Home / Interview with our TEFL teacher in Vietnam – Laura

Tell us more about yourself? What is your background?

I come from Mayo. I am 25 years old, and I have a bachelor’s degree in Law. My mum actually always told me I should do teaching when I was in secondary school. My mum is an early years educator so I grew up spending a lot of time with children and I often thought it was something I would end up doing. I decided on the legal pathway, however, because I loved problem-solving and, in particular, helping people solve their problems, and I am very passionate about social justice and advocacy.

However, after graduating and working as a paralegal for one year, I decided qualifying in law is not something I want to do at the moment. I graduated during the height of covid-19 restrictions and when things returned to “normal” I just couldn’t wait to start travelling. I looked into TEFL because it’s an amazing way to earn a living while travelling if you can’t afford to go travelling straight away without an income. Also, when teaching English in another country, you become fully immersed in that country’s culture, and that is something I knew I would love.

After working for a year, I took some time out for about 3-4 months in 2022, and I travelled to Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. I then gained my first bit of proper teaching experience abroad when I volunteered for organisations teaching English to children and teenagers. This was one of the most incredible experiences I have had and it felt so rewarding. When I returned to Ireland in 2023, I could not settle and wanted to go back to southeast Asia again as I felt I had not seen enough, and of course, I missed out on Vietnam. I heard about the TEFL Institute of Ireland through someone I know, and I decided to complete the course and go for the internship as it seemed like the perfect way to ease myself into a teaching career in Vietnam.

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

I think the best part of the TEFL course for preparing someone to teach includes practical teaching skills such as lesson planning, classroom management techniques, effective teaching strategies, and language assessment methods. These components are the most important for teachers to engage with students appropriately and to actually deliver the lesson. The TEFL course is also quite interesting in that when you are a native speaker you never have to think of the way English is taught or the reasoning behind why we say what we say and write in English. It was interesting to compare English as a language to other languages I have learned at school such as German and French. It definitely makes you put yourself in the student’s shoes to truly understand how difficult learning another language can be.

The training provided by the language centre we are all placed in was brilliant. In the first week, we observed a primary and high school demonstration lesson from experienced teachers. They provided us with tips and even a manual of games and activities for every age group and level. We then had an opportunity to practice before our first day of teaching by doing demonstration lessons in front of the interns and were given feedback by the language centre staff. This definitely prepared us well for our first day of teaching and we knew what to expect.Laura - Vietnam

Do you recommend learning a bit of Vietnamese before coming over?

I would definitely recommend learning a little bit of Vietnamese before coming over such as key phrases like hello, goodbye, thank you, how much etc. These basic phrases will help you interact with locals who may not speak English and even if they do, it’s nice when you are in another country to respect the local language and make an effort to speak it. In non-touristy cities such as Hai Phong, where we are, it is essential to have a few words as many locals do not speak English, and a lot of menus and labels are in Vietnamese. We are currently learning Vietnamese, and lessons are being provided by the language centre. Although it is a very difficult language to grasp once again, it puts us in our student’s shoes.

What surprised you the most about teaching in Vietnam? Was there anything you found particularly challenging or easier than you expected?

One thing that surprised me, which can be quite challenging, is the size of the classes in Vietnam. In both primary and high school classes, you will have between 40-50 students, which is more than double the size of a class at home. It is very difficult to ensure that the entire class understands or is following the lesson, and often times, in large classes where there are a few disinterested students, they can distract those trying to learn, but with practice and time, you develop the classroom management skills to be able to focus on students who are trying to learn. I think in this situation, the teaching assistants can be very beneficial. In every class, we have one teaching assistant; they will help manage the class and translate, but when you’re in a classroom of 50 students, they are extremely helpful.

Laura - Vietnam

How much would you budget for daily expenses?

In terms of budgeting, Vietnam is really cheap. Probably the cheapest country I have been to and 6 weeks in, I still can’t get over the price of a coffee, beer or a meal out. It really does depend on your lifestyle and what you like to do each day.

You have to factor in that most foreigners in Vietnam eat out every day, and there are no cooking facilities in some internship locations. However, a meal out will typically cost you the equivalent of €1-3 on average, and if you go to a Western-style restaurant, maybe €5-10 + depending on what you get. Coffees will be no more than €1.50.

In touristy areas, the prices will be slightly higher. For the lunar new year, some of the interns went to Halong Bay and Cat Ba, and it was more expensive there than in Hai Phong, where we live, but still much cheaper than at home. I would budget €10 a day on average, and many days, you will underspend, so on the weekend, if you go out or do some activities, it will balance out. Roughly I spend about €70-80 per week. Which is around €280-300 per month. And If you want to travel on weekends off it will be a bit higher. You can easily save money while also enjoying a comfortable relaxing lifestyle in Vietnam.

Tell us more about your teaching. How big are your classes & how many hours a week have you been teaching?

As I mentioned the class sizes can be a little overwhelming at the start but I’m well used of it now and if I ever have less than 20 students I feel like that class is so bare and quiet. The hours are approximately 15-20 hours per week. It will never go over 20 hours as that’s the maximum we work as per the contract. We have office hours to make up 35 hours in total but that includes preparing and planning for lessons and travel time to and from the schools, which is all arranged by the language centre.  I have much more free time here in Vietnam than I would have if I was working a standard 35-40 hour week at home which is really nice.

Would you have any tips for other teachers who are considering this internship?

My advice to anyone considering this internship would be not to worry about not having teaching experience. This is something a lot of people worry about, and they end up being brilliant teachers. As long as you like working with people, you can learn how to teach English and, with practice, become a great English teacher. The internship is designed so that you are not thrown in the deep end, you will receive training and support from your local school/language centre as well as from TEFL Institute Ireland.

I would also say do not worry about going alone. 90% of people on the internship do not know anyone else and it’s amazing how quickly you form friendships with everyone. Anyone who signs up to something like this has pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and you will find so much in common with your fellow interns.

Lastly, just go for it! Buy the course and book those flights because it will be the best decision you ever make, I know it was for me. Making the decision and taking action is the hardest part, but you will never look back once you do it.

Laura Vietnam


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