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Considering moving to Vietnam? Be sure to read our interview with Shannon who is currently taking part in our paid internship in Vietnam!

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

I had previously worked abroad as a teacher in Dubai and I knew I wanted to do more travelling so I decided to do a TEFL course. Teaching is such a great way to see more of the world and learn about different cultures. I also really loved watching my class learn more throughout the year and really wanted to continue that.

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

I had never been to South East Asia but I had always wanted to go so it seemed like a great opportunity.

Some of my friends had worked in Thailand and Vietnam before so taking their advice, I decided to do my internship in Vietnam.

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

The course was extensive and interesting however I do not think you can learn how to teach until you experience it!

You can have a perfectly planned lesson and yet everything could still go wrong. Having years of experience before this definitely helped with this. There can be quite a large language barrier with some students. After a few weeks, it all becomes much easier and you learn what works and what doesn’t work with different kids.

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

In some of the public schools, there is a student called the monitor who leads the class. In one of my grade 2 classes (6-7 years old), there is a girl who leads the class and tells them exactly what to do. It’s my easiest class of the week as she basically just wants to do the teaching for me! I have to remind her sometimes that she has meant 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 did not expect to be teaching so many students. My largest class has 56 students, many of who do not have much English. This can be challenging but I find that as long as lessons are exciting, energetic and fun that you will have a much easier time maintaining their attention & keeping control in the classroom.

I also only see each class once a week. Overall I have probably taught 1000 kids in my time here as our schedules can change often & classes get added each week.

The kids are generally really excited to see you, however, that is not always in your favour as they think they do not have to behave as they would in other classes! Getting a balance between having fun and still maintaining discipline in the classroom is tricky and varies with different students. We usually have a teaching assistant who can help with a translation which is really beneficial.

What were three things about your experience in Vietnam that you did not anticipate? (This helps future teachers preparing for a trip there to  feel more ready!)

For one, being vegetarian in Vietnam is not easy, especially as we don’t have a kitchen in our accommodation. We go out to eat every day which is very cheap, but options are quite limited if you are vegetarian.

In Hai Phong where I’m living, they do not have many tourists. We have been stopped in the street for pictures loads of times as they do not have many white people in the city. I was even asked for a picture when I went to the dentist. 🙂

The driving is crazy too. It took us a few days to figure out that you just need to cross the road slowly and the motorbikes will just weave around you. If you’re waiting for a lull in the traffic then you will be waiting a long time.

In Hanoi be wary of taxi drivers as they will try to charge you more money. Avoid picking taxi drivers off the road altogether and download the Grab app, which is like Vietnamese Uber and will save you a lot of hassle!

What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach abroad or not?

I definitely recommend teaching abroad to anyone with an interest in it. It’s very rewarding and an amazing way to see more of the world and make amazing friends. However, I do think that you should be in a good place mentally. It is a huge lifestyle change and anyone thinking of doing it should be prepared for that.

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

I’m thinking of teaching TEFL online when I go home and try to save money to go to South America. I am not sure if I will do TEFL there or just backpack but I will definitely use my TEFL cert somewhere else. I may come back to Asia or stay closer to home and teach in Italy.

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