What is your name, age and nationality?
Zak O’Reilly, 26 and I’m British.
What is your education level and background?
I have a bachelors degree in Outdoor Education but before I enrolled in the TEFL Heaven course I worked in a bank contact center.
Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?
Yes, I travelled South East Asia for 4 months in 2015 where I visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 2013 I worked on a summer camp in the USA as a lifeguard/swimming teacher and then travelled round the states for a month after my employment was up.
What motivated you to teach abroad?
I felt like I was getting to the age where I needed to start saving money for mortgages and other adult things but I also felt like I wasn’t done seeing the world. Moving abroad to teach English seemed like the perfect thing to do as I’m now being paid and I’m still getting to see different parts of the world.
What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?
I wanted to feel like I could be a role model for my students and I wanted to broaden their ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their lives. Every class I’ve taught in so far I’ve had students asking so many questions about what my home country is like, what countries I’ve been to and why I came to their country to teach. Every time I answer them I feel like it’s sparking something within them that would inspire them to keep learning English so that they can eventually go and study abroad.
Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I applied for the course with my girlfriend.
Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
Yes I had a few friends who taught in Thailand but I never knew anyone who had taught in Vietnam.
What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
That they wouldn’t understand my accent and that I wouldn’t be able to manage a group of kids who don’t speak English as a first language.
TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
I wanted a job where I would get paid to travel the world. It’s the type of job that differs every single day which is massively important to me as I get bored easily. The idea of having a group of children and helping them learn a language seemed like a rewarding thing to do and an experience that I would look back on with a lot of pride in the future. I had a friend who recommended TEFL heaven to me and told me how professional they were and how easy they made everything for him.
What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
An online TEFL course will not prepare you for teaching in an actual classroom. The benefits of a face to face TEFL course is that you get live feedback and live examples of how things should be done. You complete the course as a group so that dynamic also helps as everybody bounces ideas off each other and you have the opportunity to receive feedback from peers as well as the course providers.
Which TEFL program did you do?
I was part of the Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam course that started on 24th August ’17.
What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
The course was held in an actual language centre in Vietnam. During our course we were required to observe actual teachers teaching a class and then we had to complete our own teaching practices with actual students. These were invaluable in terms of my own development as it eased you in to teaching in a classroom and you weren’t thrown in at the deep end.
How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
I felt very prepared. We received feedback on all of the 7 teaching practices that we had to complete as part of our course so that we were continually improving and working on our mistakes. By the time we were ready to step into a school and take our own classes our nerves were gone and we knew exactly what to do to facilitate an enjoyable but informative lesson.
How long have you been teaching in Vietnam and how long do you plan to stay?
I’ve been teaching for 1 month now and we intend on staying for about a year. I may decide to go to a different country afterwards but I’m just going to see what happens.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
As part of our course 3 of the top schools in Vietnam came in and did workshops. We were able to find out about each school and apply for jobs there and then. Within a week I’d had my interview and completed a demo lesson I then took my first class the following week.
What does a typical working week look like for you?
Saturdays and Sundays are very busy - there are classes that run from 7:40am-9pm on Saturday and then 7:40am-6pm on a Sunday. Monday-Friday classes only run from 4pm-9pm so there is plenty of time to chill out in the day before your classes.
What age group or range to you teach?
As I work for a language centre the classes I teach can range from kindergarten (age 4) - adult classes.
What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?
I enjoy that every class is different and every student has their own personality. It’s rewarding when you know that a student has learnt something in your class and the students genuinely appreciate the fact that you are their to help them - especially the adults.
How did you get your work visa?
The school assisted and took care of all that for me.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
Once I finished the course and my free accommodation ended I stayed in a few hotels and airbnbs until I found the right apartment. I didn’t want to commit to an anything until we knew what district we would be working in. Our apartment is a serviced apartment inside a hotel. It has a swimming pool, cleaning service twice a week, a kitchen and 24/7 security - me and my girlfriend pay $600 between us. There are much cheaper apartments available but the swimming pool was the most important factor for us.
The friendliness of the people of Vietnam is one of the main things that brought me back here. It’s not uncommon to be sitting in a bar and the waitress brings over a beer that has been bought for you by a Vietnamese group who can’t speak a word of English.
The food is really cheap - you can get a Pho (Vietnamese noodle dish) for about $1, beers are generally $1 or less, fresh fruit smoothies are $0.50 and for an evening meal for me and my girlfriend (couple of dishes and a couple of beers) typically costs about $6-7.
Tourism has increased massively from the first time I was here in 2015 and because of this so has the amount of nightlife spots. Bui Vien Street is Vietnam’s version of the Khoa San Road (Bangkok). It’s about 500m long and it’s crazy busy with bars in every building either side of the street. Granted it’s a little bit more expensive down here but a night out for 2 people costs us about $30.
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: $300 ($600 split between 2 people)
Other bills: N.a
Social life: $100
Transportation: 1millionVND a month scooter rental which is about $40.
Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?
Yes, I’m earning just under $20 an hour and I work usually 25 hours per week. I’m looking to start saving around $700-$800 a month after my expenses.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Vietnam?
Research the pros and cons of teaching in certain countries. I can’t tell you much about other countries but I can tell you that the Vietnamese government have an initiative to get as many students as possible teaching English by 2020. Because of this the pay is very favourable compared to other countries and teachers are generally seen on the same social stature of doctors. I would 100% recommend anyone who is undecided on where to teach English to come to Vietnam and give it a try - you won’t be disappointed.
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