Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Polk

Daniel is a 26-year old American who has traveled and lived in multiple countries around the world. This was his first experience teaching English abroad.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because of the potential for a career in ESL. When the Trellis program is completed at the end of three months, they don't simply say goodbye to you. They help place you in a job in Japan if you choose that it was you want to do, and also can give advice for staying longer in Vietnam.

One positive aspect of the program is the relationship Trellis has with Lesson4U, a school in Kanazawa. This helps greatly in terms of training and job security.

Plus, Vietnam is an amazingly affordable country to spend time in. It is beautiful as well!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Trellis provided assistance with the following:

  • Accommodations for the length of the program
  • Assistance with getting the correct visas
  • Several organized excursions, ranging from a few days in a remote village to dinner in a nearby town
  • Day-to-day support, especially at the beginning when everyone was adjusting to life in Vietnam. Setting up a new phone, exchanging money, learning how to get around the neighborhood we lived in, etc.
  • Teaching materials for our use
  • Covered the cost of our transportation to and from the work site each day
  • Job placement upon completion of the program

I had to cover food costs (except for program dinners), non work-related transportation, and personal travel to other cities

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Just do it! If you have never taught ESL in the past, this is a very good way to get your feet wet. There is a training period of two weeks before classes begin, and the program itself is a great trial of whether you want to continue teaching or not.

One piece of advice that I would give is to take advantage of the cheap transportation costs and use the time available to explore the country. You will be expected to put in the agree-upon time at the school, but that still leaves much time to do other things.

Also, be willing to eat food that may be out of your comfort zone! This is true for most countries you visit. Even if it does't look like something you would like, try it!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The days usually started with either a 7:30 am or 9:00 class, and ended in the afternoon. There is a lot of time between classes to get your materials ready for the next one, or to go grab something to eat from the many coffee shops and restaurants in the area. After work, the city awaits! Most places are open late, and there is no shortage of things to do.

The work week is Monday to Friday, and weekends are open. Occasionally a trip might be planned, but otherwise, you are free to do as you would like.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was simply teaching! I did not have many qualms about going to Vietnam, but teaching ESL was something I had no experience doing. Yes, the first few classes were a learning curve, but by the end of the first week, it felt natural. The best way to overcome it is just to do it!

What was the most rewarding about your experience abroad?

Teaching university students was interesting because unlike teaching children, university students are definitely capable of expressing their happiness or frustration with their experiences very clearly.

It was great to know that they loved the system of teaching used by Trellis: learning disguised as games and activities. Their excitement was evident by the number of extracurricular events that took place (at the students, requests) such as dinners and parties. Everyone was so friendly and actively wanted to learn more. This led to a very refreshing teaching environment, and I think it reflects well on the attitudes of the students.

The most rewarding experiences I can remember were the times when students expressed their appreciation. It was a great feeling!