Alumni Spotlight: Andrew King

Andrew has been working as an EFL Teacher in SE Asia since 2004. He has worked in every kind of learning institute from kindergarten to corporate training and is currently a Director of Studies.

Why did you choose this program?

I signed up for TEFL International after a year of teaching without a proper certificate. I had an online TESOL, but the top employers wouldn't recognize it. At the time, you had the choice between CELTA and TESOL here in HCMC.

I decided on TEFL International because it had the reputation of being the most supportive course in the city. I knew plenty of teachers who had taken a CELTA and said that it was like a military bootcamp. In contrast, everyone who had studied with TEFL International talked about how friendly and fun the trainers were. It was also noticeably cheaper while still being an internationally recognized certificate.

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

I was already living in HCMC at the time, so I didn't need help with anything. But they did help other trainees organize some nice accommodation.

To be honest, accommodation is really easy in HCMC. And some of the horror stories I've heard from other centers' accommodation make me glad I didn't sign up with them.

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

Listen to the feedback. It might sound harsh sometimes, but it really makes all the difference to your teaching. I hadn't realized how much I had been doing wrong in my teaching before the program. In hindsight, I'm embarrassed of the lessons I provided. My online TESOL did nothing to prepare me for the realities of the classroom. It was only when I got earnest feedback that I really became a teacher worth my salary.

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

  • The first week is all theory and practicing the methodology with the other trainees. This is really nice, because a lot of other places get you teaching by day 2 just to scare you. I think that is BS.
  • Starting in the second week, you focus more on lesson preparation and then doing 1-on-1 teaching, and then finally teaching a full class of students. You have 6 of those you need to complete. They are pretty nerve-wracking, but you get really great feedback from it. By far the most valuable aspect of the course.
  • By week 4, it's all done and you just have to submit your materials portfolio and do the test on pronunciation and grammar. These are surprisingly difficult if you think you know it already, so I recommend paying close attention to these lessons. They do give you all you need to ace the test if you swallow your pride and accept that, as a native speaker, you don't know your own language that well.
  • Then it is the graduation party and off to your new career as an EFL teacher!

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

I was mostly scared of being ripped off. I had heard so many horror stories and I thought I wouldn't be able to trust anyone. But outside of internet and some bad apples in the tourist area, I've found that everyone has been genuine and kind and honest. Do your research on online operators, especially making sure you can locate them in the real world. But the world is a kinder place than message boards make it out to be. Also keep in mind that a lot of complaints on the internet are made up by competitors.

Should I sign a contract before I arrive?

Here, in Vietnam, most well paying jobs are actually found on the ground. Online recruitment is often several dollars lower than what you can get here. Even if they offer signing bonuses, it rarely compares to a what you can earn at a better paying job. While this might be different for other countries, I always feel sorry for people who get to Vietnam on contract only to find out that their colleagues are earning 20% more or higher.