Teaching English in Cambodia: Jess’ Story

Jess threw in the towel of her life back home after becoming thoroughly fed up of the lack of graduate job opportunities for young people with little experience. Bags packed, Jess jetted off to Thailand to teach English abroad, before embarking on a new adventure in Cambodia.  In fact, Jess is so in love with Cambodia, she’s thinking of staying in Asia forever:

“I’ll be in Cambodia for a year; maybe longer.  I’m not the person parents want to hear from because I don’t plan on going on home for years, or maybe even forever. I love living abroad and travelling, and the lifestyle in S.E. Asia is just too good to give up willingly.”

Jess with her students


Whilst in Cambodia , Jess will be volunteering for a year at least on her next adventure teaching English with a non-profit organisation on a volunteer basis. She’s kindly agreed to be interviewed by us so we can all hear what it’s like teaching English in Cambodia!


Why did you decide to start teaching English?

I chose to teach English because as a recent graduate, I was disheartened by the job market and the lack of opportunities for young people with little experience. I was also eager to travel the world and the allure of being able to do so, while making good money, was too much to turn my back on.

It’s also given me the ability to give back to the world community. Being abroad really makes you realize how fortunate we are to have grown up in Western countries and to have English as a first language, it’s a very important skill to have and isn’t an easy second language to learn.


Did you do a TEFL course before you started teaching?

Yes, I did the 120 hour professional TEFL certificate with i-to-i


Where are you originally from, and where are you teaching now?

Originally, I’m from Massachusetts, USA; but I’m now in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and I’ve just finished a year of teaching in Thailand too!


What attracted you to TEFL?

The opportunities it would give me to work, travel and gain experience in the “real world”.


What age kids are you teaching and what are they like?

I teach mainly pre-school, kindergarten and lower grades. Most of them are eager to learn and all of them are a bit cheeky at times. It’s really humbling when you see how much progress a 6 year old kid makes in such a short period of time, or when an 11 year old talks to you about the environmental adaptations.

Of course, there are always a few slackers or those who don’t find school “fun”… but we all remember how draining school could be when we were young kids.  However, as the teacher you need to be a positive motivator for them, you’d be surprised how a quick game and some stickers perks them up!


How are you finding the experience of teaching?

I find it exciting, tiring, empowering, humbling, and overwhelming.  It is always nerve-wracking the first day in the classroom, but after a few days your confidence grows and before you know it you find your groove. The kids are adjusting to you and suddenly it dawns on you that, “hey, I’m really doing this teaching thing!”

It’s been a great experience and I know it has shaped me into the person I am today, one year later.


How would you rate the experience out of 10 and why?

10, because it changed my life.  One year ago I was feeling hopeless and depressed: I was bitter about all the loans I took out for my degree (if you are from the US, you know how massive these loans are) and I was frustrated that the jobs I had been promised post-grad were nowhere to be found.

Completing the TEFL certificate and subsequently moving to Bangkok, Thailand and teaching English reinvigorated my outlook on life and gave me so many opportunities to grow into someone I’m proud to be.


What would be your advice for someone thinking of TEFLing?

Do it. I know you’re worried about the culture-shock, the classroom, the students and mostly, the fear of failure; I was too, but I took the plunge and you should too. I really like the quote, “Leap and the net will appear” and it illustrates perfectly how people should approach TEFL. It’s an adventure of a lifetime and I promise you won’t regret it.



i-to-i TEFL is a part of Teach and Travel Group Ltd.
Registered Company No. 7935847.