Interview with Nayan Heijmans, Vietnam Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Nayan Heijmans. I am 29 years old and I was born and raised in the Netherlands, my nationality is Dutch. Most people think Holland is a country and that it is the same as the Netherlands, however nothing could be further from the truth. A small geography lesson: The Netherlands is a country, consisting of twelve provinces: North-Brabant, Zeeland, Limburg, North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Flevoland, Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen. Holland is in fact not a country but only a small part of the country in the Netherlands. It is the area of the two provinces North Holland and South Holland.

What is your education level and background?

I recently graduated as a Bachelor of Business Administration. It was a four-year study called International Business and Management Studies. While I was working as a car tire salesperson in 2012, I decided to live in Indonesia for 10 weeks with two friends, to do a Cambridge English course. This stay made me realise I wanted to go back to university and study something international, which would allow me to travel during the rest of my life.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

When I was five, my parents took me to New York and Canada, to visit my aunt and uncle. They migrated to Canada, and started a cow-milk farm with huge lands.

When I was fourteen, my parents took me to the United States again, the west coast this time. For their 25th anniversary we went on a 4-week road trip. Besides these, I have visited most of the western European countries, Egypt and Russia. Only these were all vacations of 1 to 3 weeks.

As mentioned before, in 2012 I chose to live in Indonesia for 10 weeks and it was during that trip that I realised that the world has a lot more to offer than just my own country and Europe. Indonesia had opened my eyes and it had changed my life forever…

When I got home after this “long” stay abroad, I had a strange desire to leave my own country again and at the same time go back to university to make the best of my life. Because of this I decided to start with the study of International Business and Management Studies. This would enable me to do at least one of the three “outside school” semesters abroad (internship, minor and graduation internship) and improve my level of English, since the whole programme was in English. Before the start of the programme I was still working full time until September 2013 and therefore I managed to gather enough funds to go to the Caribbean during that summer. I went to the Dutch island Curaçao for 10 weeks to work at a beach club and afterwards in the office of an ICT company. This sounds more boring than it actually was, since I had nothing to do with the real ICT stuff, this was all done in the main branch in the Netherlands. I got to assist the manager with all kinds of tasks, so it was a very diverse job. After this trip I started with my four years Bachelor programme.

Tax refunds in the spring of 2014 allowed me to travel to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, for a total of 10 weeks. I went on a backpacking trip alone and during the middle four weeks my best friend from primary school joined me. Our contact had been minimized during the years, since I had moved with my parents to a different city in the Netherlands in 2004. However during this trip it was like we had never lived in different cities. Additionally, my love for scuba diving started during this trip, however in the beginning it was more hate than love. (I am still afraid to drown while swimming, so I prefer to swim while being able to stand on the bottom. I know this sounds strange for someone who loves diving.)

In September 2015 my classmate and me left the Netherlands and we lived in Singapore to do my minor, which was part of the Bachelor programme. Before and after this trip we visited Thailand. We studied and lived abroad for almost 6 months. This was my first real long time stay abroad, but it had not stilled my hunger for travel.

Both my classmate and I received exemption for our internship, since we had both worked multiple years in the field of our programme already and after our last theoretical semester I decided to do my graduation internship abroad. This time I would be visiting South Africa and before that I planned to make a four-week road trip with the same friend who visited me in Thailand. We rented a Toyota Hi-Lux Double Cab 4x4, which we called “the Beast” and went from South Africa, to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and back to South Africa. It was the best trip of our lives. Please take me back…

After this amazing road trip it was time to work for my graduation internship company and I lived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for almost 5 more months. At the end of this stay I decided to extend my stay with another 2 months, since my thesis was not ready yet (and of course I just wanted to stay.) In order to be legally allowed to stay, I had to make a visa-run so I decided to visit the beautiful island Mauritius. To not make it obvious that it was a visa run, I made a two-week holiday out of it and after staying in the southern part of the African continent for about 8 months, I sadly had to return to my own country again. However this time, it was to finish up my thesis and graduate at my university.

At this point in my life I had two options, starting an international Master programme or starting the TEFL course of TEFL-Heaven and live abroad for a longer period of time. I decided to choose the TEFL course, for it was the coordinator of the Master programme that said to me: “you can always do this Master programme, even when you are 50.” (For me personally, the choice of starting the TEFL course or the Master programme when I am 50, it just made more sense to me to do the Master programme when I’m 50 and start the TEFL course now, because the TEFL course is probably not something I would still want to start doing when I am 50, but that is just my personal opinion.)

Before I came to Vietnam to start my TEFL course, I decided to go on a backpacking trip through the Philippines. Here I travelled for 4,5 weeks and did some more scuba diving, I have done 69 dives so far. With the Philippines and Vietnam added to my list, only a couple of Southeast Asian countries to visit remain. The Philippines, is definitely a country that I want to explore more in the future.

What motivated you to teach abroad?

Well, to be honest, the first and main reason is to be able to travel and live abroad. However, I also enjoyed my time as a youth football coach and trainer. I believe teaching children (and/or adults) something new, something that really benefits them, is a good thing to do. In the meantime I would gain a lot of experience myself as a person as well.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

The thing I always struggled most was speaking in front of bigger groups of people, for examples with presentations during university. During the TEFL course we got more experience with this during the theoretical lessons and on top of that 12 hours of teaching practices. These things combined are very valuable experiences you won’t get when you do the online course.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied for the program on my own and I made very good friends while doing the course. So in my experience there is no need for applying with a friend if you are in doubt about that!

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

Yes, during my trip to Thailand in 2014 I met a girl who was then about to start her course. Since then I often saw her jealous-making Facebook posts about her teaching abroad life. I asked her about it and she introduced me to TEFL Heaven and it was her who gave me the idea of doing this course.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

One of my concerns was, being a non-native speaker, if my level of English was sufficient enough or not. Another one of my concerns was if I would like the teaching job itself, since I knew that the living abroad part would not be a problem for me at all.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

Like I said before it gave me the opportunity to live abroad and I chose a TEFL course because it would allow me to teach English all over the world. My choice for TEFL Heaven was mainly because of my friend who had already done the course. She just kept saying it was the best choice of her life.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

Doing a face-to-face TEFL course comes with a lot of benefits. First of all it comes with 8 hours of observing and 12 hours of teaching practices. These are valuable experiences you won’t get out of a cheap online course. Secondly, you’ll make friends during the course. New friends who are in the same boat as you, they have all come to Vietnam to do the TEFL and discover new cultures and make friends. Thirdly, the course takes place in the country where you’ll be working in. This enables you to get acclimatized to the country for at least four weeks, before starting a job.

Which TEFL program did you do?

The Ho Chi Minh City Paid Job Vietnam Program.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

This would definitely be my fellow students. We had a big group (40) students divided over 3 classes. Our class had 12 students and we really had a great time during the course.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

I feel more prepared than without this course, obviously. Once again the teaching practices are a valuable experience to prepare you for the job.

How long have you been teaching in Vietnam and how long do you plan to stay?

I only recently finished my course and I am about to start my first job. I’m probably staying for at least one year, since I’ve signed an apartment contract for a year.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I applied for several of the bigger companies, and three of them actually offered me a job. It is quite easy to do so, because the need for English teachers is immense. Next to the bigger companies there are a multitude of smaller schools who each offer their own kinds of contracts.

How did you get your work visa?

The bigger companies sometimes offer full time contracts. These contracts come with all kinds of benefits. The work visa is an example of this. All companies assist in acquiring a work visa, some pay half of the costs, while others pay the full costs of the work visa and permit.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?

My friends (That I met during the course) started looking for apartments during the course and via others we’d heard of these amazing towers. These friends started renting an apartment in these towers and I crashed at their place while searching for my own. Eventually I also started to rent an apartment in these towers, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. They come with a gym, pool, supermarket and a mall. They are spacious and luxurious. The rent is low, especially compared to my own country. My roommate and me pay $750 a month for this luxurious 2-bedroom apartment.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

Ho Chi Minh City is the place where I live at the moment. Traffic can get really crazy, but you do get used to it at some point. I’m even about to buy my own scooter to take part of the traffic myself, so this is going to be a nice adventure on its own.

Food here is lovely; in the district where the course took place they had very affordable food for each meal of the day! Every morning I got a Bahn Mi (baguette sandwhich) for only 15.000 VND, that is only $0,66 and it was absolutely delicious! For lunch and dinner we often got rice or noodles for 25.000 VND. On top of that there is Phở. This is some sort of noodle soup, which is a nice meal for any time of the day!

Transportation is something special in a busy city like this. Often a taxi drive takes double the time it would normally take. Therefore when traveling alone, the bike-taxi has the preference. Getting on the back of a scooter/motorbike is an awesome experience and quite cheap too!

Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of things to see and do. One of the can’t miss things to do is the War Remnants museum, which shows a lot about the Vietnam war during the 60’s and 70’s, from the North Vietnam side of perspective. Some other things are the Chi Chi tunnels, Mekong Delta and there are some lovely beaches within only a couple of hours drive.

Social and nightlife are two things that make the stay pleasant. Your new friends are willing to socialize and have drinks with you on multiple occasions. Karaoke is a big thing in Vietnam and there are Karaoke bars all around. Locals also love to go to café’s for some bubble milk tea. Bui Vien is a street full of bars and restaurants, there are hundreds of clubs, both local and expat oriented. Additionally, there are nice rooftop bars to have a nice drink and an awesome view!

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: $375 (can be as little as $150-200, depends on how much you want to spend)

Food: $250

Social life: $200

Transportation: $100

Phone: $20

Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

Yes, and I am able to save some dollars every month as well. But, it is of course possible to spend your whole salary in a month’s time.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Vietnam?

The only advice I can give would be: just do it! You won’t regret it

Vietnam allows you to teach 18-20 hours a week (this is full time) and save some money while you’re at it!

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