Read Sara’s story on living & teaching in Cambodia
Tell us about your path to TEFL teaching. Was it hard to leave your friends and family to undertake this Cambodian adventure?
I was in need of a change but uncertain on my destination so I contacted TEFL.ie to discuss my options for teaching in Asia. With great assistance & consistent support from Ola in TEFL.ie, I finally decided that Cambodia was a wonderful place for me to start my Asian journey. Saying goodbye to family & friends is always the hardest part but after my interview and regular connection with my school in Phnom Penh, I felt confident with my decision and was very excited to take on this new adventure. A TEFL for Cambodia
Did you always want to explore and teach in Cambodia? What made you choose this programme?
No, I knew a little about Cambodia’s turbulent past and it spiked my interest. As I did more research on Cambodia’s history, geography & it’s developmental social enterprise programmes, I felt it had so much to discover and explore. This particular internship is in a school that is a social enterprise working with projects developing sanitation, farming & conversation. That is what sealed the deal for me.
What was the move from Ireland to Cambodia like? Were you worried about travelling solo? Did you have a bit of culture shock?
I have travelled to many countries so let’s just say this wasn’t my first rodeo! Travelling solo can be a little daunting in the beginning but I truly love it. Plus as a traveller, you never really feel alone if you don’t want to be. There are always other travellers or friendly locals to meet. When I first arrived in Phnom Penh I was thrown into its chaos, yet soon discovered all the wonderful gems this city has to offer. I was also greeted by a very friendly Cambodian smile at the airport and taken to my new home. So easy peasy.
How were the 2 weeks of orientation? What was your favourite part?
Orientation was great. It was very informative, not only on the Khmer culture and life in Phnom Penh but focused on the specific training. It gave us all the tools to teach and live practice of teaching a class. It was run with hands-on expertise. The school also ran weekly workshops which were a great assistance in the classroom. My favourite part was getting to know my fellow colleagues/friends and the river cruise we took together at the end of orientation.
Describe a typical school day since you’ve been in Cambodia. Do you feel that the TEFL course prepared you for teaching in Cambodia?
My teaching day began at 3.30-8.15pm, teaching three different modules each for an hour and a half. Firstly, I had university students, followed by young learners (super cute) and in the evenings I had professionals who came after work. I would spend the mornings doing lesson plans. At first, they took some time but I got quicker as the days went on. Then I would go to the pool and have lunch before class began.
At first, I was a little worried about teaching in class but when the time came I felt confident. The TEFL course along with the orientation really prepared us for going live & by the end of it I just wanted to get into the classroom and teach.
Tell us three things a future teacher in Cambodia should know before they go?
As a developing country things are expectedly run a little differently. Be aware that your classes may have students of many different levels, things happen slower and be sensitive to their culture. Be prepared to be treated like a celebrity. My students were so kind. They brought me gifts and out for dinner on occasions. Be ready for the photoshoots & cakes.
The resources are basic so perhaps bring some supplies. It’s not necessary but it’s nice for the kids.
Describe the fun you have when you’re not in the classroom? Did you have time to travel around Cambodia?
I had loads of fun in all my classes. With the young learners making things fun is the best way to keep them interested. We had weekly science experiments, lots of art & crafts, music and weekly Skype calls to a school in Dublin which they loved. Being yourself and finding the best way to make it fun is the key.
Working Monday- Friday there was plenty of time for fun. Phnom Penh is full of cool restaurants, bars and clubs. All sorts of everything. The art scene is also pretty good and there are plenty of interesting museums and things to do in the city.
I visited Angkor Wat in Siem Reap which was amazing. During our 9 days holidays, we visited Koh Rong Island which is paradise and Kep & Kampot in the south of the country. I also went to Phu Quoc in Vietnam which was also fabulous.
What are your plans once your internship is finished? Are you planning on travelling and teaching in the future?
I am definitely planning on teaching. I am going to teach online until February and travel around South East Asia and then I am planning on either Japan or South Korea to make some money to travel more of this part of the world.
Any tips or words of encouragement for future TEFL-ers that are thinking of making that big decision and move abroad?
Absolutely DO IT!!!! I had zero experience teaching, flew through the course and absolutely loved the classroom and my wonderful students. It’s the best move I’ve made in years. The TEFL Institute of Ireland has a wonderful support team and doing this course opened a gateway for me to travel and work wherever my wanderlust heart desires.
View this amazing video of what it’s like to live and teach English in Cambodia!
You can also follow Sara on her Instagram: @rhythmofherdrum
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