to cover your living expenses for your first month or so (before you get your first TEFL pay cheque!). For other TEFL countries, you might need to pay for your own flights, accommodation and maybe even visas.

Who do you want to teach?

If you want to teach children, you’ll find thousands of teaching positions all over the world in private and government schools. But if you’ve got your heart set on teaching adults, you might have to choose you country more carefully. China, Japan, South Korea, Costa Rica, Chile and parts of Europe are prime destinations for adult education! Grab yourself a specialist course in teaching Business English and you’ll increase your chances of landing a job in one of these countries.

Can you see yourself living there?

Ultimately, it can all come down to this. Where can you actually see yourself living? Are you dreaming of spending your days off lazing by the beach? Do you want to be able to travel to local countries or have you always wanted to live and work in an uber-modern city with looming skyscrapers? There’s a TEFL country to suit everyone, you just need to work out what you want and if you’ll qualify for the jobs there.

Woman taking picture at Mexican market

 

Still unsure? Take our handy TEFL quiz to find out which destination suits you!

Why you should teach English online in 2020

In a world where everyone wants freedom to do their own thing, it’s no surprise that teaching English online is one of the fastest growing areas of TEFL. And, with a huge list of amazing benefits for both teachers and students it’s easy to see why! If you’re thinking of becoming an online English teacher, 2020 is the year to do it, and here are the reasons why:

1. You’ll be your own boss

Overlay of calendar and laptop

Whether you’re hired by an agency or you’ve opted to work freelance, you’ll be your own boss. You’ll be able to decide when you work and how many hours you do, so no more waking up super early – what a dream! You’ll also be able to take holidays whenever you want, or you can even work whilst you’re on holiday if you want to keep earning! You’ll be completely in charge of your time and your schedule which will be a really liberating feeling.

2. You can work from literally anywhere in the world

Girl using laptop on bed with a cup of coffee

If you want to become a digital nomad and travel the world whilst working – online teaching is literally made for you! Or, you can teach English from home whilst studying as a bit of extra income to help you save for your next adventure – yay! All you’ll need is a laptop, internet connection and a few ideas for your lessons – easy! Pro tip: if you work for an agency that provides you with students, they’ll often provide lesson plans for you too, so you don’t even need to plan your classes.

3.  You’ll gain amazing teaching experience

TEFL teacher in classroom with students

Just starting out as a TEFL teacher and want to gain some teaching experience for your CV? Teaching English online is a great starting point! Whether you’re teaching English online or in the classroom, you’ll be gaining pretty much the same skills, so it’ll really help boost your CV if you want to apply for TEFL jobs abroad later on.

4. The earning potential can be HUGE

Jar of money

There are literally 1000s of opportunities out there to teach English online! With loads of agency offering hourly salaries of $40+, there’s potential for you to earn a really good monthly wage – all from the comfort of your own home. Winner!

5. It’s easy to get started

Woman laid on bed with laptop, using mobile phone

It’s super easy to start teaching English online. All you’ll need is a TEFL certificate, a laptop and internet connection! If you’re not already TEFL qualified, you can get qualified easily with one of our Online Courses, so all that’s left for you to do is start applying for jobs!

Ready to get started? Download our teaching English online guide now!

What to do after a TEFL internship

After spending some time teaching English abroad on a TEFL internship, it’s easy to get the travel bug and never want it to end. Or, maybe you used your TEFL internship as a bit of a gap year and now you’re wondering what to do next. There are loads of routes you can go down after you finish your internship, here are just a few of our ideas:

1. Continue teaching abroad

Woman spreading her arms above Athens city

Did you absolutely love your TEFL internship and never wanted it to end? Well, now you’re TEFL qualified and have some really good experience behind you, you can get out there and start applying for permanent TEFL jobs on your own. There are 100s of countries you can TEFL in and loads of online jobs boards where you’ll be able to find a job to suit you. Having some teaching experience will really make your CV stand out from the crowd and give you the best chance at landing your dream TEFL job – what’s stopping you?

2. Become an online English tutor

Woman using laptop to teach English online

 

Teaching English online is fast becoming one of the most popular TEFL routes as it gives you the flexibility to be your own boss and teach English from any country in the world. So, if you still have the travel bug but don’t want to settle for one country, you can become an online English tutor and earn a salary from anywhere in the world using just your laptop! Or, you can simply teach online from home to earn a bit of extra income or as a stop gap until you find your next job. Interested in becoming an Online tutor? Download our free guide for all the information you’ll need to get started!

3. Use your travel knowledge to work in the travel industry

Woman on bed using laptop

If you loved the adventure aspect of teaching English abroad but would prefer to leave the teaching English part to someone else, a job in the travel industry could be perfect for you. You’ll already have some first-hand knowledge and experience of travelling, so you could try your hand at travel writing and blogging! We offer interns the chance to blog for us to share their internship experiences and tips – get in touch if you’re interested!

4. Join a volunteer organisation

Woman with volunteer top on holding a young child

Depending on where you taught English, you might already have some first-hand insight about the needs around the world. There are tons of organisations that need volunteers just like you, people who want to work in diverse, multicultural environments and are looking to give back in a meaningful way. If you enjoyed the giving back part of your internship, a career with a non-profit might be the perfect route for you.

5. Start a brand-new career

Woman typing up CV on laptop

Use your teaching experience to boost your CV for other career routes. Teaching English abroad shows employers you’re confident, have good written and verbal communication skills, are willing to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re not scared of a challenge. Use your TEFL experience to start a brand-new career!

6. Continue or start studying

Woman reading book in library

If you decided to jet off on a TEFL internship as part of a gap year in between studying, now’s the perfect time to go back and finish or, if you never started your studies, it’s not too late to start them now! Your TEFL certificate is valid for life, so you can continue TEFLing once you graduate, or you can start working as an online English tutor to earn some extra money whilst at university – winner!

Teaching English in China: Jessica’s Story

China intern, Jessica, has been living the TEFL dream teaching English in China. We asked her what she thought of the trip, what she liked and what she didn’t (if anything!)

 

Over to you…

 

Hi Jessica! Which trip did you go on?

I joined the 2016 August Internship in China.

When did you go and for how long?

I arrived in Beijing Airport on 20th August 2016.  I was met by big grins and welcome hugs from the in-country team!  I instantly knew my orientation week in Beijing was going to be a lot of FUN!

After a magical orientation week, I left Beijing to spend 5 months in Chengdu.

Was the internship well run?

Unbelievably so!  The 20 hour TEFL course; the ‘immersion into China’ culture classes; the trip to The Great Wall; meals out; meals on-site; the welcome gathering; first aid / care given to ill and injured interns; and throughout the 5 month internship, the 24 hour support and professional love I received from the in-country team was beyond impressive on the organisation and care spectrum.

Were you able to participate in all the activities you hoped for?

YES!  During the orientation week there were organised trips and encouraged self-exploration of visiting major tourist attractions, theatre, opera, The Great Wall (!) and much more than I’d hoped for. In Beijing I got to eat weird and wonderful authentic Chinese food; get to grips with the Metro system; and make new life-long friends, who my heart screams for – we had so much fun and laughter together!

Did you encounter any problems?

Seriously, no!

What was the best part of your experience there?

This is a really difficult question to answer because, as I’ve said I loved the entire internship.  However, I will say that perhaps the experience wouldn’t have been quite so successful if I hadn’t have been so lucky to be supported by the in-country team who offered amazing friendly and professional support. They knew when to have a laugh and when to be serious, which resulted in a wonderful family spirit among all the interns!

I cannot express the emotions I feel for the five month magical internship experience… perhaps by telling you I wish I could have bottled up the period from arriving into Beijing Airport to completing my final week at Sichuan Normal University Experimental Foreign Languages School International Department would come close!?

Would you recommend it to others?

I already have!

Did you feel safe during the internship?

Yes, absolutely.

In addition to the area feeling safe (at all hours!), the information I received before starting the internship included safety tips for travelling in China, and our during the orientation the in-country team gave immeasurable advice for how to be careful especially with transport and road safety!

Thanks Jessica! We’re so glad you had an amazing time.

Are you itching to put yourself in Jessica’s shoes? There’s still a few places left on our Paid China TEFL Internship so why not sign up and start your own TEFL story!

TEFL Teachers Finding Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Whether you’ve got a romantic day with your significant other planned or are going to paint the town red with a group of friends, Valentine’s Day reminds us to think about the people, who are important to us in life.

When you’re teaching English abroad, you’re going to meet a lot of different people from all over the world and Cupid has the habit of striking when you least expect it.

Plastic heart on a wooden bench

For TEFL teachers, romance whilst travelling can be confusing, as sometimes there are fears that this falls into the “holiday romance” stereotype or fears over how long-distance relationships allegedly just don’t last. Which seems a bit strange since in the USA latest stats have shown that 75% of engaged couples were in a long-distance relationship.

But do TEFL teachers find love when abroad? And is it a love that lasts?

Meet Stef and Neil

We’ve asked around and love as a TEFL teacher is indeed in the air.

Meet Stef McLoughlin from Malta, who has been a TEFL teacher doing various jobs since 2004. She’s worked as a Director of Studies at a large chain school and is currently a freelance TEFL teacher with her own home tuition brand: Schwa Home Tuition focusing on one to one classes and small groups.

Malta Sea View

We interviewed Stef to find out how she met her significant other, Neil, while working abroad.

Where were you when you met your significant other?

I’d worked on and off in the UK from the age of 18, teaching mainly on residential courses. I met Neil while working on a short contract close to Tunbridge Wells, not the most exotic TEFL location!

We worked in a beautiful manor house in Bedgebury pinetum. We still go there for walks from time to time.

Bedgebury Pinetum

Why were you both there?

I was working at the time, teaching on residential courses. Neil was at the same school working as the Social Programme Co-ordinator.

How did you meet?

We met when I first arrived and Neil introduced himself. He then asked me out, however, I didn’t realise it was a date and I took a friend along. We got close very quickly, especially as we were working at a residential school in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go.

When did you know it was long-term?

I was in Tunbridge Wells for a month before going back to Malta. Neil got a flight to come see me a week after I had left. We were long distance for six months where I’d pop up to London for weekends and Neil would visit me in Malta. After six months, Neil gave up his job in Tunbridge Wells and moved to Malta to be with me. We lived in Malta for two years working in language schools. We’ve now been together for 9 years and we’ve been married for two.

Stef and Neil McLoughlin

Where do you both live now?

How did you decide to live there?

We now live in Brighton. We decided to move to Brighton as I wanted to do a master’s degree in TESOL at the University of Brighton. We were only meant to be here for a year, but we’ve been here for almost seven years. Neil’s from Liverpool and as I’m from Malta, Brighton is kind of an in-between place (people always laugh at this).

We absolutely love Brighton, it’s vibrant, exciting and most importantly it’s by the sea!

Brighton Pier

What advice would you give to those, who think they have found romance abroad, but are worried it’s a holiday romance only?

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not the real thing or that it can’t work out because it’s a holiday romance, only you can know that. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. The world is so small, cheap flights make everywhere so accessible, just get on that plane to go visit your significant other!

Thanks so much to Stef for sharing her TEFL love story with us.

 

It’s amazing how the UK is one of the most likely places to find love, even Tinder has confirmed this.

But there are plenty of more far-flung places, where romance is in the air this Valentine’s Day. If you enjoy travelling and want to combine this with a teaching career or are just looking to teach to fund a trip abroad, then one of our TEFL courses could be what you’ve been looking for.

Or if you have a TEFL love story you’d like to share, comment below or share on our social channels.

 

 

References:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/long-distance-relationship-statistics/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3690325/Looking-holiday-romance-Tinder-reveals-15-cities-tourists-love-local-number-one-surprise-you.html

First Day Teaching In Thailand: Teacher Becca

Thailand’s Sights, Sounds, and yes…Smells

 

It is 7:15 AM but the heat outside of our door would suggest high noon. Before our morning shower, we can already hear the sounds of music honouring the recently deceased king of Thailand. Little did we know, that this loudspeaker would become our daily alarm clock.

The background music is the sound of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and the occasional car or van circling through the courtyard to drop off the 1,300 students who attend Yuchieo Primary School. It’s time to experience the first day of teaching in Thailand.

Tuk Tuk in Thailand

As my roommate Louise and I walk out of our room ready for the day, we smell strongly of bug spray.

The distinctive smell of diethyltoluamide, fondly known as deet, is just one of many indicators that we are indeed foreigners. The students and 80 odd teachers will soon call us suay, and point out those other indicators with a smile.

Getting to know new students

 

As we pass the balcony and walk down the stairs, we are greeted by a swarm of tan, blue and forest green. Today is Wednesday, so it is scout uniform day. In other words, it’s just another day where our students are donning delightfully cute uniforms. In addition to the normal wai, we are also greeted with a two-finger scout salute.

Being none the wiser, we bowed to what seemed like every single one of the thousand plus students. To an outsider looking in, it was very clearly a frantic attempt to mumble “sawasdee ka” correctly, while bowing and giving a scout salute to every pair of legs that walked by us.

One of the Thai teachers in the English department took pity on us. She walked over with a bright smile, and in a combination of English and hand gestures, told us to only bow at fellow colleagues and not students. Phew. By this point my ears are buzzing from hearing “good morning teacher” on repeat, the loudspeaker music, and what I would classify as rush hour traffic.

Teacher Becca at Assembly

Fast forward past the blur of greetings and a whirlwind of a school tour, and my stomach is grumbling noticeably. Usually this index of heat prevents me from feeling hunger, but the vat of spicy something and pre-scooped bowls of white rice had my name on it. My new name that is…Teacher Becca. Fortunately for me, Rebecca is easily shortened to a more pronounceable Becca.

Unfortunately for my roommate, Teacher Louise is confusing for the children to say, despite the lengths to which your vocal chords may go.

Teacher Becca with smiling pupils in Thailand

Lunch at school and a break

 

In the canteen, my ears are buzzing again. This time from the sound of small metal spoons on blue and pink plastic bowls amidst a sea of smiling faces. I will be taking the lead from the students on this one, and filling my bowl to the brim with this deliciously mysterious lunch.

Fast forward twenty minutes later, when, despite the sensation that even my eyeballs are sweating, all I can think of is what else is in store for this afternoon!

School lunch at school in Thailand

A few hours later, we are in our rooms relaxing with what I swear to be the best air conditioner I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  We had spent the afternoon seeing some classes and smiling and nodding to our various welcoming committees.

After cooling down, Louise and I had a chat about some of the highs and lows of the day.

Looking back on the day

 

It was clear we were going to need to bring a lot of energy to the classrooms to match the enthusiasm of the children. After spending five days of orientation with our English-speaking counterparts, we had seriously underestimated the language barrier. We knew it would be important to take excellent care of our health as the climate, children, and cultural differences demanded it. That being said, we already had a sense that even if we gave 100%, the children would return that tenfold in love.

After dissecting every aspect of our busy day, it was shockingly already time for food again! So, one American and one Brit decided to wander about Kanchanaburi looking for tea…

Teacher Becca Pro Tips

 

•  Drink water. Duh, right? But you can’t underestimate the necessity for your body in this heat!

•  Get sleep. Restful sleep. Make sure you have a routine for falling asleep and waking up refreshed. Even though I am so #blessed to have air conditioning, my body was not used to sleeping with only cold air, so I quickly realized that my best overnight option was the fan.

Double Bed Image symbolizing sleep

•  On the subject of routine: create one at the beginning. Yes, the teaching brings something new and exciting every day.   But, you can’t give from an empty cup! Whether it’s recreating (to the best of your ability) your routines from home, or creating a new one in Thailand, go Nike and Just. Do. It.

 

Until next time,

Teacher Becca

If Teach Becca has inspired you to give teaching in Thailand a try for yourself, then take a look at our Thailand TEFL Experience: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-thailand-volunteer.html

More tips from Teacher Becca coming soon!

A day in the life of a TEFL Teacher: Intern Insight Hanoi, Vietnam

Ever wondered what being a TEFL teacher is like? Well, wonder no more, as we’ve asked our Vietnam intern, Kerry, to give us an idea of what her day in Hanoi, Vietnam was like.

6.30 am

Your alarm wakes you, alerting you to the sound of scooter horns beeping, street sellers calling and cockerels crowing outside. It’s time for a cool shower, running through some last-minute lesson prep in your head as you go.

7am

Grab a cold, reviving ca phe sua da (Vietnamese Iced Coffee)  from the street seller outside your door for a quick caffeine fix before jumping into your chartered taxi with a few of your fellow interns. Laugh about the previous night’s activities, and share lesson pointers for the day ahead on your journey through the busy roads to your school. The city is already live and kicking around you!

i-to-i TEFL teacher classrrom in Hai Phong Vietnam

7.45am

It’s time for today’s first lesson! This session is grade 1, the smallest and most enthusiastic learners who are always really happy to see you. This lesson contains plenty of songs, chanting and repetition to drill in key learnings (perhaps aided by some sweets! You can never go wrong with sweets for grade 1).

11.30am

Time to relax after your three morning sessions. Grab a bowl of hot pho (noodle broth) sit on a tiny chair with the other teachers, cool off in the staff room over some lesson planning, or just grab the taxi home for a nap – this heat can be tiring!

2pm

Back to it! Now travel to another school campus, where you’ll spend an hour and a half’s lesson teaching grade 9 – teenagers, but who says they need to be stroppy? Plenty of rapport and keeping lesson topics current makes for a really engaging, rewarding class they’re sure to remember.

3.30pm

Fifteen minutes to yourself to grab a cool drink and go over some marking or planning.Street Traffic in Hanoi Vietnam

4.45pm

After another afternoon lesson learning about verbs and adverbs with grade 10 students, you’re ready to jump in that taxi back to your shared intern house and veg out in the communal area for a while! A bit of lesson planning for tomorrow, some quiet time to catch up on your favourite series on Netflix – a well earned rest from your busy day!

7.30pm

You and the other interns gather in the communal area to catch up on your days and take in the warm, bustling atmosphere of the city below.

8pm

Time to head out! Treat yourself to a cold, freshly brewed local beer (bia hoi) at the pub round the corner – so refreshing in this heat! Chat with the other interns, people watch and take in the atmosphere of lively, contained chaos that pervades the streets in Hanoi.

8.45pm

Tummies start rumbling, so head to the cheap restaurant across the street to gorge on noodles, hot soup, roasted meats and fresh fruit and veg – whatever takes your fancy.

9.30pm

The group have been talking about old films, so head back to the accommodation and stick one on before you all turn in for the night!Vietnam nighttime boat trip

11pm

Early to bed, early to rise… you know the rest. Another day in rocking Hanoi is waiting around the corner!

So, there we have it. Big thanks to Kerry for sharing her experiences with us.  A whole day in the life of a TEFL teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam revealed. Busy, fun-packed and fulfilling. If this sounds like something you’d be up for, then take a closer look at our Paid Vietnam TEFL Internship here:

https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-vietnam.html

And don’t forget to download our guide for more info. Until the next Intern Insight article.

Vietnam i-to-i TEFL interns with lanterns

Travel Tips Vietnam – Intern Insight

Dear Vietnam, Bless your public transport system

 

The city of Hanoi can grow tiresome. There I said it.

If I had to publicly announce this, half the internship would be outside my door with pitchforks, whilst the other half would be hiding in the shadows with me. The city is polarising.

Don’t get me wrong, Hanoi has its charm, but for those who are accustomed to greenery and open spaces, you need to leave every once in a while to regain some sanity.

I have done so most weekends, hence why I am fairing so well.

Do I have dark circles around my eyes, suffer from occasional memory loss and have an unhealthy reliance on ice cream?

Yes. Especially the ice cream bit.

But in my opinion, things could be worse (think ice cream addiction opposed to reliance) and I have my weekend trips away to thank for that.

As I’ve got quite a few memorable weekend trips under my belt, I thought it would be fun to share my: Travel Tips Vietnam.

Vietnam Travel Tip #1 – Destination 

 

My first trip away has been my most memorable thus far, simply because it was long overdue.

I went to the lush mountains of Nihn Bihn.

Ninh Binh Vietnam

Although the destination was worth it, it became quite apparent that comfort is not a priority when travelling in Vietnam.

This was realised within the first 5 minutes of our bus journey.

Vietnam Travel Tip #2 – Public transport

 

Initially, there were 22 seats made for 22 derrières. Before leaving the bus terminal another 3 boarded.

This was all thanks to a man who stood at the parting doors, hollering words that obviously announced our destination and the fact that there was still space on the bus- a travelling salesman in the most literal form.

At first we were all shocked- where were these people going to sit?

But never fear when the travelling salesman is near!

Row by row, he pulled out padded planks which he then began to wedge in between seats, creating a make-shift bench.

When there was no more aisle left to utilize, a tiny stool was then provided and placed on the raised platform next to the driver.

We continued to get more passengers throughout our 3 hour journey and grew from a comfy bus of 22 to 35.

Squashed bus on i-to-i TEFL intern trip to Ninh Binh Vietnam

Leg room was non-existent and neither was privacy.

At one point, a Vietnamese woman seated on the ‘aisle bench’ next to me had a casual, little nap on my shoulder.

Thank goodness Nihn Bihn was worth it.

Vietnam Travel Tip #3 – Party with the locals

 

Our hostel was off the beaten track, nestled amongst the peaks of Nihn Bihn.

It was run by a vibrant and sassy Vietnamese man who had his own special blend of homemade rice wine.

Due to this ‘home brew’, he soon went from professional hospitality manager to frat boy, along with the best of us.

He was pouring shots, declaring his love for us and busting out some of his favourite lyrics.

It was lovely.

i-to-i TEFL intern hostel Ninh Binh Vietnam

However, the free entertainment he provided wasn’t the best thing about the trip.

That title goes to the unparalleled beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Nihn Bihn is as picturesque as they come.

Vietnam Travel Tip #4 – See as much as you can…even when exhausting  

 

One afternoon we took a rowing boat tour along the winding river of Trang An.

It’s the kind of scenery that you only see in movies filmed in exotic locations.

Throughout the trip you pass by ancient temples and enter damp and musky caves.

One would think that the caves would be vast, allowing boats to easily pass through them.

This was not the case. We constantly had to ‘duck duck duck!’ as our friendly guide put it.

A more apt instruction would have been ‘contort your body so as to not be pummeled into cave walls or bash your head on the ceiling’.

Dragon Mountain lake trip Vietnam

The reminder that I need to stretch more, was worth it though.

Another reminder that was harshly delivered the next day is that I do not do enough cardio.

Our wonderful group decided to rent bicycles and ride to ‘Dragon Mountain’.

The cycling was wonderful, despite the fact that my handlebars kept on falling off- the price you pay for hiring cheap bicycles.

There’s nothing quite like weaving though the shadows of mountains and the journey itself let me have my first real experience of a Vietnamese rural village.

In my opinion, it’s far more appealing than the concrete jungle that is Hanoi.

Dragon mountain loomed ahead and as we neared, a feeling of dread slowly took over.

There were steps.

Hundreds of steps leading up to the peak where the dragon of ‘Dragon Mountain’ could be properly appreciated.

The mountain wasn’t just to be viewed, it was to be climbed. The steps where made for giants, which is rather ironic taking Vietnamese stature into consideration.I lagged behind as my thighs burned and longed for release from this cruel endeavour.

What was I doing?!

However, the view made up for the jelly legs that accompanied me for the rest of the day.

Dragon Mountain Vietnam View from Mountaintop

We were surrounded by rolling hills as far as the eye could see and sweet silence.

You forget how good silence sounds when revving scooters and loud hailers become your new norm.

So, that is the answer to keeping a sound mind in Hanoi- get out and explore the countryside.

I’ve been to numerous locations, all stunning and all with a unique appeal.

The one great thing about Hanoi is that these places are all within your grasp- you don’t need to travel for days or make extensive plans.

You simply hop on a bus, train or ferry and become a pillow for a stranger… or two.

And if you’re looking for your own Vietnam adventure, then don’t forget to take a look at i-to-i’s Paid Vietnam Internship

or download the Vietnam internship guide: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-vietnam-guide.html

Hope you enjoyed my travel tips Vietnam.

9 things you need to know about Vietnam

I’ve just got back from the Paid TEFL Vietnam Internship and it truly was an eye-opener. My fellow interns and I experienced a whole lot and balanced our days with teaching some of the smiliest pupils around with exploring this amazing country together.

Here’s my top 10 list of what you need to know about life as a TEFL teacher in Vietnam.

1. The locals are the friendliest bunch you’ll come across

Vietnam is a country with a long, rich history – and in more recent years, it’s experienced some of the most astonishing tragedies. A lot of people lost family, friends and homes in the 2006 and 2006 typhoons, which swept the country. Climate change is suspected to be the cause of the increased frequency of typhoons, as well as floods.

The people here are resilient though, and are keen to look to the future. Community and hospitality are very important in Vietnamese culture so wherever you go, you’ll be welcomed like a friend. Make the most of this and find friends amongst the locals as well as your fellow travellers. It’s amazing what language barriers can be overcome with a smile!

2. When it rains, it pours!

And we mean that literally. As a country with a tropical climate, Vietnam is lush and green – but it only stays that way because of the regular torrential downpours the country experiences. A word to the wise: invest in one of the cheap-as-chips waterproof ponchos you’ll see on offer at roadside sellers. These hooded sheets cover your whole body and will keep a backpack dry, too.

3. You’ll be a minor celebrity

In many places in Vietnam (particularly rural locations), tourists and western travellers draw a lot of attention. You’ll hear calls of ‘hello, how are you?’ from old and young alike wanting to test out their English skills – so why not join in? A friendly smile and a hello will be really appreciated even if you don’t fancy a full-blown chat – and for extra brownie points, why not take the chance to pick up a few key Vietnamese phrases? Start with xin chao (that’s hello).

Children in Hanoi_Vietnam

4. Be prepared to throw the schedule out of the window

As in many Asian countries, the Vietnamese have a relaxed approach to timekeeping and scheduling. It’s highly likely that at least once, you’ll turn up to school at 7am only to find out there and then that your lessons are cancelled.

Don’t get frustrated, just follow my fellow intern Vicky’s advice:

 ‘I jumped straight back in my taxi at 7.10, and was back in bed for a bonus lie-in at 7.30!’.

5. The traffic is not playing ball

The best way to sum up Vietnamese roads is: total chaos. There are no lanes as such, traffic lights are more suggestions than rules, and pavements aren’t necessarily off-limits to scooters. We advise our interns against travelling on scooters because of the high incidence of traffic accidents in Vietnam, and good luck getting insurance to cover you without a Vietnamese license.

All that said, you’ll quickly get used to navigating the roads safely – just follow these invaluable tips from our Vietnamese intern support coordinator, Yen:

‘Be cautious, look both ways and never stop moving!’.

Cars will slow and scooters will weave around you, but always keep your eyes peeled.

Traffic in Hoi Ann_Vietnam

6. Bartering is expected!

Grabbing some souvenirs at the market is a must! Fragrant incense, a painted rice bowl, patterned fisherman’s trousers, a hand-made notebook, a hand-printed silk scarf… the list goes on. You’ll notice a lack of price labels, though – which is a signal to get your bartering hat on.

It can feel strange at first to westerners, but just start with a shake of the head and a counter-offer of around half the price stated – you’ll usually be able to meet somewhere in the middle. Just remember to keep currency in perspective – the amount you’re haggling over likely won’t be worth that much to you, but to the local person who relies on selling, it means much more.

7. The ‘traveller’s hump’: the struggle is real

And no, it’s nothing rude! Many interns (including myself) admitted to, at certain times, feeling out of their depth and overwhelmed with culture shock – even wanting to turn tail and go home at times. It’s natural to experience homesickness, but don’t let the traveller’s hump ruin this amazing experience for you. Some coping tips from our teachers:

• Share your feelings with others

• Speak to family and friends back home

• Catch up on your favourite shows on Netflix

• Treat yourself to your favourite western food

Rest up, be kind to yourself and you’ll be ready for bia hoi again in no time!

8. Expect to pay a little more than locals

Even in salons and cafes where a price list is present, you may find yourself faced with a larger bill than you expected. This discrepancy will usually only be a few thousand dong more, and is informally known as a ‘westerner tax’.

The Vietnamese are aware of how astonishingly cheap everything seems to western travellers, so are taking the opportunity to make a quick buck from those who can afford it. Unfair? Maybe. But again, ask yourself if it’s worth fighting over the equivalent of a few pence. Probably not.

Market Stall Vietnam

9. It may seem overcast… but that sun is HOT

Your intrepid writer is penning this, shame-faced, in a Hoi An coffee shop with a stomach the colour of beetroot – and it hurts! The sun in Vietnam is sneakier than back home – it’ll seem like a grey, cloudy day in the morning, but that doesn’t mean that’s how the weather is going to stay.

Always, always slather on that sun cream, and try to avoid the sun or keep well covered in the hottest hours around noon. Nobody wants to have to miss lessons or exploring because of easily avoided sunburn.

Overall, teaching English in Vietnam is an amazing way to experience the local community first hand, make a real difference in the lives of your students, and gain some stellar professional teaching experience that’ll stay with you forever.

As teaching destinations go, Vietnam can’t be beaten – so what are you waiting for? Grab our inspiring Vietnam TEFL Internship guide here.

Top 5 Travel Writers for TEFL Adventure Seekers

It’s no secret that at i-to-i we’re HUGE travel fans. We live, breath and dream travel, which comes in handy considering the TEFL courses and travel advice we provide.

Since November is “Novel Writing Month” we wanted to give a shout-out to some of the most iconic travel writers out there.

We’ve put together our top 5 travel writers, who’ve painted such an exciting picture of the places they’ve explored that we felt part of their journey, and were inspired to get discovering.

Bill Bryson

For some of us, he’s the first travel author we ever read. His charming and entertaining writing style filled with tales of the amazing people he met on the way is so detailed that you really feel that you’re not only his best friend, but travelling alongside him.

He’s probably most famous for his novel “Notes from a Small Island”, which gives an American’s account of 1970s Britain. He’s since ventured all over the globe.

His 2002 best-seller “African Diary” details his trip to Kenya supporting CARE International projects.

His descriptions of Kenyan geography and culture have inspired many an African adventure.

Trekking party in Kenya

Elizabeth Gilbert

When you say “Eat, Pray, Love” a lot of people will respond with “Julia Roberts”. And while it was an epic movie, we do love the original book that inspired it all.

The true story of this book combined with the many destinations and life lessons described in such an honest and heart-felt manner is what truly makes this memoir a masterpiece.

At 32 Elizabeth Gilbert was a known writer with a white-picked-fence home and husband, but she didn’t feel fulfilled. After her divorce and an unsuccessful rebound relationship, she decided to hit the road and explore the world.

What we love about the book is how it’s layered out into 3 spell-bounding acts:

“Eat”

Giving her account of living, eating and enjoying life in Italy.

“Pray”

Depicting her 3 month journey across India discovering her spiritual side.

“Love”

In which she spent a year in Indonesia on the search of a balance between “Eat” and “Pray” and also fell in love with a Brazilian Businessman.

Bali, Indonesia, has such iconic landscapes that we’re sure she fell in love with the island, too.

Pura Ulun Danu temple. Indonesia.

Robert Macfarlane

Nottinghamshire born and bred writer Robert Macfarlane has a very unique approach to travel writing.

Typically staying on his home-turf of the UK, Robert nevertheless is a good example of travel writing inspiring Wanderlust.

He’s a literal wordsmith as he champions the language of landscapes and is a must-read for any aspiring travel writers or bloggers out there.

Also a handy reference for any TEFL teachers for lessons with teenagers. If you’re looking for lesson inspiration, why not use Macfarlane’s terms to delve deeper into the genre that is travel writing. Some of our favourite phrases from his latest novel “Landmarks” are:

“Summer Geese”

Yorkshire term for steam that lifts from moorland when hot sun shines after hard rain.

“Ammil”

South-west English phrase for vast glitter and gleam of sunlight on hoarfrost.

“Crizzle”

The sound and action of open water as it freezes, a term originating from Northamptonshire.

Inspiring sunset at the sea

Matt Gross

Matt Gross started out as a columnist for the New York Times, where he wrote about frugal travelling. Always handy to get tips on this.One day his editor gave him the chance to write something with less structure, which is where the column “Getting Lost” was born from, which opened the doors to a more immersive travel experience for Gross and resulted in success all round. Happy Gross, happy editor and happy readers. Nice.

His debut novel “The Turk Who Loved Apples” shows Matt’s journey around the world in which he let the destination itself guide him through what to see and experience. A travel method dubbed ‘breaking free’ and a truly inspiring account of what you can discover by choosing the path less-traveled.

Sea at Nang Yuan island Koh Tao Thailand.

Rolf Potts

If you’re a keen travel researcher you’ve probably encountered Rolf Potts’ columns and travel essays in the National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian and Slate.com.

Potts’ career began as a landscaper in Seattle before going to Korea to teach English at a technical college for two years, which is where he started writing about his experiences in this amazing country.

He’s since published two books “Vagabonding” and “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There”. Both are fantastic reads, which champion the value of travel while also giving philosophical insights.

Our favourite is “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There” as the end-notes offer the reader the chance to understand how travel narratives emerge from a variety of real-life travel experiences.

A must-read for anyone interested in developing their travel writing skills.

South Korea mountain landscape

Inspired to give travel writing a go yourself? Just need a destination, right?

Ever considered an adventure, where you can get paid as go by teaching English as a foreign language? If not, then opportunity may be knocking with our TEFL courses:

https://www.i-to-i.com/tefl-courses/

And if you’d like any course or travel advice, give our friendly team a call.