Asia

China visa

For years now it seems that China has long been one of the best and most popular options for teaching abroad, and it’s easy to see why; the vast landscapes, the fascinating mix of ancient cultures, the world-class cuisine, and of course, the professional opportunities.

Chinese demand for foreign teachers over the last twenty years has been massive. A 2006 article in the Economist purports that “China is already the world’s largest market for English language services.”

With many teaching positions offering over 15,000 RMB, free accommodation, airfare bonuses, and even paid vacation, it’s not hard to understand why so many young adventurers have left their western abodes to teach in Google-less and delicious China.

Yet now it seems that China is making strides to refine their selection process and tighten up the regulations on who they’re letting work in-country. Whether it’s the result of desperate employers continually hiring inexperienced professionals to meet the hungry demand, or an update to immigration policy in an increasingly bordered world, it’s impossible to say.

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Thai Classroom

Whether you have tired of the 9 to 5 office life, or you’ve just graduated from college and have no idea what to do with your English degree, something has drawn you to the possibility of moving abroad to teach English in Thailand.

After all, who wouldn’t want to move to a place nicknamed the Land of Smiles? But what is it really like to live and teach in Thailand, and how will you know if Thailand is the right overseas teaching destination for you?

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Bangkok Thailand

Ampawa, two hours outside Bangkok, is a little-known destination for foreigners, and well worth the trip for its friendly floating market and the giant river prawns cooked to order and delivered to your door by boat.

How do you define the intense assault on your senses that is Thailand?

It is vibrant, crazy, impossibly romantic, quirky, hilarious, spiritual, – and corrupt.  There are many countries, which can claim these adjectives as theirs, but in Thailand you get to experience all of them every day, and it is the intensity of this, which makes the country so unique and, for many visitors, unforgettable.

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Temple in China

Sitting on a plane headed for Shanghai in September 2011 the same thought ran through my head over and over… “Am I totally insane?”. This was quickly followed by another thought, “Well if I don’t like it I will just turn around and come back.” Fortunately for me and my husband we DID like it, something that is proved by the fact that nearly 3 years later we are still there, teaching EFL at a University in China.

Where do you want to work?

For anyone considering this move there are a number of things to be considered carefully. I will try to outline some of the things you might want to weigh up before you embark on an Asian adventure.

Firstly be aware that China is big, very very big. I know we all know this but getting a grasp of the vastness is really hard even when you live there, and it is almost impossible to understand this before you arrive. Therefore, it is advisable to get acquainted with the map and the location at least of the main big cities when looking for a job.

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Tom in Makassar

The prospect of working abroad can be a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing experience for a lot of people. Uprooting one’s life and leaving behind a support base of family and friends is a life-changing decision, but one which my girlfriend and I decided to make in the summer of 2013. After completing our 120 hour TEFL certificate we immediately began the job hunt. Ever ready for new experiences, we decided to look at teaching in Indonesia, as we had already traveled around much of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We were rewarded with two early morning Skype interviews, one for positions in Solo, Java; the other for positions in Makassar, Sulawesi. The latter city we knew nothing about, apart from reading Lonely Planet’s description of it being an “unnerving place”. After much deliberation, we decided to go for the path least trodden, despite the fact that the school, Fluo Institute, had no website and very little online presence. So it was with TEFL certificates in hand, slight trepidation and much praying that it wasn’t a scam, that we left rainy old England at the beginning of 2014 for a year’s long teaching contract in Makassar. It would turn out to be the best decision of our lives.

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Teaching and Travelling in and Around Surabaya

By yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany (Gili Meno, Indonesia Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Indonesia is a vast archipelago comprising more than 17000 islands.  With a large variety of languages and cultures in addition to volcanoes, beaches, valleys, jungles, mangroves and cities to explore, what better place for a TEFL teacher to spend a year or two?

Surabaya is Indonesia’s second most populous city, and is home to several English language schools.  Described by Lonely Planet as “a hot and dusty, crowded city with precious little to see”, a description with which I would concur, you may wonder why I have spent almost two years here.  Despite the downsides, this is a place where one can experience a real Indonesian city largely untouched by tourism.  As a result, the locals see you more as a source of fascination and entertainment than as a cash cow.  Travel to Bali or Yogyakarta, and you will be plagued by people harassing you to use their taxi, or buy their products.  Often they will walk right up and interrupt you while you are talking to a friend, demanding to know where you are going and waiting impatiently for an answer.  It can be very frustrating as one doesn’t want to be rude, yet offering even the most basic politeness in refusal will often lead to more harassment.

No such problem in Surabaya, where the local people have never had tourists to make a living from.  They don’t rely on making as much as possible during high season to see them through the rest of the year.  Instead when they see a foreigner, they just want to be as friendly as possible, and they are very easily amused.  Some find this patronizing, but I find it quite endearing.  It is not unusual to be “drive-by Hello Mistered” as I have termed it.  You are walking along the street and hear “Hello” behind you followed by “Mister” in front of you as a motorbike whizzes past, its driver looking over his shoulder at you, evidently more concerned with addressing a foreigner than keeping an eye on the road.

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Cyclos Vietnam

By ntt (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in 2006 with plans to achieve 3 long-held goals:

1. set up a brilliant ‘teaching English to speakers of other languages’ (TESOL in Vietnam) program;
2. ride a motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi; and bizarre as it may seem;
3. to take a day trip on a Vietnamese cyclo.

The TESOL in Vietnam goal was achieved a few years ago and I completed a motorbike trip to Hanoi in 2012. It’s the cyclo adventure that has eluded me for the past 8 years – until last weekend!

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teaching-english-in-vietnam

As the plane began it’s descent into Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, my breathing was shallow and my palms sweaty. The ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign lit up and I gulped. Loudly. No, I am not a nervous flyer. In fact, I quite enjoy flying. No… it was much more terrifying than that.

Making the decision to pack up and move to Vietnam in search of English Teaching work, without ever having actually visited the country (or Asia for that matter), was one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve ever done. Armed with my 150 hours of TEFL training and a copy of my degree certificate, I was hoping for the best… and preparing for the worst.

I had heard mixed reviews about Vietnam: the life threatening traffic, the barbaric practice of eating dog, the unhygienic food and questionable manners of the locals. I needn’t have worried. As true as a lot of this may be, I loved it as soon as I arrived.

Yes, Vietnam takes a little bit of adjusting to and there are certain things which I will never understand. This, however, is all part of its charm and if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone considering Vietnam as a TEFL location, it would be: do it!

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Teaching English in Nepal: What I Learnt

By Dhilung Kirat (originally posted to Flickr as High Dynamic Peace) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s been a growing interest from travellers to volunteer as teachers for quite some time now. Only a decade ago, school leavers would simply laze around on the beach in South East Asia, or grab a cheap rental car and speed around the Australian coast; but now, the younger generation are turning their hands to selfless work in countries more suited to structure than sunbathing. Volunteering is now seen as a learning curve prior to university – and afterwards, too.

The issue with volunteer teaching, though, is the expectation that it will be easy without any training. While an amateur teacher may have a classroom’s best interests at heart, how easy is it to actually throw yourself at the mercy of a group of children and hope that you can impart some worthwhile knowledge?

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Hong Kong Taxi

By Liuchoi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every person who has travelled a bit has a taxi story to share. Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been travelling, I can safely say that I’ve heard a taxi story from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.

Some taxi-tales are a good news story – the birth of a baby in the back seat and alike – but most are about the kind of situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, ‘lead foot’ taxi drivers, arguments about tips, traffic accidents and much, much worse.

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